For the past month, many of my gaming hours every week have been dedicated not 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 up a notch by throwing players together in one big server and letting them loose to farm, hunt, and romance NPCs alongside one another, and from what I’ve played so far that premise has enormous potential. I never knew that I wanted to catch bugs and go fishing with my buddies in an online cozy game, instead of fighting alongside them in a battle royale, but here we are – Palia’s got me hooked.
If you aren’t familiar with the genre, cozy games are recognizable for their slower pace, emphasis on homemaking, and social links, with notable entries including Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley. Most don’t have combat or fail states of any kind, instead putting calmer activities like gardening, fishing, cooking, crafting, and decorating front and center. While many games in the genre have only limited multiplayer components or are strictly singleplayer, the upcoming Palia reimagines the formula as a massively multiplayer online game where social interaction and real-world cooperation is at the heart of things.
Screens – Palia
You’re able to see and interact with other players out in the world, and even help out with things like hunting or mining for raw materials like copper. All of the basic multiplayer functionality you’d expect to find in Animal Crossing are accounted for, and I was able to do everything from visit friends at their own homestead, to send items via mail to assist others with their cozy undertakings. But where Palia sets itself apart is with joint 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 that needed to be performed in a short window of time, which required an extra pair of hands – or two.
Multiplayer is baked into nearly every aspect of Palia. Hunting was a whole lot easier when I had multiple bows trained on my prey, and fishing was way more beneficial in groups due to fishing buffs I’d get when casting out with friends. There’s even some essential items that could only be acquired when working together, like magic-infused trees that regenerate their health faster than I was able to reduce it with an ax…at least alone. But by working with another player, I was able to cut these trees down to size and reap the valuable magical materials I needed for my next crafting project.
Naturally, Palia also has a ton of social links and dating sim mechanics baked into it, with a decent range of romance options available from the suave and stylish Jel, to the cranky and sarcastic Kenyatta. I also had plenty of opportunities for non-romantic friendships with the likes of Badruu, a dad joke slinging farmer, and a very polite automaton named Hekla. The cast of characters so far has been great, with plenty of loveable folks to spend your time with, each with their own questlines that help you get to know them better.
Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any attempt to add social link elements between players, though (at least for now), which does seem to run counter to the game’s MMO premise. I’d thought that hanging out with specific players or fulfilling one another’s item requests would rank up player-to-player relationships, but it didn’t. Here’s hoping that gets added at some point, because that 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 on spending many more in the beta, which just launched today. If you see me catching grasshoppers and hang-gliding around town, feel free to stop and say hello!