Palia is A Half-Baked, Cozy MMO That Barely Has Anything to Show (For Now)
Singularity 6 just recently released Palia into open beta. At the start, the cozy MMO promised us a variety of skills to level, colorful NPCs to interact with, and plenty of places to explore on the map. But unfortunately, we mainly got underbaked ideas that haven’t been improved over the last years of the game’s development.
I won’t deny that Palia has added unique qualities to the core concept of an MMO. The skill choices are distinct yet familiar; you’ve got the basics of hunting, fishing, gardening, and even foraging. As a huge farming sim fan, Palia has been on my radar since it was announced. However, after hours of playing through the closed and now open beta, it’s safe to say there’s still much work for the developers to do.
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There are a lot of good times to be had in Palia. First, as a new entry to the wildly popular farming genre, Palia breathes new life into the oversaturated market. You can hunt wildlife, catch bugs, plant crops, and romance the villagers.
This might sound like some of the cookie-cutter mechanics in other farming games, but Palia puts a tiny spin on them to make things more interesting. For example, instead of using a net to catch bugs, you’ll have to throw smoke bombs (sometimes repeatedly) to put the bug in a dazed state. Then, if you’re going to plant crops, you’ll have to take the companion planting bonus into account to maximize their quality and get a bountiful harvest.
Each of the skills has a unique touch to them as well. One of the many skills I found interesting in Palia is Furniture Making. It’s not something you’d find in too many sims; the only title I could think of that makes it take a front seat is Hokko Life. While you can buy various house upgrades and furnishings at the Furniture Store, the Furniture Making skill allows you to create things for yourself. You’re in charge of gathering the wood, turning it into planks, and putting it together to make something you’d put inside your house.
Another skill I’d like to highlight is fishing. You must travel to various areas around the maps if you want to catch specific or rare fish. The fishing minigame is—in my opinion—one of the best I’ve seen so far. I think it’s the most accessible method, making the process easy even for disabled players.
You don’t have to worry about a finicky building process in Palia. The options to easily place/rotate furniture make plopping down decorations easy. Plus, the grids make placing things in your desired spots much easier. Despite the time sink required to farm enough gold, I legitimately had fun building and furnishing my house.
Palia’s sound design is an absolute eargasm. The small details when you’re walking while holding the fishing rod are astoundingly accurate. You can even hear the water sloshing if you’re running with a water-filled bottle!
The music is also fantastic. It shifts throughout the town, depending on what building you’re in. And when the shift does happen, it’s really subtle—you almost don’t realize it, which is a nice touch and makes the vibes relaxing.
Let’s not forget about the sound cues, either. The sound that triggers when you’re near an item you can mine or forage is an excellent accessibility trait. Being informed when your focus runs out or you can gather something, is a lifesaver, especially when you’re zoned out and not noticing you’ve already drained your focus bar.
Palia is heavily marketed as an MMO; it was pushed as a game you and your friends can play together. But in reality, I’d say that the game is more of a single-player experience that sprinkles in a bit of co-op instead of being a proper MMO.
You can mine, cut down trees, and hunt with one or more friends, but that’s all there is to it. You can’t complete quests for them or visit their home, nor can you even find them if they’re not on your server. How can I play with my friend if we can’t see each other online?
Moreover, with the current system, people have no incentive to pair up while farming nodes and resources beyond flow trees. This results in the maps being picked clean by players who know where materials spawn. You see resources vanish in front of you while you run around the map because someone grabbed them not long ago. This makes it feel like the players are more of a hindrance than a blessing.
Despite Hunting being an entire skill, there are only so many variants for you to hunt. The Sernuk only has three variants: Sernuk, Elder Sernuk, and Proudhorn Sernuk. The Chapaa also has three: the Chapaa, Striped Chapaa, and Azure Chapaa. Looking at this list, there’s not much you can hunt in Palia besides Sernuks and Chapaas. I would have loved to see more wildlife around the world besides these two critters.
One of my main gripes about Palia is that it doesn’t let you trade with other players despite being branded as an MMO. There’s no ability to trade or auction house items with people. Instead, you’re forced to use the game’s request system (which is honestly terrible) that has a lengthy cooldown when you’ve used up all your request slots.
Could I at least gift my friends the resources they’re looking for? No? Okay.
You can sell rocks, wood, and plant fiber using the Shipping Bin, so why can’t I sell the furniture I’ve built? Since you have a plot to decorate, shuffling around different furniture occasionally is normal. Decorating your house is one of the main aspects that makes Palia a cozy MMO, so it’s no surprise that you’ll use many materials to craft them.
You can argue that the furniture doesn’t take up space in your inventory box, but at least make them sellable for a small price. Being forced to toss out everything I’ve just gives me a reason why I shouldn’t bother leveling up my Furniture Making skill.
I sometimes take a peek into the Palia chat channel on Discord. Whenever someone gives a perfectly reasoned criticism or negative feedback about the game, they’re immediately bombarded by people stating, “The game’s still in beta. What do you expect?” and the like. The community isn’t receptive to anything other than hearing how good Palia is.
To fuel the fire, the chat on Palia’s Discord server has a cooldown of 5 minutes. This is an anti-conversation move; having a proper conversation with someone is impossible. Other proper solutions could have been taken instead of imposing a five-minute cooldown. For example, they could limit how many people could stay in a chat channel for the most active ones. They could also add more moderators and more chats.
Palia is excellent in delivering a cozy atmosphere and good vibes, but its Cash Shop leaves me cold. Shops that use premium currency have become incredibly prevalent in online games—especially free-to-play ones like Palia. At first, the store isn’t that intrusive; I’m not required to pay to make my crops grow, get more materials, or build my house. The gold I earn through fishing, hunting, selling crops, and foraging is more than enough. However, you’ll have to pay if you want your character to have shiny, new clothes.
I’ve no problem dropping the cash on some cosmetics from time to time, but the $50 to $69.99 price for the outfits is just too much. That’s a lot of money to spend to play dress-up, even if the game’s free. What’s worse is that the Cash Shop intrudes on Palia’s world via the Tailor Shop owned by Jel. Palia has a wardrobe full of clothes you can use for free, but their designs don’t come close to the panache of an outfit from the Cash Shop.
Besides the frilly clothes, S6 has also I hope Singularity Six returns to the drawing board for this one and comes up with cheaper and more accessible items to put into the shop because this is not it.
I’m enjoying Palia, but after putting in the hours, there’s not much to do beyond leveling up your skills and gathering resources. At its current state, Palia is incredibly shallow. I can see its potential, but with barely any content and variance to back it up, the game hides its flaws by branding itself as a “cozy” title.
The thing is, cozy doesn’t have to be boring or half-baked. I’m appalled to see that this is what we only have so far, despite Palia being 5 years deep into development and Singularity Six having $50 million in funding ($30 million initially). With more than 200 employees working in S6, is this truly the extent of their creativity and ambition? I want to love Palia, but the lack of depth, toxicity within the community, and S6’s microtransaction-related decisions make it hard to do so. Palia has enormous potential to be great, but if they continue this route, the game may “die” before its release.