Palia Preview - Just Shy of Greatness

Published: August 12, 2023 11:14 AM /

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Palia Preview - Cover Image Standing in Kilima Village While Delaila Walks Down the Stairs

The juggernauts of the cozy gaming space have a new competitor: Palia, an MMO "community sim" that has just launched into open beta. Our Palia Preview will explore how Singularity 6's inaugural game stacks up to the competition after one week of playing the Closed Beta!

By now, I've spent a little over a week playing Palia every day. I've progressed much further than when I wrote my first impressions. I still fundamentally believe that Palia does a lot of things right, but a number of problems have made themselves clear as I got further along in the game.

Palia Preview - Tailor Shop Devoid of Any Non-Premium Cosmetics
There's a Tailor Shop and a Tailor NPC, but there's no way to acquire new clothes yet. All this place does is serve as a physical access point for the premium cosmetics shop.

The Cosmetics Conundrum

Palia styles itself as a free-to-play MMO; naturally, Singularity 6 needs a way to make money if they're letting anyone play the game for free. The way they've chosen to do that is by selling premium cosmetic clothing.

Paid cosmetic items are not a problem in and of themselves; I would argue that it's good game design when it comes to a free-to-play game. Palia has no way to spend money and speed things up or get an advantage over someone else, and that's fantastic.

What is a problem, though, is the emergence of the dreaded premium currency -- and with all of the annoying trappings that come with it. You can spend real-world money to get Palia Coins, and then those Palia Coins are used to purchase cosmetic outfits for your character. You inevitably will have some Palia Coins left over after a purchase.

This is somewhat annoying, but it's particularly bad in light of the fact that there is not yet a way to earn or craft any new clothes in the game; the Tailor in Kilima Village is simply a physical front for the cash shop.

Everything you can choose from in the character creator can be accessed again from any Wardrobe in-game, and that's the limit of your choices if you don't want to spend money. There's no option to craft any new clothes; at least, not yet.

Palia Preview - Hunting a Chapaa in Multiplayer
Two of us are aiming at that red fox-like creature called a Chapaa, but only one of us is going to get any loot.

Questionable Multiplayer Design

I think Palia could have done well as a single-player game with online multiplayer, but Singularity 6 opted to make it a live service experience. Given that choice, it's particularly baffling how inconsistent their multiplayer systems are.

Take mining, for example. If I hit an ore node just once with my pickaxe, I'm entitled to the full loot of it when it breaks. That means that players in a party -- or indeed, any random person strolling along -- can each hit the same ore node and everyone will get loot out of it.

When you switch zones, you switch servers. You would think that your party members would automatically follow you, but they don't.

When you switch over to hunting, though, it's much more difficult. The Chapaa animal, for example, will die to a single hit of the weakest arrow. The same system applies: whoever gets a hit in will get loot, and everyone else -- even if they're in your party -- gets nothing if they don't hit the thing.

Most of the resource gathering works fine in multiplayer, but the way they've implemented multiplayer hunting definitely needs to be reevaluated. It makes cooperative gameplay a hindrance rather than a boon.

These problems aside, there's another area that's an issue. When you switch zones, you switch servers. You would think that your party members would automatically follow you, but they don't.

Instead, the friends in your party will often get deposited into any old server for that zone, and they may or may not actually end up with you. This odd hiccup in the game's flow makes for a poorer multiplayer experience.

Palia Preview - Climbing a Cliff
Occasionally, you'll climb a wall only to find that you can't go any higher with no explanation whatsoever.

Cracks in the Foundation

I discovered more problems as I racked up hours in the game. Let's start with something that might sound silly: you can't interact with any of the furniture you build. You can't sit in chairs and you can't lay down in beds. There are all sorts of things that look cool, but there's no interactivity there.

If this were any other game, that wouldn't matter as much -- who cares if you can't sit down in a chair in a post-apocalyptic third-person shooter? But Palia is meant to be a social, cozy game, and the lack of interactivity with furniture is a questionable omission at best. Even basic, janky animations would have been better than none at all.

Speaking of animations, some of the other gameplay systems don't seem as robust as they ought to be. Climbing is a particularly glaring example. I often find myself unable to get up on top of a cliff or climb past an invisible wall that seems to exist for no reason. The more you climb, the more you'll get frustrated at how inconsistent it is.

The most substantial problem, though, is the pacing of quests. The opening hours of the game have you solving puzzles in a temple and traveling all over the land to learn new things, but the main storyline quests gradually run out.

Casual players should be fine for a few weeks, but the more hardcore players will blow through most of the meaningful story content in a week. Singularity 6 has crafted a beautiful world, but there aren't many options to meaningfully explore it.

Palia Preview - Running Down the Road in Bahari Bay Near Other Players
Though it has its flaws, there's still plenty of fun to be had in Palia. Hopefully, it will only improve with time.

Palia Preview - Final Thoughts

If there's any one metric by which I could judge a game, it's what I call the "4 o'clock" rule. You look at the clock and see that it's 3:45 PM. Your attention gets back on the game, and you see it's 4:02. Except, it's 4:02 in the morning, and you've been so enthralled with the experience that you didn't realize the sun went down long ago.

Palia, for all its flaws, definitely has that effect on me. I'd think that spent 10 or 15 minutes doing something only to find that two-and-a-half hours have passed. There's something magical -- and perhaps unquantifiable -- about the Palia experience.

Palia feels like it's on the cusp of greatness, but it has a long way to go before it gets there.

That magical feeling is what makes its flaws all the more painful. If only the cosmetics shop didn't use that silly premium currency gimmick. If only I could lie down in my bed. If only there was a little more story content.

Singularity 6 says that Palia is in "Open Beta," but that term has been long diluted past its original definition. In my opinion, this game is what most of us would call "Early Access."

There isn't yet much in the way of meaningful story content to explore, some core systems don't quite work right just yet, and we only have access to a tiny portion of what will hopefully be a larger, deeper world.

As with all Early Access games (or Open Beta games -- however you want to call it), the future success of Palia depends on Singularity 6 delivering more content as quickly as possible and smoothing out some of the rough edges. Palia feels like it's on the cusp of greatness, but it has a long way to go before it gets there.

Palia was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the Developer over the course of 78 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of review.

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More Info About This Game
Learn more about Palia
Game Page Palia
PC, Nintendo Switch
Release Date
August 10, 2023 (Calendar)
MMORPG, Survival
Purchase (Some links may be affiliated)