Palia preview — Friendly fantasy farming

Farming sims are a dime a dozen these days – turns out growing up with Story of Seasons has that effect on devs – and while some are annoyed by the saturation, I can’t get enough. Sure, they’re not all to my taste and Stardew Valley remains the undisputed king of the genre, but you can always find a fresh take if you grow bored of one game. Palia might just be the freshest take of all, taking the life and farming simulation and putting it into an MMO. That may immediately bring up questions, and we were invited to the beta to answer a few of them.

You emerge into the world fully formed after character creation, turns out Humans are pretty rare here, and all the NPCs are purple skinned elves. In fact, this world used to be inhabited by humans, and the young archaeologist you first encounter is uncovering the ancient remains of Human civilization. Including some kind of story varies the presumed activities you’ll do and it adds motivation to explore areas. It’s no longer just about meeting new people or discovering new materials to retrieve to craft items; there is a world to explore and understand and one can only hope the payoff is worth it.

Palia Beta Gameplay - PC [GamingTrend]

Before you explore this vibrant, colorful world, there’s a decent amount of options for customizing your character, with more clothes available for purchase later on. For now though, you’ll go through a lengthy tutorial to ease you into things. There’s no controller support at the moment, so you walk around with WASD, toggle run with shift, jump with spacebar, and select a tool to hold with R and then left click to use it. You can select items from your hotbar with the corresponding number, using them with right click. I do wish you could scroll between items with the scroll bar, but instead that’s used for moving between hotbars.

First things first: you need a place to sleep. The inn is full, but luckily they’re just giving out plots of land for free if you don’t mind sleeping in a tent. You’ll need to clear the land with an ax and pickaxe, but you’ll get some materials in the process. After placing a crafting table, you can get to work creating your tent and storage chest using said materials. If at any time you don’t have enough materials, you can request the required amount from other players. It’s a neat way to more passively connect with your friends.

After more tutorials, you’ll get a bunch more recipes for cooking and crafting along with additional tools like a fishing rod, bow, and… smoke bombs? Respectively these let you catch fish (duh), hunt animals, and catch bugs with said smoke bombs. To my knowledge there’s no way to deliberately pass time in Palia, so these activities are good ways to occupy yourself while crops grow.

Speaking of, you can place a 3×3 grid of soil on your homestead (or multiple) to grow crops. Once it’s placed you need to till the soil, which is a bit weird here. Rather than affecting an entire square at once, you essentially paint the square in by holding left click and moving around. It’s not an unwelcome quirk, but it does leave farming feeling less snappy than contemporaries. This is a slower paced game though, and it does make for a relaxing time.

As you engage with different ways of gaining materials, you’ll upgrade your tools and work to increase the size of your plot, your house, and anything else every other farming sim allows you to do. On the surface, it’s things we’ve seen time and again other than the story element. The biggest selling point is that Palia’s an MMO. But the unfortunate part is, it was difficult to engage with that piece. In three hours, I saw three people. Your designated plot of land is strictly inhabited by you but the main overworld is instanced for the server. I’ll lay the blame on the small number of people invited to this early access pre-closed beta, so we’ll have a better understanding of how impactful Palia’s MMO mechanics work once the closed and open beta begin. From what is available, though, it seems like it has a lot of potential.

In closed beta, it was difficult to adventure with a friend consistently. Once you’re in a party, you can then invite your friend to your server rather than this happening automatically. You might think you’d be able to play seamlessly after that, but no. Going into your homestead takes you out of the server since it’s an instance, and if you want to meet up with your friend again after leaving you’ll have to be invited back to their server once more. We also ran into more than a few hiccups where you’d access a box in a friend’s instance only to find your box instead. More than a few server rollbacks and progress loss bugs were encountered over the last week and a half, so it’s clear the developers have a lot of work ahead of them.

Objectives are clearly assigned and you can pin a few you’re interested in to keep an eye on your progress. Your map can get pretty cluttered like a Ubisoft open-world and reading the directional icons at the top of the screen can be trickier but you can set a marker for specific people or objectives you’re interested in and the color is distinct to make following the path easier amongst the icons.

Tasks can range from gathering materials, crafting specific objects, visiting temples, discovering secrets, solving riddles, and the list goes on. There’s no shortage of things to do and the variety allows you to follow whatever activity suits your fancy or keeps you from falling asleep. I don’t mean that as a negative – , this is a very relaxing game. The music is tender, the sound effects are soft, the world feels open but the soft, rounded art style and light cartoony design tempers the colorful brilliance. But even as calming as Palia feels, once the rewards start rolling and you’re revealing intriguing insights into this once Human inhabited world, you can’t help but feel like you need to continue forward to delight in the fruits of your labor.

One area that does seem to be well polished, much to our group’s chagrin, is the real money cosmetic shop. There are a number of different looks you can buy for your character to make them uniquely your own. None of us had an issue with this, preferring that to any sort of pay to play option that could creep in. Where we all had a moment of pause was when we finished our home and was immediately told “You’ve had enough fun, come back later” by a whopping 8 hour countdown clock. You can’t influence the clock by working harder, doing chores, or manually building your home. We all felt the cold hand of “mobile title” grip Palia, and we hope there’s still time enough to turn away from this monetization mechanic. Many of us already struggle to find time to game, so having an arbitrary timer take that precious time away might have some gamers leaving entirely instead.

Palia shows a lot of promise, and hopefully with the deluge of new players and the information that load brings, the team will have what they need to push forward towards an eventual finish line. Palia is currently in closed beta exclusively on PC.

David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.

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Anthony Shelton hosts and produces the Gaming Trend podcast and creates opinion videos occasionally on YouTube. He carries some of the strongest opinions among the staff and is generally harder to impress. But if impressed, he sings developers' praises just as loudly. He typically plays everything except horror and most RTS, but genres he gravitates towards are platformers, FPS, racing, roguelikes, fighting, and loot-based games. He has quit Twitter and uses Threads. Follow him at iamashelton.

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Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.

Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.

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