In Game of Thrones, the famous HBO series, it is said that in the game of thrones you either win or you die. Lords and Villeins, in this sense, does not seem to betray these premises at all, reaching the goal by proposing an imaginative adventure, a praise to the Middle Ages and its turmoil. And as I interfaced with its dynamics, I realized that something was drawing me into it, as if a ballad was trying in every way to draw me to itself. The lute at the side, the hat with the heron feather on the head and off, once again, to tell the story of a kingdom to be built. If Crusader Kings has taught us anything, in fact, is that the family matters more than the approval of others. Lords and Villeins, however, deals with the lineage with extreme lightness, not weighing down a mechanic that in the Paradox Interactive video game was essential for growing one's family. Stardust tells us that no star shines in the sky, and the works of Neil Gaiman tell us that the future is where the stars shine, since they illuminate the lives of others.
The concept behind Lords and Villeins starts from this assumption, which is dealt with conscientiously by the Honestly Games team, making its debut with a video game that is not only ambitious and powerful, but also multifaceted, well characterized and attentive to detail. You know, yes, when appearances can be deceiving? Here, while I put my hand on the mouse, moving it frantically, I was afraid that I would have found myself in front of yet another city builder on the market devoid of personality. Instead, I have to admit it wasn't like that at all.
A charming and classic context
Before you ask, no, there is no storyline in Lords and Villeins. It is a work that, however, puts the player in the position of having to wear a crown, even though he has never earned it. As I became king, I already knew what my name would be and what name my kingdom would use. I bet, and I'm not ashamed of it, right on the Aosta Valley… or rather, the kingdom of the Aosta Valley, choosing how to characterize my protagonist in a very intuitive character editor. I chose the hair, the eyes and the clothes as well. Only the scepter was missing, but that cannot be chosen: it must be earned.
One way or another, I found myself like I was in Stronghold. If you have never heard of it, it is a strategic video game that is essentially based on building and conquering. The development team, in this sense, has recreated almost similar atmospheres, not limited to the classic but presenting a context that the player learns as he progresses in his adventure.
The Middle Ages – or fantasy, if you prefer – is always fascinating. A dark age which, however, has come down to us talking about dames, lords and fearless knights, ready to do anything to satisfy their lord. Literature has talked about it in a detailed and careful way, tackling certain themes with intelligence and passion. History, then, praised it and romanticized perhaps too much a dark era which, born from the ashes of the Roman Empire, was divided, without guidance and governed by greed.
The context of Lords and Villeins addresses, conscientiously, a delicate and complex period, dealing with it with maturity. In short, in works of this kind, it is always complex to balance certain events, yet there is no cataloging dedicated to the period, nor even an explanation of the historical period. Being king or queen, in such a moment, allows you to manage a kingdom that needs the player's attention. Fantasy has accustomed us to distant and fairy realms, but there is no magic here, and there is no kingdom to conquer, nor dynasties to annihilate. There is only one future to build, which depends on everyone's decisions, and specifically on those of the player. While some are easy to grasp, others are complex. The duty of every sovereign, on the other hand, it does not pass by the crown he wears, but by the weight of the decisions it takes.
Economy, society, war and strategy. There is no time to lose, because there are those out there waiting for a misstep and a moment of weakness to implement their strategydealing the fatal blow. The enemy is inside and outside the court of every king, and it is better to leave with caution. The context of Lords and Villeins, unlike other video games of the genre, presents a work capable of entertaining for several hours, giving the player the reins of a kingdom to grow and prosper.
One could not wish for anything else, in fact, considering the commendable qualities of a production which, daringly, has managed to carve out excellent supporters in the last two years. I'm talking about an incredibly active community on Discord, which often participates in constructive and useful discussions to give valuable information to other players. It's that kind of contact that fIt's always convenient and useful.
Lord and Villeins: the real war is at home
The videogame developed by Honestly Games is a medieval simulator with the dynamics of a city builder and a frenetic pace of a sandbox and, not to miss anything, fully embraces the style already proven by Prison Architect and other Paradox Interactive productions. When I talk about sanbox, mind you, it has nothing to do with Mount and Blade or even with certain famous productions of the panorama, and everything is actually balanced in such a way as to be approachable to anyone.
Indeed, in Lord and Villeins there is great decision-making power in the hands of the player, who can choose what to do regardless of what happens in front of him. There is also, however, a very long tutorial that explains how to move and decide which decisions to make. Well argued and always punctual, the explanations helped me to better understand the various game actions and how to use them to my advantage. Of course, it wasn't easy, but I still managed to learn the basics of good governance. The game structure, in this sense, it is clearly constructed and orchestrated, even if the many interfaces, some of which are really too intrusive, could actually confuse the player on more than one occasion.
In short, building your city takes place on bare ground divided by colors that represent lakes, rivers, woodlands, forests and plains, as well as mountains and marshlands. Before starting a new adventure, in fact, it is possible to select the preferred biome, then dedicating himself to the most multifaceted ups and downs. The tutorial briefly explains how to build homes, to be replenished with families, that need jobs and worthy places to live.
This kind of approach, already tested in the past with other works, however, is presented in a precise and refined way, enthralling the player and keeping him attached to the screen. In fact, erecting a building requires specific materials and the villagers, required to pay duties and contribute to population growth, are called to work twelve hours a day in the fields, forests and along rivers. The economy, to keep an eye on, can be compromised due to citizens' dissatisfaction. In Lords and Villeins, although it all seems complex at first, every decision must be made after having examined it thoroughly, so as not to risk bankruptcy and the end of the realm in the first place.
We went from building houses to be assigned to villagers, to having to build high walls with gates and ramparts. However, in Lords and Villeins it is peace that guarantees wealth and prosperity, more than fratricidal wars. In fact, forget pitched battles of any kind, even if there is no lack of violence. The work, deliberately complex to make the player think endlessly, always offers random maps in which it is necessary to survive with what one has. There are no man's lands, therefore, and the best way to interface with production is to unlock every single upgrade as you progress, so as to always be ready for the challenges that could suddenly arrive. It's hard to keep an eye on everything, but this is precisely the enormous value of Lords and Villeins, because it balances the experience in such a way as to catapult the player into a video game in which it is not only him who survives, but also the families who have chosen a fledgling king (or queen). The dwellings built, the market put in place, and the defenses arranged, It's time to make the economy grow and earn gold and riches.
If you have played Victoria in the past, one of the most complex but best works of Paradox Interactive, I think you know very well what it means to create a livelihood economy that knows how to meet the necessary requirements for survival. In Lords and Villeins, if things go wrong, the fault lies directly with the sovereign: the villagers, dissatisfied and taken for a ride by their king's promises, may not even produce what is necessary and in the most advanced stages of the work even think of betraying him . To avoid this, they can be put in a cage, or have them slaughtered by the executioner to set an example for other families: in Lords and Villeins you choose who to be from the first moment, and one is not always forced to be magnanimous and good.
Although it is not possible to issue orders directly to units as is the case with other works of the genre, in Lords and Villeins, however, you have control over their stats e, in general, even on interfaces dedicated to productivity. In fact, those who do not produce can be a problem: money is needed to sustain wealth and feed absolute power. There is no sweet idleness, not in a video game like this, which has a really difficult but absolutely well implemented learning scale. If I had been left at the mercy of myself, not knowing how to move, now I would not have completely covered the map with my possessions, which every day attract new families who are impressed by my land. Let me be clear, it is not easy to make everything work: one wrong move could be irreparable, as well as costing dearly to restore the hard-won balance.
The, opting for such a complex choice, he was able to pack a game design capable of passionate me and making me consider every little choice, really giving me a hard time in the first two games. My realm, of course, was not built in a day and my fiefdom, which is now the nerve center of my power, is also strong thanks to the failures and choices I made. Some of them have been unpopular but effective, while others have managed to save my realm. Lords and Villeins, in addition to offering an effective simulation of medieval life, succeeds in the difficult attempt to keep you attached to the screen. In the main menu, perhaps to help the less accustomed to the genre, a difficulty selector could have been added, in order to meet the needs of the inexperienced. The tutorial, however, manages to give all the information necessary to survive and win. Defeat is not contemplated, and never has been.
Random kingdoms in pixel art with an irresistible charm
Before you scare yourself, Lords and Villeins is by no means a heavy video game and has no optimization problems of any kind, especially thanks to its graphics engine. Its only flaw, in reality, it resides right in the interfaces, really too small to be able to read the characters written inside it and understand what steps are necessary to take to advance in the adventure.
Pixel art worlds, always colorful to see, are beautiful to play. The tutorial tells us about acres to conquer, because there is no classic mist that distinguishes other video games of the genre, and allows the player to already have everything under control. Before buildingIn fact, it is necessary to study the terrain carefully. If the plots are wet, it means that they are excellent for building a farm, while if a place is affected by the rigors of winter, it is better to leave it alone, because it can compromise the happiness of families. As I mentioned before, every move must be thought out and rethought endlessly, and if on some occasions it may seem to you that you are making great results by gaining few resources, believe me it is better to be careful.
Lords and Villeins is a complex, ruthless and cruel video game, but it is for good. It pushes the player beyond his limits, to endlessly rethink and reason, which is important in similar productions. It is a work that gives vent to our freedom, which must be dearly earned as one progresses in expanding one's kingdom.
This is nothing new on the market, nor is it a city builder that offers who knows what novelties, yet it works and entertains, unexpectedly entertaining. The polygonal models of the characters, including the one played by the king, are pleasant to watch while they work, complain or do nothing. Building a similar video game, in a world dominated by other exponents of the genre, is not for everyone. It is an unexpected and well-orchestrated first opera, that reaches the goal and involves. This is already great.