Fabledom review: Manor Lords meets fairytale dating sim

A surprisingly solid city-builder that could have made more of its unique spin
Grenaa Games / Dear Villagers / Doyoyo Games

If you’d asked me a year ago if I thought it possible to fuse a city-builder with a dating sim, I’d have told you “sure, when pigs learn to fly.” Well, Fabledom comes pretty close to fulfilling that condition as it does feature adorable little piggies sporting wings, though fortunately for my thriving pork industry, they don’t have enough lift to fly to freedom – rejoice, my Fablings, because meat’s staying on the menu! 

Fabledom offers a fairly unique proposition: It’s a classic city-builder for the most part – think Manor Lords, Anno, or Pioneers of Pagonia. You build a thriving town from humble beginnings, bootstrapping an economy by attracting people and building up production chains. As your city grows, you can produce ever more diverse products and gather different classes of people to work advanced jobs, adding more cogs to the machine.

Fabledom screenshot showing a few homes.
Each town starts from humble beginnings. / Grenaa Games / Dear Villagers / Doyoyo Games

However, what makes Fabledom different from other genre entries are two things: its setting and its goal. As the mention of winged pigs implies, Fabledom is set in a fairytale-inspired world – it’s got wandering gnomes, witch huts, jolly giants, and giant beanstalks. While leading your people and city to prosperity is what you do, this is merely a means to a different end and not the purpose of your efforts. See, Fabledom takes place on a newly discovered continent to which every noble family in the realm shipped off their surplus kids so there’d be fewer inheritance struggles at home. You see where I’m going with this: It’s basically a giant, fairytale version of a teenage summer camp which has you rizzing potential partners through your city-building skills.

You can send scouts to neighboring regions and begin diplomatic relations with other rulers, collecting information about them – such as the things they like. There are greedy rulers, who can be courted through the power of money, while others must be impressed through the might of arms or will be swayed by generous gifts of food. This is the reason why you’re even building a strong economy – it’s needed to woo your partner of choice. Once you’ve begun the courting process, you’ll actually be able to unlock exclusive buildings and resources that are specific to the type of character you’re pursuing, such as a tulip farm for a person who loves flowers. This adds some replayability and flavor to the game, making each playthrough uniquely thematic.

Fabledom screenshot showing the overworld map.
Each neighboring ruler has their own preferences you should keep informed about. / Grenaa Games / Dear Villagers / Doyoyo Games

Courting a neighboring ruler gives each campaign an overarching structure and objective, but a variety of random events that can result in timed objectives provides further challenges – these often revolve around producing a certain amount of a good in limited time.

As you expand the boundaries of your town and gain access to new resources by purchasing additional land plots – this works like in Cities: Skylines 2 or Kingdoms Reborn – you’ll often find fairytale encounters that can be tackled by your kingdom’s hero character, sometimes result in acquiring a permanent, city-wide buff, a new item for your hero, or a fresh decoration.

Fabledom is a grid-based city-builder, so don’t expect quite the same amount of freedom as in Manor Lords – though, surprisingly, the games do share one fun aspect: Like in Manor Lords, houses in Fabledom have backyards you can fill with useful extensions, such as beehives or apple trees, which provide bonus desirability as well as additional edibles to the home.

Fabledom screenshot showing a sprawling rural town.
Fabledom is a cozy and charming title. / Grenaa Games / Dear Villagers / Doyoyo Games

In general, Fabledom is a very solid city-builder: You need to manage logistics carefully as each resource and ware is tracked and must be physically transported from A to B, there is an okay variety of different resource chains, and the population growth and needs mechanics are well thought out. There is a large variety of decorations available as well, which help you make your city really pretty, if you have the necessary eye for detail and want to indulge yourself in a beautification spree.

I’d like to praise the controls and some of the quality-of-life measures the game employs as well: For example, it has a planning mode allowing you to set up buildings and entire districts without being able (or willing) to afford them right at that moment, which is great if you’re trying to set up a new part of the city all at once. You can then simply click on buildings one by one to begin their construction.

Fabledom screenshot showing planning mode.
Don't have the resources for your town expansion right now? No problem, you can still plan it out ahead of time. / Grenaa Games / Dear Villagers / Doyoyo Games

However, the game could do with a bit more depth in both the city-building and dating sim parts. While its mechanics are rock-solid and there is an alright amount of resource variety, it’s surely on the lower end of the spectrum, so it feels a bit like a waste of a strong foundation. Trade is a prominently absent feature, your military only has two different troop types that don’t even need different equipment, and fulfilling the needs of your citizens is perhaps a little too easy.

Courting other rulers is a cool spin on the formula, but it’s basic: You fulfill the requirements of the current dating stage to get access to the next one and may be rewarded with a nice letter from your partner of choice, but that’s about it. There is some great potential for interpersonal drama getting mixed with politics here – have your family meddle in your love life, have rulers being jealous with each other. That could spice things up and lead to interesting challenges.

Fabledom screenshot showing a letter sent by another ruler.
Fabledom's unique twist is a neat one, but could have been focused on a little more. / Grenaa Games / Dear Villagers / Doyoyo Games

Combined with the game’s visuals, its fairytale theme has an undeniable charm, but I feel like it doesn’t go far enough. Most of the game’s resources are grounded and normal. There are refreshing exceptions like a building that houses geese laying golden eggs, allowing you to feed them grain and get gold income in return, but these are far and few between. I’d love to have more thematic resources and buildings like this to emphasize the fairytale charm of it all.

One of Fabledom’s highlights, which comes around the time you’re planning your marriage, is the construction of your great fairytale castle, which can be upgraded with various modules that come with unique visuals and bonuses. This is a really neat feature and shows the potential of the setting, helping you build a city that truly embodies the game’s theme and is worth taking a screenshot of. I ended up really liking Fabledom, but can’t keep myself from being frustrated by the whole package’s missed potential.

Fabledom doesn’t have the depth to keep you playing forever, nor has it committed to its theme and unique twist hard enough to keep you perpetually enchanted, but it’s a very solid and above all charming city-builder that’s worth checking out before pigs learn to fly.

Score: 7/10

Version tested: PC (Steam)

Marco Wutz


Marco Wutz is a writer from Parkstetten, Germany. He has a degree in Ancient History and a particular love for real-time and turn-based strategy games like StarCraft, Age of Empires, Total War, Age of Wonders, Crusader Kings, and Civilization as well as a soft spot for Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail. He began covering StarCraft 2 as a writer in 2011 for the largest German community around the game and hosted a live tournament on a stage at gamescom 2014 before he went on to work for Bonjwa, one of the country's biggest Twitch channels. He branched out to write in English in 2015 by joining tl.net, the global center of the StarCraft scene run by Team Liquid, which was nominated as the Best Coverage Website of the Year at the Esports Industry Awards in 2017. He worked as a translator on The Crusader Stands Watch, a biography in memory of Dennis "INTERNETHULK" Hawelka, and provided live coverage of many StarCraft 2 events on the social channels of tl.net as well as DreamHack, the world's largest gaming festival. From there, he transitioned into writing about the games industry in general after his graduation, joining GLHF, a content agency specializing in video games coverage for media partners across the globe, in 2021. He has also written for NGL.ONE, kicker, ComputerBild, USA Today's ForTheWin, The Sun, Men's Journal, and Parade. Email: marco.wutz@glhf.gg