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[Preview] Roots of Pacha is a deceptively deep village builder set in the Stone Age

Posted on July 3, 2022 by in Previews, Switch eShop

Roots of Pacha preview

Whenever a new farming-themed game hits the market, the big question that always seems to come up is: what does this game bring to the table that hasn’t already been done by the juggernaut that is Stardew Valley?  A lot of times the most obvious difference between games in this genre is the setting, and Roots of Pacha – an upcoming farming game/village builder from indie developer Soda Den – is setting itself apart by going all the way back in time to the Stone Age. During a recent gameplay demo at Summer Game Fest, I got to chat with Soda Den co-founder and lead developer Timo Dadony about just what their upcoming game is trying to accomplish.

Crucially, Roots of Pacha’s unique time period seems to play more of a role in how the game plays rather than merely being set dressing. The game tasks players with building up a clan of villagers at the outset of human innovation, back when very few tools even existed. From this starting point, players will “help your clan develop the ideas that shape humanity” through multiple eras of history all the way through the Iron Age. And while farming is certainly a part of that – as well as inventing the various pieces of equipment to make that happen – it also includes things like developing culture, arts, and even religion as part of a growing society.

This plays out via what Timo has dubbed the Ideas System, which has villagers in the player’s clan suggest potential new avenues for innovation. These play out as quests that might have you exploring nearby areas, scavenging, and trading for resources, crafting, and more. In other words, there’s a lot more than just farming going on in Roots of Pacha, although Timo was clear to emphasize that the game is less interested in simulation than simply expressing how human society has progressed.

Roots of Pacha preview

“My favorite book is called The Clan of the Cave Bear. It’s fantasy, but it’s based on real facts from the Stone Age,” Timo said. “The main character discovers and develops a lot of things, so that’s also where the Ideas system kind of comes from as well.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me with this game was just how much work has seemingly gone into crafting the characters of the world. The game currently contains about 40 characters that can be interacted with, about 30 of which can live in your village. Some characters are from other clans around the region which the player will have opportunities to interact and trade with as the overarching story develops.

“We have plans to expand that [in the future] where you can go visit those other villages as well,” Timo said.

Roots of Pacha preview

On top of each character having their own unique dialog, Roots of Pacha also currently contains 10 romanceable characters for those who enjoy the dating and relationship elements that are often present in life sims. Timo said it’s not the main focus of the interactions you’ll have with other characters, but that the option exists for those who want it.

“We want to kind of balance the stories with non-romanceable as well, because we want to make everyone important in the clan and have that feeling of community,” he said.

The game doesn’t seem particularly interested in exploring the inter-human violence that existed during that era, so don’t expect any combat, or even hunting (although there is a surprisingly involved fishing minigame present, because how could there not be?). Most of the activities I saw in-game seemed designed with low-key gaming in mind. For example, you can customize your home and village, and place furniture and objects all over the place. The number of objects currently available isn’t particularly large compared to, say, something like Animal Crossing, but there are plans to expand on this over time, I was told. The current level of customization does include features like changing flooring and light fixtures but isn’t granular at the level that some players might want.

Roots of Pacha preview

Some objects can be interacted with by the villagers, too. In my demo, I placed a campfire outside and one of the villagers nearby immediately went over to it and started cooking something. It’s worth noting that the game does have a day and night cycle in which the villagers will go about their routines, too, although it’s not real-time, which might make Roots of Pacha easier to pick up and play in short bursts. Timo said that while the game does have an overarching story for those who want that type of experience, they also want the game to be fun to play after that point too.

“If you want to follow goals, [the story] will really guide you through all the things that you can do in the game,” he said. “But it’s really a play-at-your-own-pace game. So, once you’ve completed that, there will probably be things that you haven’t done yet.”

There’s a lot more to Roots of Pacha than is possible to grasp from a mere 10-minute demo. You’ll be able to tame animals as pets and ride wild horses. You’ll be able to explore nearby caves and forests, and later in the game, influence how your clan creates art and music. It’s all a lot to promise, especially for a game made by such a small team, but after seeing it all in motion I really hope it all comes together, as I would love to see how all these mechanics and ideas play out over the course of the full game.

Roots of Pacha is scheduled to launch on Switch later this year.

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