In Palia, humans have suddenly reappeared in the middle of a serene fantasy world after generations of extinction. Our new elf, robot, and cat-man neighbors, surprised to see humanity running around again, help get us set up with our own cozy farm plot, a circle of friends, and a few handy professions. The game has been in open beta on PC since August, and today marks its arrival on Nintendo Switch.
In Palia, the player is an amnesiac human who has stumbled into this new world. The locals, elflike people known as Majiri, quickly set you up with a homestead. From there, the player picks up the professions of fishing, hunting, cooking, furniture building, farming, bug catching, and foraging. The villagers, who help you set up your new home and teach you how to use your new tools, can also be befriended (or romanced) and have surprisingly deep personalities.
Unsurprisingly, the Switch’s portable nature is a big plus for a game like Palia. This is a game designed to be easygoing and low-stress; it’s perfect to play sprawled out on the couch or nestled up under the covers in bed. Even better, Palia has cross-progression; if I log in on my PC to go hunting and gather pelts, I can jump over to the Switch later in the day for some gardening. It’s a seamless transfer; I can jump back and forth without feeling punished or obstructed.
By and large, the controls transfer over to Nintendo’s console nicely, as well. The game’s control scheme is simple enough that, despite being used to months of playing on a keyboard and mouse, I could immediately jump into the game and puzzle out all of the important mechanics. The one thing I had to hunt was the command to swap ammo types, and I figured it out after about five minutes of experimentation. Otherwise, I was able to hit the ground running.
When it comes to performance, Palia runs just fine on Switch; it’s not a particularly demanding game, after all. I traveled from Kilima Village to Bahari Bay, explored the Temple of the Gales, and hopped my way through the platformer challenge tower. Any snags I hit, like struggling to climb over the cusp of a cliff, were also present on PC.
The only thing I found myself truly missing was a proper keyboard — namely for joining the text chat on a server. Thankfully, the only communication you truly need in Palia can be conveyed through short messages like “on my way” or “thank you!” And it’s not too much of a hindrance to use the joysticks to dispatch these messages. But in a game with a friendly community full of chatty folks, there have been a few instances where I missed the ability to be more verbose.
As opposed to many cozy games, Palia is very much a live-service game; there are continual updates, events, and always promises of more to come. Since launch, we’ve seen two new elemental temples, new quests, a new villager, more romances, a new beast to hunt, the limited-time Maji Market, and an expansion of the underbelly black market beneath Kilima Village. Characters often talk about potential new zones, like a dark forest, or the grand capital city. These conversations hint at potential future updates, and the dialogue is well-written enough to inspire my curiosity about these new locales and what they might look like.
Because of this slowly unfurling progression, I’ve become comfortable with occasionally putting Palia back on the shelf, so to speak. I devoured all of the game’s launch content. I completed a big collection of rare items, romanced the town cook Reth and the fisher robot Einar, made good friends with everybody else, and built a beautiful starter home. But with so many great games on PC that are updated regularly, it’s easy for a game like Palia to fall out of my rotation.
In this sense, the Nintendo Switch feels a little more natural for this routine; it’s easy to pick up and play Palia in small bursts. My neighbors don’t chide me for my absence, and there are no weeds to pick à la Animal Crossing: New Horizons — I’m just back in the swing of things, my good reputation untouched. Palia often feels just as comfortable on the Switch, which re-inspires my interest in playing on PC. With a new audience, this game still has a lot of potential to expand and evolve.
Palia was released in beta on Dec. 14 on Nintendo Switch. These impressions were written using a pre-release download code provided by Singularity 6 Corporation. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.