Lands of Lords – you’ll be hooked
I remember a time when the best games around were Utopia, Earth 2025, Space Merchant, Archmage and Archspace. They were all browser-based games, and attracted thousands of players around the world to enjoy creating fantastic worlds in their heads by watching tables of data and text lines of events. With the rise of computer games like Civilization II and the revolution of MMORPG games like EVE Online and multiplayer strategy, these browser-based games slowly faded away and lost their user base. Amongst others Travian, OGame, and Anno Online tried to bring a resurgence of the browser-based games, but most of them were plagued by either being over-protective of their new users or, of course, by the fact that they were pay-to-win “games”. About four months ago, after playing Might and Fealty for a bit, I was introduced to Lands of Lords. For me, it’s possibly the BEST browser-based game since their conception. If you’re wondering why we had fewer articles during the last months, Lands of Lords is the reason. Simply put, Land of Lords is a medieval strategy, browser-based SANDBOX. I’ve used capital letters because, with the exception of some limitations, Lands of Lords is the real thing. You’re thrown into the deep, and you’ll have to survive a feudal world which can be harsh and unforgiving to new lords. But if you do, the rewards are great…
The stories which unfold when you play Lands of Lords are based in the imaginary, randomly-generated continents of Tetra, Terra Media, Tropica and the surrounding islands, set in roughly 1400-1600CE (in our world). In Lands of Lords (or LoL, as it is commonly called by the players) you’ll be able to build medieval cities surrounded by walls, keeps and castles. You’ll need stables to train horses for your Knights, as well as armouries to equip your pikemen and crossbowmen as they defend and protect your domains. Your family members will travel around the world as the nobles of the olden days and visit courts of other nobles. You may bow before Kings or marry beautiful court ladies to create solid alliances and ensure your survival. As long as you consider the late medieval / early modern era a flexible epoch, the game is quite historically accurate. There are elements seeded throughout the game which immerse you into the medieval world and the lives of historical nobles.
Lands of Lords is a lot more than simply a city building game. In fact I’d say that, although this will be the foremost focus for the early stages of the game, you’ll soon realise that it’s a very small part of the actual experience. Olivier, the sole developer (yes, this man is insanely industrious) of the game, constructed a city building system that creates bustling settlements filled with life and stories. The game is still evolving and new resources, buildings and actions are added and refined on an almost bi-weekly basis. Only recently, the Cathedrals and the Holy See were introduced to the game which created a completely new dynamic in the world. In the image below you can see the last part, the apse, of the Cathedral of Silverhall being slowly raised. Even more importantly, most of the buildings that you will plan and construct are not only aesthetic. Each building has a very important function to serve, often for resources gathering, industrial, military, religious or mercantile purposes. Of course, you’ll soon realise that beauty can go hand in hand with functionality, and there are so many examples around the world of lords (or ladies) who managed to create wondrous cities which are also economic or military powerhouses.
One of the most important factors behind the success of the game is that, due to the geological and climate differences between the regions, no single domain can create everything that it needs. Add to that the fact that the temperatures change with the passing of the seasons, and each resource is uniquely temperature-sensitive, and you’ll soon realise that trade is probably the only way you can survive. A good example, I guess, would be the production of Hay. Hay is very important as feed for horses and for fattening Cows (always a nice thing). During this last winter, the north of Tetra was covered with snow (yes, this is also shown visually – every single tile is snow-covered). This meant that the whole of the north was relying on the South of Tetra, a bread-basket for their supply of Hay and Horses which, of course, skyrocketed in price during the winter. Considering saddle horses are necessary for the creation of Knights, this had an immediate and terrifying effect on the geopolitics of the world. Great Northern Kingdoms had to forge alliances with the south to ensure their supply of horses, whilst some become warring factions, attacking the south in the hope of grabbing pieces of land fertile enough to supply them. Come summer, Hay prices have started to slowly fall, and domains which rely on its production have seen their coffers depleted. This is just one small example of how dynamic trade is in the game.
The system is well crafted, so trade is rather anonymous – both for buying or selling goods. There are ways to circumvent that, but this is not cheating, merely market manipulation. One negative here is that each resource has a maximum and a minimum selling price. This is done for many reasons, but it detracts from the true-sandbox feeling of, for example, EVE online. Having said that, the game is young and a lot can be learnt and tweaked.
If you’re looking for back room deals, espionage, treachery, true political alliances and people with no limitations beyond their honour, then go no further – no really, just click here and start playing Lands of Lords. The game itself has no diplomacy mechanics apart from the hierarchy of vassalage (that is to say, who swears fealty to whom) and even that can be broken in many ways… and that’s a good thing. It means that all diplomatic ties between the mighty kingdoms of the world are based on the personal relations between their rulers and peers. It means that, in many ways, honour IS the defining factor behind each treaty signed. A brilliant system of “tickets” – a.k.a. public announcements – allows everyone to make proclamations, tell their part of the story and contribute to the history of the world. People might complain from time to time about that but, the truth is, this makes the game an amazing world which every player helps shape day by day. Mighty empires rise and fall (one just did, specularly), Kings marry their families to create strong alliances and Princes betray their rulers, beginning wars of independence. Lands of Lords is a truly dynamic diplomatic game, reinforced by a community that really loves role playing their interactions even when they are being practical and straightforward.
War might be the hardest part of the game. Everyone is preparing for it, building mighty citadels, training battalions of knights, pikemen, catapults, crossbowmen, swordsmen etc., so the truth is that, with so many massive armies in waiting, war is a bit of a logistical nightmare. That’s not to say that wars don’t happen – they do, quite a lot of them – but the mechanics of the game are currently under some serious scrutiny and re-programming. What’s VERY important to say is that God-Admin (a.k.a. Olivier) is, in fact, someone who really listens. Thus, in order to fix those issues, he summoned the Constables and Marshals of all the mighty kingdoms to offer their advice, so as to build a better game for everyone. The game mechanics might be a bit rusty on the “how-to-pound-your-opponent-into-submission” side, but the framework around it is great and skirmishes of 40 – 60 troops work brilliantly. However, as in real life, wars are expensive, hard and only the last resort, when diplomacy has failed. There are the occasional roving bands of vagrants, vagabonds and war chiefs taking advantage of circumstances, but there are also many kingdoms that are willing to “help you” as long as you swear fealty to them in return.
Lands of Lords is not a solo game. Frankly, you’ll get bored if you isolate yourself from other players, and you’ll be missing out on the incredible community around the game. Everything is run and decided by the players, so playing alone doesn’t really do much to make use of the gameworld around you. I can guarantee you that if you are in the game just to build up a city, you’ll leave pretty soon. Talk to your neighbors, respond to proclamations. Find people who share the same ideals as you. Form friendships, and soon you’ll have some enemies as well! Whilst the latter is not a given, in my experience there’s always someone that wants what you have, especially if you’ve done a good job building it. Just like in the real world.
Content and role playing
As I mentioned before, this game is nothing if not a platform to create your own stories and interact with the world around you. Everyone in the game, regardless of rank, can post his own story, as long as it stands in concordance with the actions taken in the game. The community is mostly happy to help shape these stories and create supplemental content. In addition, take for granted that all players will expect conversation in game to be IN CHARACTER (IC). Conversation that must be made out of character is marked with a muted colour in all chats and with OOC: (out of character) in messages. There will, of course, be the odd time that you have go out of character, but this is an RP-strong community that prefers the masquerade to be maintained. If you’re not familiar with role-playing, the easiest thing to do is to present yourself in one of the major courts of the world and see how people interact. There are a lot of French, Spanish and English speaking courts, with players from all over the world including Greece, Slovakia, Italy, Poland Portugal and many other countries, so there is definitely a place for you too. Talking about multiple countries, one of the very interesting things about the game is that there is a continuous effort for the game to be translated into as many languages as possible to help everyone use the interface with ease.
What things may come
Since we have joined the game Olivier (God-Admin and creator of all things Lands of Lords) has introduced tens of new additions, from new resources like bananas, chillies, coconuts and nutmeg in the new Tropical region to new buildings and industries like Beehives for honey and wax production, as well as a whole new array of public buildings – the City hall, the Belfry and many others. Lands of Lords, according to Olivier, is a game that will never be finished, since it’s his intention to keep on adding, tweaking and introducing more features continuously. And this is great, especially because everyone is allowed to submit their ideas and thoughts on the game. Players can bring real change if the community agrees and the God-Admin believes it’s in the best interests of the world.
A world builder’s paradise
As a world builder Lands of Lords fascinated me because of the wealth of information I could extract from it. Olivier has done a very in depth research on the medieval world of central/western medieval Europe. Specifically as a world building enthusiast you will find in the game
- A comprehensive list of trade resources
- Industrial processes to get from raw material A to refined material B to Product C etc.
- List of Medieval buildings for military, religious, public and industrial use.
- An exceptional system for vassalage that moves from Master to Emperor by putting into context each level. This goes for both ruling and religious chains
- A beautiful collection of Blazon and symbols.
Lands of Lords is an amazing game that has a lot to offer, as long as you engage with the people around you. There’s opportunity to create your own epic and make a name in the world, not necessarily with the size of your domain or your armies, but because of your intelligence, honour, wit, or behaviour. It’s a great game because a lot of detail has been well thought out by Olivier, but you are left to play a streamlined game which gives you an immersive experience, making you feel that you really are a Lord or a Lady living in a medieval world.