Considering Animal Crossing became a mainstream sensation last year, it was only a matter of time before we saw a wave of leisurely life simulators. While we probably won’t see big companies like Ubisoft launching their own version of the genre in the next few years, a new online game gives us a glimpse into the future.
Palia is an upcoming PC life simulator developed by Singularity 6, a new studio founded by former Riot Games developers. The team behind the game made no attempt to hide its influences during a preview event for the title. The developers named Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Stardew Valley as main influences and that is immediately apparent in the game’s debut trailer.
While it shares similarities with other games, Palia has a lot more to offer thanks to its colorful art style, extensive social features, and massively multiplayer online game elements.
Palia brings the concept of a life simulator to a high fantasy setting. Players begin by creating a human character through a customization tool. After that, they are thrown 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 coincidence. Singularity 6 names the game as the main influence. You can even see characters flying through the sky in gliders in the trailer (now a popular mobility object).
The gameplay has several levels. At its most basic level, it’s a relaxing game that allows players to live a perfect, virtual life. It starts with building a house. The trailer suggests a fairly sturdy interior decorating system that goes beyond the basic Animal Crossing grid. A pot of food stands on a stove, an acoustic guitar leans against a kitchen island and much more.
Part of the facility is practical. Kitchens are used to access the game’s cooking system, where players can use mini-games to create meals from ingredients they find in the world. Like Stardew Valley, players can grow and harvest crops and feed them into this system.
There are many popular activities for Animal Crossing fans. Singularity 6 notes that both fishing and bug trapping are part of the game. Players can also hang out in a quaint village with NPCs to interact with. Stardew Valley believers will be happy to learn that the villagers are romanticized.
There is much more to be done beyond these activities, although the details remain a little tight on certain aspects. There is some kind of main storyline with quests, but they weren’t shown. Singularity 6 says the game features some form of combat but hasn’t elaborated on exactly how that will work. The developers also alluded to loot and leveling systems, suggesting that RPG mechanics are in play.
What’s especially nice is that players don’t have to deal with story content or combat if they don’t want to. Singularity 6 says things like combat are completely optional and players don’t have to put a finger on a monster to play the game. Those who just want a relaxed world to sit back and fish in can do.
A nice day in the neighborhood
What sets Palia apart from other games of its kind are its social characteristics. As well as being a life simulator, it’s also a full-fledged MMO that allows multiple people to play together. Players can team up with their friends to cook, fish, or simply explore the world together.
The game offers a so-called “neighborhood system”, which the developers call a replacement for traditional guilds. As a nod to Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, the system allows friends to group together and access a range of social functions. Players will receive unique challenges and rewards when playing with their friends. The game won’t feature any form of PvP fighting, but the developer says there may be events like fishing competitions where friends can compete against each other.
While the game is technically a “massively multiplayer” game, Singularity 6 emphasizes its leisurely nature. Players won’t necessarily jump onto a server with thousands of people, but rather team 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 ensure that no toxic language intrudes into a player’s chill experience.
Although the game is still a work in progress, it is a promising concept. Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ social features are missing, to say the least. The idea of a life simulator that focuses on multiplayer is a logical development for players who want to expand this experience. With a high fantasy main story and lore woven 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.