In the realm of massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, there’s often an unspoken race to produce the flashiest graphics, exciting heart-pounding action sequences, or the most complex strategic challenges. Yet, sometimes, what our hearts truly yearn for is a gentle escape, a digital retreat if you will, where the ambience is cozy, and the world feels like a warm hug.
Such is the experience I’ve found in Palia, a delightful new take on the MMO genre that has been on my radar since the summer of 2021. Like so many others, I’ve been patiently awaiting its release, and after immersing myself into the Open Beta for over a month and well over 100 hours of gameplay, I’m ready to share my thoughts and experiences with you, fellow game enthusiasts.
In this game review, I’ll be delving into the features that make Palia a standout and why it might (or may not) just be the cozy haven you’ve been seeking. Let’s get right to it.
Palia is in Open Beta with on-going development, this review will be updated in the future. ?
What is Palia About?
You are a Human who has recently found their way into the world of Palia, there is quite a mystery of how or why, but Humans have been gone from these lands for a very long time. You’re greeted by Jina and Hekla some of Palia’s denizens who are known as the Majiri, an elf-like race of humanoids. You are tasked with meeting some locals from nearby Kilima Village where you start your humble beginnings with a simple tent on a plot of land. After some time you make friends with the villagers where you unravel their unique stories while they teach you to garden, hunt, fish, craft and build your own home.
Who is Developing Palia?
Palia is created by the development team at Singularity 6 in California, their team includes veterans from other prominent gaming companies like Blizzard, Epic Games, Riot and so on.
S6’s vision for Palia was to craft a vast and enchanting world that stands as their homage to the simulation genre. Drawing inspiration from fond memories of farming, fishing, and mining across various game titles, they’ve incorporated these mechanics but also infused them with their own distinctive flair. In short they have described the game as a community sim, with an interconnected world where players can play solo or with friends in a cozy environment.
Graphics and Tech
The graphics in Palia are what I like to call “timeless”, this is an art style that is often referred to as “stylized fantasy” with cartoony-like colorful graphics that has an ageless appearance. If you’ve ever played World of Warcraft or Planet Zoo, the art style can be considered similar.
I run a mid-range NVIDIA GEForce graphics card and the game looks beautiful, exploring the landscape, using my skills, and generally playing the game feels lag free. Animations are quick to fire off and relatively smooth. There were a few occasions where I experienced lag while decorating my house, and when preparing to make a bug report, I discovered it is a known issue being worked on.
Game Engine & PC Specs
Palia runs on Unreal Engine and is playable on the PC and coming to the Nintendo Switch at the end of the year for 2023. The recommended PC specs for Palia are:
|Operating System||Windows 10 64-bit or higher|
|CPU||Intel i5-7300 / AMD Ryzen 3 3300U|
|GPU||Nvidia GTX 1060 / AMD RX 580|
Sound and Music
Sound options are located in the Settings > Audio to change the volume on music, dialog, and sound effects. Additionally a Mix Profile setting allows you to set the dynamic range, the difference between the loudest and quietest sounds.
Sound Effects & Ambience
The sound in Palia is quite immersive, I’m very impressed with the nature ambience around the various places I’ve visited, the small details really shine such as frogs croaking and crickets singing at night. The sounds of skills like fishing, cutting down trees, and mining are pretty natural and unobtrusive.
The soundtrack for Palia, composed by Steffen Schmidt, seamlessly integrates a wide range of musicians and global themes, all in perfect harmony with the game’s narrative and the world of Palia. I must say, this soundtrack deserves nothing less than a resounding “Chef’s Kiss.” It is a truly enchanting and tranquil masterpiece. Regardless of how many times I’ve listened to it, I have yet to experience any sense of repetition or abruptness while playing. Take a listen, here’s a song from the soundtrack.
Dialog & Voice Over
The voiceover you encounter in Palia is dialog with the villagers, it adds a nice dimension to the characters personality, and it’s not presented in a way where you must sit through a lengthy story. I find this quite balanced as I prefer to read the dialog text and absorb the story at my own pace.
One notable concern I encountered while playing the game was the huffing and puffing noises my character makes while traveling around the landscape. These occurrences happen quite frequently, especially when jumping and landing, and they have reached a point where I felt the need to lower the volume of the in-game dialogue to mitigate their impact. It’s possible that my sensitivity to these sounds plays a role, but it might also be worth having the option to reduce the frequency of these noises.
One of the meaningful aspects of any MMO is character customization, Palia offers a one-character limit per account, meaning there’s no room for alternates (and frankly I was relieved). Should character names be an important aspect for you, it’s a good idea to deliberate on your name choice before launching the game. As of now, the feature to rename characters is absent, though there are hints that this may soon change.
The character customization leans towards the simplistic side. Players are presented with two body types, both of which share identical hairstyle and clothing options. The default character appearance is reminiscent of a young adult, and noticeably lacks variety in terms of age, facial characteristics, and body contours. However, with this being a Beta this may not be the final options and the Devs have stated updates are coming.
The hairstyle options, despite its range of more than 20, left me wanting. I didn’t find a hairstyle that I really connected with and feel that this area needs improvement. Skin tones are not fully represented (though being worked on).
Looking at the cosmetic outfits, choices are available for the face, head, chest, and legs. Players can select from a reasonably broad range of clothing styles, with the liberty to blend colors and assort different pieces when using a Wardrobe in your home or in town. There is no cost to change the outfits or appearance which is fantastic. However, exclusive cosmetic attire is in the Premium Shop, a point we’ll explore in-depth shortly.
A noticeable roadblock in the cosmetic system is the integration of back items with chest pieces. For instance, the Bard costume set has a guitar as a back piece that cannot be removed from the chest. In addition, a dress, which is a singular chest cosmetic, doesn’t feature detachable leggings. This restricts the ability to pair it with other tops/leggings, limiting outfit combinations.
The housing options are a good portion of the characters development and gameplay loop. There are quite a decent mix of furniture items, tools, and activities like cooking and gardening to pursue for your house. In comparison to other games with similar building features I would say that Palia is in line with those from a starting perspective plus a bit more. With Palia being a live service game we should expect to receive regular updates and content offerings during the Beta and into the release of the full game.
With that being said, there is a variety of furnishing styles present with the ability to change colors of the furniture items you craft by way of a machine and kits. The color options are in my opinion lacking, and I do hope there will be other color palettes to choose from in the future.
Certain special wallpapers are dynamic and have a 3D effect, while the other wallpaper offerings at current feel quite underwhelming with a lack of color options and styles.
The exterior style of the home currently offers one architectural style for everyone. Though changes will be in the works according to the following Q&A answer from S6 about housing exteriors:
There will be a lot of choice to be had in your home’s design, including the exterior. Additionally, wherever the system is at launch is just the beginning and we expect the player base will help us decide which new housing customization features we’ll prioritize first.– Aidan, Singularity 6
While there are up to 15 modular pieces or rooms you can place to make quite a large home,
there are some silly restrictions like the doors and porch counting towards this limitation. Update: That restriction was removed in Patch 0.170!
There is an option to plant trees (and of course garden plots) however there is not an option to add bushes, plants, flowers or pathways and sidewalks which is definitely wanted by the community for further customization.
Story and Character Development
The story narrative is largely propelled by your interactions with villagers. As you befriend them and learn of their personal tales, you gradually uncover the lore of Palia itself.
Your character develops a personality through the choices it makes while interacting with villagers. The game assigns one of four elemental traits to your character based on these choices: Earth, Air, Fire, or Water. An interesting concept though as of my playthrough, these personality traits have yet to influence the appearance of my character or gameplay dynamics from what I have observed.
As of this review there are 24 villagers with Tau being the latest to join the community as the friendly animal companion of Hassian. Nearly every villager offers something of value, whether it is to teach you a skill or to push the narrative forward via quests. Each villager also has a sequence of friendship levels that you can participate in to unlock access to their homes and a special housing decor reward.
Players can pursue romantic relationships with certain villagers, yet there’s no inherent pressure or “fear of missing out” if you opt out of this aspect. The game treats romance akin to deep friendship and players have the liberty to romance up to two characters simultaneously without gender preferences.
There are two primary maps to explore in Palia at present, they are the Kilima Valley and Bahari Bay. These “adventure zones” are quite pretty and feel expansive with convenient quick travel options. There are plenty of places to explore, climb up to, glide around, hunt, fish, and gather.
I find traversing the zones to be relaxing and immersive, and there are plenty of hints at additional places we may get to visit in the future.
What Do You Do In Palia?
The core gameplay mechanics of Palia is similar to that of other simulation games like Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing, and Dinkum. In Palia, there is no combat or PvP besides hunting and fishing. The player is gathering materials to build their skills, fulfill quest objectives, grow friendships with villagers, or build their homestead.
Skills you can learn in Palia include:
- Furniture Making
- Bug Catching
While Palia is an MMO, it is not like other MMORPG’s where the main focus of those games is about conquering dungeons and raid bosses for loot or titles.
Your character has a level as a combined number of all your skills. As you reach certain levels within individual skills you unlock special items from the associated vendor, these are usually tools or housing items.
This gameplay style brings a new approach to the MMO genre, where community is rewarded for playing together, sharing resources, and helping each other out.
Multiplayer and Community
The gameplay design is one of abundance where you may play with your friends or other players in the game world and everyone who participates in the same activities receive rewards. For example, if I mine an ore node and you also mine the same node we both receive the same amount of ore.
Palia has an option to create or join a Community which is similar to a Guild from other games, though I don’t have much to report here as this feature is still in development.
When you zone into an area you are placed into a server which caps out at 25 players. I find this to be a good way to keep the world cozy while meeting new people and grouping up for events like cooking parties and gathering resources together like flow trees or fishing. I’ve spent sometime in random group content and for the most part these encounters have been pleasant.
I found that there wasn’t much for my Husband and I to work towards activities together other than gathering resources, catching bugs, or playing in the Chappa races during the Maji Market festival. There’s definitely room for improvement in the multiplayer experience.
Palia is a live service game and that means content releases on a scheduled cadence, how often that will be is unknown at this time. In my experience so far, since I’ve played Alpha and Open Beta, there have been several updates with patches of new content and bug fixes. The Dev team is also releasing regular update notifications.
When I think of endgame for Palia I would describe it as the time in-between patch releases and new content. After more than 100 hours playing I have plenty of content available and haven’t completed the highest levels with the villagers or every quest available. Your mileage may vary depending on your play-style.
The grinding aspects of Palia is subject to each players preferences and goals. This is the type of game you can become immersed into and farm or collect resources to your hearts content and it can also be the type of game where you build to a certain point, reach your goal and then take a break until new content becomes available.
At the moment there are options to unlock separate housing plots, creating flexibility for those who seek more housing options. Though all these extra plots are completely optional.
The game operates on a WASD movement with mouse and keyboard, you can also plug in your favorite controller. Keybindings can be customized in the Settings. Additionally, the option to remove camera shake is available.
Currently, there aren’t any Colorblind settings, but the developers are aware of this and are actively working on enhancing accessibility options.
As for camera settings, there’s room for improvement. It’s inconvenient that I can’t zoom out a bit more from my character. This becomes especially evident when mining ore or chopping trees, as I often don’t see another player approaching to share the resource until it’s too late. Even after adjusting the Field of View, it doesn’t seem to distance the camera from my character, and any changes I make in this setting tend to revert back.
How Much Does Palia Cost?
Palia is a free-to-play game that generates revenue through the sale of cosmetic outfits in its Premium Shop, allowing its developers to maintain and develop new content. There are no upfront costs or subscription fees to play the game.
Cosmetics are purchased with Palia Coins which are sold in bundles of 3 different variations for a total of 9 total color variations. The cost can range from 850 Palia Coins to 5100 Palia Coins. When purchasing a single bundle, you will receive the discounted rate for the remaining bundles for that outfit.
Fortunately, their Premium Shop doesn’t induce FOMO (fear of missing out) with cosmetic items, and there are no predatory loot boxes either.
Here is a snapshot of the prices for Palia Coins:
Overall Impression of Palia
Palia is for players seeking a relaxing multiplayer experience, prioritizing personal goal-setting in its simulation-like environment rather than racing towards an endgame.
As I write this Palia has been in Open Beta for two months, I’ve spent a month of that time playing through it’s systems thoughtfully and in no rush with plenty to do. I enjoy the game for what it is right now and I feel confidence that Singularity 6 will polish the game and continue to add new content.
While the game definitely is in a Beta with ongoing development, I’m happy to continue help with testing, playing, and providing feedback. I’m looking forward to experiencing Palia’s evolution and what its future may bring.
If you would like to explore Palia sign up for the Open Beta here with our referral link and receive a welcome Fruit Basket and Windmill Decor items once you’ve created your character and completed the tutorial quest.