Sunday, January 28, 2024

Switch Funday - Palia - The First Hour

For Switch Funday i'm trying out the free to play Switch, and PC, game Palia , from developers Singularity 6, for the first time. Going into this game i didn't really know much more about it other than there would be some gathering mechanics and farming as i had seen them on the eShop.

I appreciated that it was quick to get from the start screen into gameplay. the game gives us a choice if we want to create a Singularity 6 account so we can link Palia on Nintendo Switch with the PC version. i chose not to and it was straight to a character create screen. I thought the amount of customisation here was the right amount. i felt like i could create something visually nice, possibly distinct, whilst also not feeling overwhelmed by too much choice. i also appreciated how quick the different looks and styles loaded in. it helped make the whole thing feel quick. some of the buttons are small and it may not be immediately obvious how to change some colors.

There was little fanfare when we join the game world. we slightly startled a character, but she was quick to mention we weren't the first human to arrive and essentially told us to go elsewhere. this was not what i expected. I, the player, had soo many questions whereas both my ingame character and the other character seemed not to care. this bugged me throughout the hour as i was continuously looking for story, for the why, for the how, and the game just never gave it to me. 

I found this attitude really puzzling. if there are many humans just appearing, why wasn't there one to welcome me. it would've made the journey from the cave to the town more meaningful and maybe even offer some basic answers, or at the very least set up the next phase of the game. the town's people seem pleased a new human has appeared but not exactly enthusiastic about it. they're more than happy to set me busy work whilst also offering no story and no reason to drive forward.

The first hour ends with the next day arriving and more things to keep us busy. But there's no hint as to what the story is. it feels like we have to do what the town's people quest us to do "because". that's where i feel having a human, or someone sympathetic, meet with us in the beginning would help. they could explain things, encourage us to get settled, say there'll be time to uncover everything. But as it is. this first hour felt like we were just doing quests to get things done, for busy work. it almost feels like the developers had a core gameplay loop, had an idea for the start, but no link between the two.

What's noticeable about playing Palia on Switch is how much the game is pushing up against the limits of the console. at times, the pop-in was very close to my character. and this isn't just stuff in the background but it's also textures. The water especially looks weird, almost like it's thick. But that could be a stylistic choice. In general, the game looks decent on Switch. the pop-in is noticeable but it doesn't affect gameplay. But the stuttering framerate/frame pacing was noticeable and got in the way of my enjoyment of playing the game. it didn't always happen, but it felt like it did.

There are small complaints throughout playing this video but nothing that sticks out as a game breaker. with this being a free to play game that gets updates, there's hope that things could improve. but as they are now, Palia isn't a game i'd recommend to everyone. But if you're looking for a slower pace of game, a world where you can fish, farm, gather, and build, then Palia is worth checking out. it may not be for me, but i can think of a few people i know who would enjoy playing it.