Palia is a massively-multiplayer simulation game, set in a world where all of the NPCs are freakishly good-looking elves, with an environment that is so stunning you’ll need to set time aside just to soak it all in. It’s precisely what you’d expect from a cozy game, encompassing all of the standard hunting, farming, cooking, building, and other sim mechanics that have become synonymous with the genre. In Palia, however, there’s no real end goal, just a strive towards developing a thriving community.
When first launching into Palia, you’ll jump straight into the character customization screen, which provides you with a plentiful amount of options across all personalized elements. It’s right from this point that you’re introduced to the game’s whimsical art style, which might not be to everyone’s taste but is certainly right up my alley.
Once you’ve finished creating your character, you’re met with an introductory sequence where you spawn in via a ‘cocoon of light’ as described by Jina, the scholar who greets you upon your entrance to this mysterious new world. The tutorial sequence is simple, leaving you plenty of time to really take in your surroundings.
Beyond the strong graphics, Palia incorporates beautiful sound effects and music to really contribute to its fantastical feeling. Whether this is the ambient noises that differ from landscape to landscape, or the quiet melodies playing in the background as you explore the city, all of the game’s sounds are fanciful.
While venturing through the starter missions, which prompt you to set up a small house on your own plot of land, you learn all of the basics of living your life in Palia. The weirdly attractive NPCs each have their own specialty that they guide you through, including setting up camp, farming, and cooking, where Reth the chef seriously makes me want to learn to cook in real life.
I did find myself having some issues with some of the specialty mechanics, though. The mining process is rather tedious yet completely essential to the game, as you have to clear debris from your ever-expanding plot of land. The animations are long and sometimes it’s difficult to know whether or not your ax or other equipment is even going to attach to whatever it is you’re trying to mine, but this seems like something that I can adjust to with time.
The farming process was also pretty uninspiring, requiring you to slowly work each section of farmland in a very tiring fashion. These processes weren’t agonizing in a way that felt rewarding, but rather just sluggish and frustrating. I really hope they’re somewhat streamlined in further updates.
Alongside these mechanics, you’ll also be introduced to the game’s more community-oriented elements, including how to read your mail and make use of the chat system to interact with other people on your server. I didn’t find myself using these too much in the early stages of the game – frankly, I was more focused on just getting a stable roof over my head.
The starter missions send you all over the city as you go and meet a range of different characters. While typically I find running back and forth annoying, it’s something that’s so easy to commit to in Palia thanks to the gorgeous environments and the vast range of NPCs that are posted around the world for you to interact with as you explore.
The only frustrating aspect of this is the lack of a mini-map. You’ll find a compass-style navigation bar at the top of the screen in lieu of a mini-map, which is frustrating to use as not all terrain is walkable. As a result, I’d sometimes follow a compass point to get to a character and end up at the bottom of an unclimbable cliff.
You can pull up a full map by opening up your character breakdown screen and then scrolling to it in your character settings, but this is just one too many hoops to jump through given how often you need it – especially as you’re learning the ins and outs of the area.
As I said earlier, there doesn’t seem to be a real end goal with Palia. Instead, there are a load of smaller missions you can undertake if they tickle your fancy. It’s just a whimsical, stunning, cozy game that you can sink an endless amount of hours into as you upgrade your living quarters, create a community with others in-game, and even romance characters.
Despite a few mechanical flaws, the game is already mission rich and gives you a real sense of achievement as you progress, allowing it to fill that Runescape meets Stardew Valley-shaped hole in my heart that my teenage self has been missing oh so much.
Palia has the makings of a perfect cross between a farming simulator and an MMORPG, allowing you to not only settle in and set up a lovely home in a gorgeous environment but also turn to other players for resources, community, and entertainment.