Progress Bar: Another go-round with cozy ‘MMO’ Palia, this time on the Switch


I’m not much of a console player in general. The controller has always felt limiting to me, especially when compared with the precision of a mouse and keyboard. That doesn’t stop me from loving my Switch, with my only major complaint about the platform being that it doesn’t have many MMOs on it, despite having the technical capability.

So I was excited when Singularity 6 announced that it was finally going to be launching Palia into early access on Switch. I was already looking forward to playing Palia, and being able to play Palia on the go with cross-play was appealing. See, I played Palia at the PC launch a few months ago, and it was rough. Logging into the game and staying logged in required Sisyphean levels of patience, and weird bugs in the game made it hard to get immersed. I played for a few hours at launch and vowed to come back after the game had a little more time to firm up. 

The Switch launch addresses some of my issues from the PC launch, and Palia is without a doubt a good game worth your time. But I think it’s still a young game, still coming into its own. The game has a lot of promise; I think it just needs a little more time to firm up. 

Starting it up 

I love crossplay. There’s something futuristic about playing on one platform and seamlessly moving to another platform. I’ve no idea why it feels that way to me, so don’t ask me, but naturally that love extends to Palia, which now offers crossplay between the PC and Switch versions of the games. I put in a few hours when Palia first launched, so I was excited to continue on the Switch with my existing character to compare the experiences. 

 The “connecting accounts” process was easy, but there were warnings everywhere that if you didn’t connect accounts when you first started playing on Switch, you could never link accounts. It’s a huge deal; I just thought it was an odd limitation. But it’s Nintendo: In addition to great first-party experiences, it’s known for completely arcane technical choices. 

The actual process was painless, and within a few minutes, I was diving into the game. I was worried about the login process, after the nightmare that was trying to log into the game on the PC launch, but this was painless. So that’s an improvement.  

The graphics 

I’m going to preface this section by saying I’m not a graphics snob by any stretch. But the first thing I noticed I logging in was that everything was slightly fuzzy. I noticed primarily when playing on my Switch screen, but it was also present when playing on my TV, albeit to a lesser degree. This slight fuzziness made it challenging to read the text. I say challenging not because it was hard but because I could feel the tension in my forehead and between my eyes as I read it, if that makes sense. I have an astigmatism in one eye and see halos around most things even on the best days. Combine small text, slight fuzziness, and my halos, and I had a headache after just a few minutes of playtime. 

I compared this with the PC version of the game, where I didn’t see the same fuzziness. I know that this is a problem for many Switch ports, so Palia isn’t alone here, but it felt worth mentioning because I got a headache from it. 

Outside of that fuzziness, the graphics looked just as they do on PC. It’s cheerful, vibrant, and warm – the very definition of cottagecore. There were hiccups and jerkiness in the rendering, particularly in expansive vistas, but that’s not entirely unexpected on a platform like Switch. Previous MOP writers described critter teleportation, disappearance, and reappearance. I saw a little of that, but I also didn’t spend much time hunting in the game 

The returnering 

When I played during the PC beta launch, things in Palia felt a little shallow to me. I remember feeling as if I were being bustled along through the tutorial without any time to dig into any individual system. I was hoping to see some improvement here with the Switch launch.

I logged into my housing plot to find my plants were there, just waiting to be watered from several months ago. I watered them and putzed around and harvested them and thought to myself, “Uh, ok. So now what do I do with them?” Seeing them in my Shipping Bin didn’t generate much currency, so I thought the game didn’t want me to do that. I checked my available recipes and nope. Nothing that takes onions or carrots there. In reality, they can be cooked, sold, or given away as gifts, but the game is not going out of its way to make the best choice obvious.

Part of the reason that I didn’t do any hunting during my play time was that I couldn’t remember where the deer were, and there was nothing in-game to remind me. I wandered around for a bit catching bugs to sell and gift while I looked for deer. I got bored and wandered off to do a quest I happened to be close to. Let me be clear here: I didn’t try especially hard to find the deer. A quick search on the internet answers this question for me easily, but that info should be in the game, and the game should be reminding players how to find basics. It just never did. 

None of this is a huge deal for the active player, who will already know it right out of hand. But for someone who would ostensibly come back for the Switch launch (or be starting there as a true newbie), these were annoyances and barriers to me getting engaged with the game. Is it a huge deal that I would need to Google something about the game? Well, not really. But I do expect the game to do a little bit more of the lifting to help me remember how to play it, especially on console.MOP’s Andrew mentioned this in his impressions as well: Flipping back and forth doing web searches to get answers to things isn’t great for a console game. 

But minor gripes aside, the game is still fun. It’s cute and relaxing and pretty much everything I want from a cottagecore game. I especially appreciate the haptic feedback when harvesting. As much as I like keyboards and mice, they can’t do the haptic feedback the same way. 

The controls

If I had to describe the controls on Switch, I would say they’re halfway between a PC and a console control scheme. There are a ton of buttons to push and menus, just as you would expect in a PC game. But the game does a good job most of the time of mapping those menus, buttons, and interactions to logical places on the Switch controller so I don’t have to think about pressing the right key – it just happens. 

Note the button to open the store in the upper right – same as to open the map

But where Palia fails with this, it’s glaringly apparent. The one that drives me the most crazy is the map button. For most folks, we hit the button to see where we are as quickly as running and then hit the map button again to close the map. Standard, intuitive interaction. Not in Palia. When you hit the map button, the (-) key, you open the map. If you hit it again while looking at the map you go to a cash shop. I lost count of the number of times I went to quickly double-tap the map only to find myself staring at the cash shop wondering how the hell I got there.

To close the map, you use the (B) button, which is how you back out of menus across the game, so it makes sense when you think about it from that perspective. But I’ve never once thought to myself while looking at the map, “Huh, I wonder what cool clothes they have for me to buy. Let me go directly there.” It’s just not a common way that players use the map. 

This next part might just be me, but it took me an embarrassingly long time to find my “character sheet,” to see my skill levels. It’s nestled cozily on the inventory screen that for whatever reason my eyes just skipped over. I expected it to be a little more prominent in the UI than it was. Like MOP’s Colin, I found the social pieces were pretty rocky for me, and it took several attempts to get the social menus to work as expected. 

Overall thoughts 

I might seem a little critical in this second impressions piece, and I am. But the parts that I didn’t talk about just… worked. Palia is a good game, full stop. I’ve got work traveling coming up, and Palia being on Switch means that I’ll be playing it more in the future. 

It’s also young, a mere tween in the MMO lifecycle. Singularity 6 has all the pieces in place to make this Palia great. The game has a solid foundation and has noticeably improved since the PC launch. It’s cute, delightful, vibrant, and has a lot of soul. Where I think the game still struggles is bridging the early game to the midgame. The game hand-holds you right up until the point until it doesn’t, and I’m left wondering how I get from the basics to what I can see is the promise of a deep, robust game. 

For a cozy MMO, the line between “go here and do this because I told you to,” and the “whatever man, it’s all good, you’re free to go out into the ether and do anything” is a hard to walk well. Palia hasn’t quite found that balance yet. But it’s still a great game worth playing on either Switch or PC.

Early access MMOs are a minefield of underdeveloped releases and almost immediate buyer’s remorse. That’s where Massively OP’s Progress Bar comes in: It’s our look at developing online multiplayer early access and beta games – and whether they’re worth your money and attention.
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