For the past month, many of my gaming hours each week have not been dedicated to action-packed fantasy adventures like Final Fantasy XVI, but to picking mushrooms, fishing, and crafting furniture in the upcoming cozy MMO: Palia. Channeling the likes of Disney Dreamlight Valley’s community-building, Palia hopes to kick things off by throwing players together on one big server and unleashing them to farm, hunt and romance NPCs alongside each other, and from what i have played. so far, that premise has enormous potential. I never knew I’d be catching bugs and fishing with my friends in an online cozy game instead of fighting alongside them in a battle royale, but here we are – Palia has me hooked.
If you’re unfamiliar with the genre, cozy games are recognizable for their slower pace, emphasis on homework and social connections, with notable entries including Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley. Most don’t have battle or bug modes of any kind, instead putting quieter activities like gardening, fishing, cooking, crafting, and decorating front and center. While many games in the genre only have limited multiplayer components or are strictly single-player, the upcoming Palia reinvents the formula as a massively multiplayer online game where social interaction and real-world cooperation are at the heart of things.
Screens – Palia
You are able to see and interact with other players out in the world and even help with things like hunting or mining for raw materials like copper. All the basic multiplayer functionality you’d expect to find in Animal Crossing is catered for, and I was able to do everything from visiting friends on their own farms, to sending items through the mail to help others their pleasant undertakings. But where Palia excels is with cooperative activities that make clever use of the multiplayer nature of an MMO, like when I wanted to cook an advanced recipe that had multiple steps to complete within a short amount of time, which required an extra pair of hands – or two.
Multiplayer is built into almost every aspect of Palia. Hunting was much easier as I had trained more bows on my prey and fishing was far more beneficial in groups due to the fishing interests I would get when casting with friends. There are even some essentials that could only be acquired when working together, like magical trees that regenerate their health faster than I was able to reduce with an axe… at least by myself. However, by working with another player, I was able to cut these trees down to size and harvest the valuable magical materials I needed for my next crafting project.
Of course, Palia also has a ton of social links and dating sim mechanics built into it, with a decent range of romantic options available from the smart and stylish Jel, to the snarky and sarcastic Kenyatta. I also had plenty of opportunities for non-romantic friendships with people like Badruu, a father-joke farmer, and a very polite automaton named Hekla. The cast of characters so far has been great, with plenty of lovable people to spend your time with, each with their own questlines that help you get to know them better.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any attempt to add social link elements between players, though (at least for now), which seems to go against the game’s MMO premise. I had thought that hanging out with certain players or fulfilling each other’s requests for items would give player-to-player relationships a higher rank, but it didn’t. We hope it gets added at some point, because it would take the multiplayer component to a whole new level.
I’ve already spent more time than I care to admit running around Palia during the alpha period and plan to spend a lot more in the beta, which just launched today. If you see me catching grasshoppers and kite-gliding around town, feel free to stop by and say hi!
Travis Northup is a writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @TieGuyTravis and read his game coverage here.