Cozy games have grown in popularity, and life simulators have gone from a rare treat to a much more populated genre. Palia, an upcoming game from Singularity Six, is a cheerful cottagecore MMO that takes a few comfy, chill gameplay loops and combines them into a delightful package. During the preview period offered to press, I have completed Palia’s first leg of content, graduating from copper to iron and venturing into the game’s second zone over the course of three days. I resent the time it is taking me to write about Palia, because it is time I could be spending on playing more Palia. This game has grabbed me in a way that few games in this genre do, and it did so without any dirty tricks or manipulative microtransactions.
Each individual part of Palia is fun and well made, but the game’s real brilliance is in how it seamlessly loops them all together. In Palia, I play a human who has suddenly materialized out of a dazzling void and into existence. My landing place ends up being pretty sweet; there are verdant fields full of game to hunt, a village full of friendly folk eager to lend a hand, and a big plot of land to settle upon. There is no great threat, no oncoming apocalypse. There isn’t even a Tom Nook to show up and request rent.
Palia most resembles a survival sandbox game or a MMORPG, but Singularity Six has sanded off all of the harsh edges. It’s nothing but good vibes out here, baby, and I’m here to soak up the sunshine. Even the graphics are bright and cheerful, with lots of round shapes and exaggerated motions. Everything is so sweet it verges on saccharine or childish, although I’m starting to suspect that I can coax a more solemn side out of my new neighbors.
The gameplay of Palia can be effectively divided into two sections, especially for solo players. The first is the player’s home, which is separated into its own instanced plot and has its own activities. Then there’s the open world. I began by visiting Kilima Village, where Palia’s colorful cast of characters work and live. They set me up with a set of tools — a pick, an ax, a fishing pole, a bug-catching kit, a hoe, and a bow — that I can use to gather resources, which I take home and turn into furniture and better gear.
There are time gates that ensure I can’t just engage in one activity; for instance, the first sawmill I build takes a minute to turn a piece of wood into a plank. It takes 100 planks, 35 stone bricks, and eight hours to build my house. But since there are eight main professions, a time gate on one activity just lets me rotate to another. I can leave my plot and head out into the world to acquire resources, then loop back to water my crops and build a cool new bookcase. I always have something on the go. I never feel like I’m completely locked out of the game, and the only microtransactions involved are for cool outfits.
It’s hard to overstate just how clean Palia’s building and customization systems feel; I could spend all day setting up the details of the perfect house. I can edit my base at a whim, including the placement and layout of my home and its rooms, and I never feel like I’m struggling against the controls. It takes time to build up an impressive library of furniture, but I’m excited at every new chair or shelf I craft, because it means I can go in and tweak the exact placement of every item in my little dollhouse.
This is bolstered by the social elements of the game. The village is full of purple elflike people, and I want to talk to them every day and slowly build up my relationships with them. I can also play with my friends; Palia has turned out to be the perfect game to enjoy together in Discord voice chat. There’s always a task for someone to grab, but there’s no urgency to do anything. There are no high stakes established through long cutscenes. Instead, you and your pals can focus on cooking a delicious meal for everyone to enjoy, or perhaps gathering pine planks to create a cute new nightstand.
I found myself utterly enchanted by Palia, and I’m already craving my return to this cozy fantasy world when the closed beta begins on Aug. 2. After that initial beta, everyone will be able to dive into this free-to-play life simulator on Aug. 9. The game will later be available on Nintendo Switch, although the specific release date has not been announced.
I’m eager to share this experience with more friends when that official PC release day arrives. Sometimes, you just need to get away from it all. Also, I’m still torn between dating the mining DILF or the somber fishing robot, and I need to spend more time with those good boys to decide.