Considering that Animal Crossing became a mainstream sensation last year, it was only a matter of time until we saw a wave of cozy life simulators. While we likely won’t see big companies like Ubisoft launching their own spin on the genre for a few years, a new online game gives us a glimpse at what’s to come.
Palia is an upcoming PC life simulator developed by Singularity 6, a new studio founded by ex-Riot Games developers. The team behind the game wasn’t trying to hide its influences during a preview event for the title. The developers namechecked Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Stardew Valley as major influences and that’s immediately apparent in the game’s debut trailer.
While it may share similarities with other games, Palia has a lot more going for it thanks to its colorful art style, in-depth social features, and massively multiplayer online game elements.
Palia brings the concept of a life simulator to a high fantasy setting. Players start by creating a human character via a customization tool. After that, they’re dropped into a lush world full of rolling hills. At first glance, it looks a bit like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and that’s no accident. Singularity 6 cites the game as a main influence. Characters can even be seen flying through the sky with gliders in the trailer (a popular mobility item nowadays).
The gameplay has multiple layers. On its most basic level, it’s a relaxing game where players get to live out a perfect, virtual life. That starts with building a home. The trailer hints at a fairly robust interior decoration system that goes beyond Animal Crossing’s basic grid. There’s a pot of food sitting on a stovetop, an acoustic guitar leaning against a kitchen island, and much more.
Some of the décor is practical. Kitchens are used to access the game’s cooking system where players can craft meals out of ingredients they find in the world via minigames. Like Stardew Valley, players can plant and harvest crops, feeding into that system.
There are plenty of familiar activities for Animal Crossing fans. Singularity 6 notes that both fishing and bug catching are part of the game. Players also get to hang out in a quaint village filled with NPCs they can interact with. Stardew Valley faithful will be happy to learn that, yes, the villagers are romanceable.
There’s a lot more to do beyond those activities, though details remain a little tight on certain aspects. There’s some form of main storyline complete with quests, but those weren’t shown. Singularity 6 says that the game does feature some form of combat, but didn’t elaborate on how exactly that’ll work. The developers alluded to loot and level systems of some kind too, which seems to imply that there are RPG mechanics at play.
What’s particularly neat is that players don’t have to engage with story content or battles if they don’t want to. Singularity 6 says that things like combat are entirely optional and players don’t need to lay a finger on a monster to play the game. Those who just want a chill world where they can kick back and fish can do that.
What sets Palia apart from other games of its breed is its social features. In addition to being a life simulator, it’s a full-fledged MMO where multiple people can play together. Players can team up with their friends to cook, go fishing, or simply explore the world together.
The game features what its developers call a “neighborhood system,” which is a stand-in for traditional guilds. A nod to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, the system allows friends to group up and access an array of social features. Players will get unique challenges and rewards for playing alongside their buds. The game won’t feature any form of PvP combat, but the developer says there may be events like fishing competitions where friends can compete with one another.
While the game is technically a “massively multiplayer” game, Singularity 6 emphasizes the cozy nature of it. Players won’t necessarily be jumping into a server with thousands of people, so much as grouping up with a few friends to build a collaborative community. The developer intends to implement proximity voice chat and is working on automated moderation systems to make sure toxic language doesn’t seep into a player’s chill experience.
While the game is still very much a work in progress, it’s a promising concept. Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ social features are lacking, to put it politely. The idea of a life simulator that’s designed with multiplayer at the forefront is a logical evolution for players who are looking to expand that experience. With a high fantasy main story and lore weaved into the more fluid nature of the genre, it feels like Palia could be Animal Crossing for World of Warcraft players … with a lot more smooching.
The game will enter pre-alpha testing later this summer and players can sign up starting today.