So far, the biggest games of 2023 have tasked players with slaying demons, gunning down the undead, wielding legendary weapons, partaking in streetside brawls, and engaging in large-scale battles between behemoths. And while I have gleefully partaken in nearly all of these festivities, I have found myself longing for something a bit different–something that pushes combat aside in favor of allowing me to explore a world filled with critters and characters not actively looking to fight me. Fortunately, Palia exists.
An upcoming, free-to-play MMO focused on creativity and coziness rather than combat, Palia is a joy to play. The game eschews the more dreaded hallmarks of its genre–overt fetch quests and inconsequential stories and characters, to name a few–to create something more engaging than many MMOs yet larger scale than many farming sims. With dazzling cutscenes, characters you actually want to get to know (and perhaps even date), and satisfying gameplay abundant in things to do, Palia–even in its beta state–shows a lot of promise and packs in a ton of joy.
After making my avatar in the game’s character creator–which surprised me with its breadth of different hair textures and darker skin tones, as well as its commitment to not gendering its two body types–the game kicks off with you emerging from a cloud of purple ether into the world of Palia. In this land, humans are an extinct species–long-lost creatures whose culture is now carefully studied by archaeologists like Jina, the first inhabitant of Palia you encounter. However, Jina explains that several humans have been emerging from the void recently, and she and her fellow Palians are baffled as to why this phenomenon is happening.