Palia is the latest in the Life Simulation genre, a laid-back MMO game allowing you to explore, interact, build, and farm in a distant fantasy world. It’s a familiar style of gameplay for fans of the genre, and eager eyes may be wondering if Palia is a worthy addition to their collection. Is Palia stacking up to make a name for itself in its ever-growing genre? Today we find out, as I was gifted a code to try it out, and these are my thoughts on it. Here’s a soft, at a first glance Palia review.
Palia early review: Exploring a distant and peaceful world
One of the most immediate things about Palia is this: it has a great visual style. Palia doesn’t look or feel too much like anything else, and it’s nice to look at.
The world’s gorgeous with a pleasant color palette that perfectly suits the relaxing feeling it’s going for. I just wish the music stood out more to match, and the character customization to boot. It has some great accessibility options like being able to choose masculine or feminine voices regardless of what model you pick and a hijab option, but it still feels somewhat limited in colors, hairstyles, and face shapes for now.
There isn’t much I can say on the story. You play as a human who has materialized into the world of Palia. Palia appears to be some kind of peaceful fantasy region with mostly elven-looking inhabitants and their golems as well as some fantasy creatures. Oddly enough, you’re not the first human to materialize into this world, and everyone is fairly relaxed about this, all things considered. You’re immediately allowed to set up a tent inside a plot and be registered. I think part of the problem here is there’s no immediate sense of any conflict or gripping intrigue to carry this story. Sure, humans are materializing into Palia, but does it really matter why? They’re being welcomed and allowed to contribute. There’s nothing immediately happening in this world to latch on to.
Palia is the sort of game you can immediately tell had real heart put into its world. It doesn’t overload you with exposition or information immediately, instead sprinkling it in by dialogue piece by piece, which is a nice approach. Yet despite the clear care put into it, the world building doesn’t grab me. I think the game needs to make a bit more of an immediate impression with its world building. Besides ‘wow, everyone’s a purple elf with golems and I’m the only human!’, or ‘wow, those look like deer but arent!’, the only real thought I’m left with about the world is slight curiosity about the other regions mentioned, or the differences in cultural customs hinted at by the concept of house warming being reversed in this world. The world building doesn’t try to overwhelm you, but it kind of ends up underwhelming you instead.
Each villager in the game is nicely designed with distinct animations. Once more, you can tell a lot of care and heart went into these character designs. I like how friendly and welcoming almost everyone is. It helps sell the idea this is a peaceful place. There’s a simple charm and pop of personality to the characters at first impression. Given this is a game with a villager romancing mechanic, I can sense there will likely be a lot to each character as the game goes on. At first glance, though, it’s hard to say more than that.
This is where you can feel the early build. Palia is your basic slice of life, farming and crafting sort of game. You mine and cut down trees, make crafting stations, hunt animals, fish, talk to villagers… there really isn’t anything new here. Once I was stuck waiting an hour and a half for the stone and planks to finish building my house, I ran out of quests to do and just ended up bored. There’s no real other objectives for me to grind for I know enough about to want to do. I was told there were aquariums and terrariums, but how do I make one? I don’t know, the game didn’t tell me how.
The most interesting mechanic for me is bug catching. You don’t use a net, you throw smoke bombs. That’s kind of cool and different and I can appreciate that.
I have trouble navigating the map without constantly opening it or following quest markers. They don’t always show up when I need them, forcing me to open the map to find any NPC or location. I was caught off guard by how much waiting is in Palia. Selling off items isn’t instant. You have to wait for it to be shipped off. You can’t instantly teleport to your house, there’s a cooldown.
I wouldn’t mind waiting an hour and a half for my house materials just to wait another eight hours if there was something else to do, but there isn’t really.
Going forward, Palia needs to focus heavily on a satisfying gameplay loop to keep people engaged. If I were playing it casually in its current state, I’d move on to a different game quickly.
Palia early review: Promising fantasy life simulation, but unengaging
If I were to give its current, early access form a rating, it’d have to be around a 4.5/10. To summarize this Palia review, I think Palia has a lot of potential when it’s not in very early access and has far more developed and added to it. It could very well end up engaging with a cool world and nice story and elements to engage the house building part of the game in depth. But to get there is going to be a long road.