Palia is a game trying to offer an entire world for cozy gamers to exist in together. Whereas most MMOs combine the more peaceful pursuits of homebuilding, farming, and fishing alongside combat or other more violent endeavors, Palia strips all that bloodthirsty stuff away to focus solely on creating a peaceful MMO where players can craft, explore, and discover more about the fantasy world they find themselves in.
This free-to-play game (bolstered by cosmetic in-game purchases only) is exactly what I’ve been looking for since diving into Stardew Valley in co-op. My best pal lives on the other side of the country, so for catch-up sessions we always like to play something together that’s low-drama and preferably co-operative. While Stardew’s co-op feature seemed perfect, its disconnect from our core saves meant that we made little progress on our joint farming venture and eventually just gave up on our dreams of co-op farming because, my god, that early game is just so, so slow.
Palia has addressed this from the off, with its opening hour handing you a full toolset, introducing you to key village characters, and setting up a basic homestead. It’s just a big tent initially, but set up in a way that it quickly feels like your own space. Plus, because the emphasis here is on playing together, a lot of the usual sim trappings have also been removed. The day and night cycle happens automatically, with each in-game day lasting a real-world hour, and there’s no need to watch your stamina or get to bed by a certain point.
The passing of time does of course impact the growth of your crops, where the villagers are at certain points of the day, and what they get up to. So it still feels like a living, working world, just without having to worry about things that will hold you back as a group. The development team at Singularity 6 did say they experimented with including such limitations but decided enforced group naps were too big an impact on enjoyment flow in multiplayer that they decided to remove them altogether.
Focus, not stamina
There’s no stamina, but eating gets you Focus that boosts any XP you gain. It’s a 20% boost at first, but it can be upgraded and your Focus bar can be expanded. Plus, the more you use your tools, the more they’ll level up and become more useful and powerful too.
It makes for a much more enjoyable experience that allows you to work with your friends to build the version of Palia that you want. You’ll get a personal homestead, and it’s completely private unless you invite people into it. But what’s particularly special about Palia is that you can have multiple homesteads on the go, with multiple homestead slots to allow you to craft different bases and experiences in each. You could be building something with a friend, something else with your partner, and then have a third space for your work colleagues for example. Anyone you make an editor of that space can even work on it if you’re not online too, which is handy for a bigger group that wants to progress but might not always be able to get online altogether regularly. Palia even makes sure that if your pals are online, even if you’re not in a party, you’ll still be put in the same place together.
It’s tied to everything you do on your own too. Items you get, resources you gather, things you buy, and so on can be shared with your friends and used in those homesteads. Your cooperative experience is not isolated from anything you’re doing in your own time, which feels really unique in the sim space right now. As you’ll regularly explore together, crafting and collecting is collaborative too, so if you see a rare item in your game they can still pick it up too.
Image 1 of 5
Just a few examples of the kinds of interiors you can make in Palia.
What I particularly love is that Singularity 6 makes cooking a multiplayer experience too, with more complex recipes turning into an Overcooked-style affair where you’re trying to chop, stir, roll, and prep each part of the dish against the clock, with each stage having its own mini-game. This might be the only point at which Palia’s co-operative aura has a flash of competitiveness, and I am here for it.
Solo go slow
From what I’ve experienced so far, even if you’re just playing with randoms, the MMO element isn’t intrusive either. If you want to just do your own thing you can, you’ll just see others running around and experiencing their own Palia. You can put callouts for resources if you want, and make pals if you so wish, but I do love the balance between being able to enjoy this as a single-player experience, with the option of bringing more people in as and when you want to.
There’s a huge story here too, alongside fishing, crafting, homebuilding, hunting, mining, and all that other good stuff. You arrive in Kilima Village as one of many humans that have started appearing in the fantasy world of Palia. The problem is, humans have been extinct for hundreds of years, so along with the scientists working here it’s down to you to figure out why humans have suddenly started reappearing. It’s a fun way to explain why Palia’s getting an influx of new players, all in human form, and it’s a great way to instantly see who’s a player character (human) and the NPCs (non-human).
It’s also gorgeous. With almost Fortnite-esque visuals, really physical animations, and a delightful elf-meets-cottage-core aesthetic, it’s a delightful world to spend time in. There’s a huge cast of characters to meet too, from your scientist buddies Jina and Hekla, to Auni with his kid-brother enthusiasm and Einar the chill robot fisherman desperate to learn more about the human way of life. Of course, there are romanceable characters too, with Singularity 6 getting round the whole MMO thing by making those more, ahem, personal interactions happen in private spaces away from prying eyes and continuity questions.
You even have the option to tailor your story experience a little to what you want your character to be like. Dialogue has conversation options that are assigned to different elemental signs, with each one correlating to a different way of speaking, like one being more sarcastic. This will impact how the villagers respond to you, and even open up different questions that you can ask depending on what your relationship with each character is like. It’s just one of the little tweaks that will make Palia a more personalized experience.
I can’t wait to experience more of Palia. With the closed beta starting today before an open beta on August 10, this has the potential to become my live service game where nothing else has managed to hook me long-term – especially as Singularity 6 plans to carry on adding to Palia’s story for years to come. It’s got everything I want from the life sim genre, with the added perks of allowing me to share that with my friends in a way that feels meaningful and productive – and of course, cooperative.
There’s no release date for Palia yet beyond these PC beta beats, but when it does launch it’ll drop on PC and Switch.