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In the time I’ve spent delving into games and playing them, the degradation of modern game development no longer surprises me. However, when I look at Palia MMO, I can’t help but feel a sense of dread…
Let me make it clear upfront that I have no intention of offending anyone by publishing reviews like this. I respect the work of developers, appreciate their efforts, and to some extent, understand their ideas. But someone needs to speak the “uncomfortable truth” and point out the glaring flaws in such games. If you’ve read even a few reviews and comments from other players about Palia MMO, you probably have a general idea of what I’m going to discuss.
A Little About the Developers…
The online game Palia was developed by Singularity 6, a studio that, according to publicly available information, was founded in 2018. Judging by their official website, Palia appears to be the company’s first game, on which they’ve spent a minimum of 3-4 years (the initial game announcements on social media date back to 2021).
The developers describe themselves as follows: “Our team is bonded by the vision of creating a joyful future shaped by genre-defining online experiences that deepen players’ lives. We aim to craft a constellation of virtual worlds filled with thriving online communities, diverse in-game experiences, and pioneering gameplay that drives meaningful social connections.” Next to this quote, they proudly published a screenshot from the world of Palia. This is why this quote is crucial in the context of this review.
To understand what’s amiss with Palia MMO, let’s examine each aspect of gameplay separately.
Social Interaction (2 / 10)
Since Palia was marketed as a “community sim MMO,” players naturally assumed that they were the “community.” As it turns out, the term “community” referred solely to social interaction with NPCs. As for interaction between players, there isn’t any. At least not at the time of writing this review.
The only thing you can do is request specific resources in a designated section, and another player (with the corresponding quest) can fulfill your request. You can also add other players as friends and communicate with them in the world chat. But for what purpose?
Unlike traditional MMORPGs, Palia feels like a demo version. There are no bosses, dungeons, group quests, and thus little to no need for cooperation.
You see, contrary to utopian visions of society, our world operates in a way that necessitates objective reasons for any action. For example, in Undawn, a game I reviewed not too long ago, I have reasons every day to meet new people or interact with those I already know. At the very least, because most content requires group participation. We can complete quests together, engage in PvP and PvE (including massive events with or without a guild), gaining additional bonuses for cooperative play, and even dance together at special evening events…
In Palia, there’s none of that. So, I’m completely baffled as to what the so-called social interaction between players should be based on. Are we just supposed to meet in a meadow, say “hello” to each other, and fall head over heels in love? I don’t think so. It sounds more like a plotline for a children’s cartoon, not the harsh reality. So, when you start playing Palia, be aware that you’ll be playing it alone, occasionally encountering passing players who couldn’t care less about you.
Combat System (1 / 10)
There is simply no combat system in Palia. You can only hunt two types of animals with a bow in this tiny world, and nothing more. There are no hostile creatures that will fight back or deal damage to you, and any form of PvP is entirely absent. Moreover, your character can’t die at all. If you jump from a great height, they’ll just do a somersault, and if you immerse them underwater, they’ll instantly teleport to the shore.
Character Progression System (5 / 10)
In Palia, characters have a level, which, according to the description, is “equal to the combined total of all of your skill levels.” As you can see, my character is at level 43, which is quite strange because the “combined total of all of your skill levels” is 50. However, amidst everything else, this surprises me the least…
With each level-up, your character earns Renown (with a storage limit of 1000 units). This currency can be spent by visiting one of the Dragon Shrines to increase the experience bonus from Focus or its maximum capacity. Focus is replenished by consuming food and is necessary for leveling up your character’s skills.
At the time of writing this review, there are 8 skills in the game:
Fishing (8 / 10): The fishing process is implemented as a mini-game where you need to move the fishing rod from side to side. The game offers various fish with different behaviors but only a few types of bait. Fishing quickly becomes repetitive.
Cooking (9 / 10): This is the best cooking mechanic I’ve seen in games so far. You must interact with various kitchen appliances to slice, cook, or pre-bake ingredients before combining them into a dish. During the process, you’ll need to periodically stir what you’re cooking; otherwise, it will burn, yielding fewer servings. Cooking seemed very interesting and unique to me, but it too gets tedious quickly, especially when you have to prepare dozens of portions of the same dish for sale to merchants and earn gold.
Gardening (7 / 10): You manually cultivate plots, water, and fertilize them. Different plants provide various bonuses to neighboring crops, like increasing their yield. I wasn’t particularly fond of this mechanic, but overall, gardening in Palia is decently implemented.
Mining (2 / 10): There’s absolutely nothing new or interesting here. You simply roam the world with a pickaxe and extract ore from specific rocks that periodically spawn in designated areas.
Hunting (3 / 10): As I mentioned earlier, there are only two types of animals in the game: deer and squirrels. You won’t derive much pleasure from their monotonous extermination…
Bug Catching (4 / 10): This unusual skill involves catching insects, which can be found flying, crawling in the world, or hiding in trees (after chopping them down) and in rock formations (after mining). Initially, this activity seems amusing, but it eventually turns into a boring and monotonous grind.
Foraging (2 / 10): Just a primitive tree chopping activity…
Furniture Making (3 / 10): This skill involves crafting furniture for your home. The mechanic is interesting, but the problem is that the furniture serves no real purpose. Currently, you can’t interact with it (not even sit on a chair). You can only place it in your home and admire it in solitude because, as I mentioned earlier, you won’t have any guests.
On one hand, the character progression system in Palia may seem decent. The trouble is that the development of these skills is presented as an end in itself. In classic MMOs (e.g., Undawn), we develop crafting skills to create better equipment or obtain resources needed for that purpose. In Palia, you do it only to continue doing the same thing, just a bit faster.
Home Building (5 / 10)
Each player in Palia is allocated a housing plot located in the respective location. As you progress in the game, you can expand the available construction area for gold, purchase new garden plots, and larger rooms for your home.
The building process is modular: you can acquire and install entire rooms, connecting them together. You can also buy and create various pieces of furniture to decorate your dwelling, and in later stages of the game, even plant fruit trees.
Resource processing works similarly to games like V Rising: you simply place resources in the appropriate crafting station slots and wait for them to be processed.
The problem with this system is entirely foreseeable: construction and decoration are devoid of any meaning. Without meaningful interaction with other players, you won’t have friends, and no one will see your home except for you.
Story and NPCs (8 / 10)
The NPCs in Palia are genuinely well-crafted. Some of their dialogues are of high quality and well-voiced. The characters display a wide range of emotions when interacting with players. You can build relationships with NPCs by engaging in daily interactions and giving them gifts. Surprisingly, they even roam around the locations, going about their own business. This is a great feature.
The game also has some semblance of a storyline, which players will gradually progress through, uncovering the mysteries of the Palia world. However, even within the context of the story, the game is tied to grinding, as you’ll have to catch rare fish, search for rare insects, and engage in similar tasks.
As far as I can tell, the developers focused on NPC interactions, world exploration, and quest completion. In this regard, the game is genuinely good, but categorizing it as an MMO is difficult, as there’s no sense of “massiveness” in the game, and it seems it’s not intended.
Graphics (6 / 10)
The world of Palia is quite small and consists of only a few locations connected by teleportation transitions. It doesn’t offer anything extraordinary; it’s just typical hand-painted graphics in a cartoonish style. However, the game places a significant load on the graphics card, suggesting poor optimization.
The NPCs are charming and colorful, and their homes and shops are beautifully and cozily designed. Honestly, I don’t know what more to add here. Besides, in my opinion, graphics are far from the most important aspect of games.
Pros and Cons of Palia
In brief, I’ll list what specifically I liked and didn’t like (both objectively and subjectively).
- NPCs roam around locations, engaging in their activities and living their lives.
- The emotions displayed by NPCs during dialogues.
- Building relationships with NPCs, leading to unique quests and additional rewards.
- The overall concept of fishing, farming, and cooking.
- I didn’t delve deeply into the story, but if I had, I think I would have liked it.
- Absence of a combat system and classic MMORPG elements.
- Lack of a meaningful need for cooperation.
- Lack of purpose in the game against the backdrop of an unclear, infantile, and outright utopian idea of a paradise village where complete strangers suddenly start catching butterflies together and are extremely happy about it.
- Very small world.
- Character skill development as an end in itself.
- Inability to build in the open world.
- Inability to build anything smaller than a whole room.
- Buying garden plots with gold (seriously?).
- Inability to use furniture for its intended purpose (except, perhaps, for the wardrobe with clothing) and a lack of the need to do so (no sleeping, dining, wiping shoes on a rug, and other such activities).
- Many other things…
Conclusion and General Impressions of the Game (4 / 10)
In my 14 years of gaming “career,” I’ve had the opportunity to play hundreds of different games. Currently, Palia is the emptiest of them all. The issue isn’t just the implementation of individual aspects; it’s the absence of the most basic purposes. In its current state, Palia is a stark example of how game development is regressing and degenerating. Developers don’t share knowledge and experiences with each other, don’t hold conferences for exchanging ideas, and instead, they spend enormous resources on creating strange games that die within a few months…
I could go on with lengthy explanations about how progress doesn’t happen without competition and how the essence of any game lies in satisfying basic human instincts and needs (such as self-expression, domination, socializing, self-improvement, wealth accumulation, possession of tangible things, and many more)… But is it worth it? Developers won’t read this, and even if they do, they probably won’t take it seriously.
Speaking about the future of Palia, I’m absolutely certain that this game is doomed at the level of its concept. It will be a miracle if it survives for even a year. Of course, this is just my opinion. You can start playing Palia right now if you want, and if you don’t like it, you can always uninstall the game and download another one. However, from the perspective of my gaming experience, I must say that there’s absolutely no chance that I would seriously play Palia. There’s simply nothing to do in it except engage in endless and meaningless grinding.