Review: The Palace on the Hill Is Soothing
Image via Niku Games

Review: The Palace on the Hill Is Soothing 

There are times when a game will fall into the farming or life sim categories, but might not exactly feel like it’s totally about that. Rather, it might be about capturing a moment, setting the stage for an era, and giving the player a chance to feel what life might be like if they were a certain person growing up at a specific time. That’s what The Palace on the Hill feels like. The Wholesome Direct 2024 shadowdrop is a soothing, low-pressure opportunity to feel what life is like for a teenager growing up in India, and it feels like it is about enjoying the moment and his story rather than really trying to min-max your life sim to earn a lot of cash or befriend people. 

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Vir is a young man with a bright future. He’s a talented artist. However, due to his family’s farm having a bad year, he immediately finds himself farming himself and taking on odd jobs to help support his family during his summer vacation. It’s while doing so that he runs into a former classmate named Savi. She’s in town to investigate a palace and its ruins, hoping to find out secrets about its past and perhaps hidden fortunes. In so doing, we not only get to help Vir through his daily life as he earns money, but get to see how his relationship with Savi develops and learn more about the background of the town. 

The Palace on the Hill can feel like an adventure game that features some life simulation elements tossed into it, rather than a more dedicated farming sim. You’ll need to go around town, farming, gathering items, crafting, running errands for people, and working at the tea shop to gather necessary materials and ingredients for various quests. By carrying out tasks and going through your mission checklist, you’ll eventually grow closer to everyone around and learn more about the ruins and old kingdom. Naturally, along the way, you’ll also find ways for Vir to earn money and succeed, which provides even more of a sense of accomplishment. From time to time, he’ll also have tasks to do that involve drawing, which means getting inspiration as you explore. You don’t need to worry about relationship values. You’ll eventually earn the money you need. Just take in the moment.

The downside to it all is that The Palace on the Hill can feel a bit effortless. Yes, we know Vir’s family is in dire need of money to keep going. Working is a priority. However, the actual gameplay doesn’t feel stressful in any way, and sometimes it feels like things don’t connect in the way they should. Farming feels a bit isolated, aside from a means of earning money. It’s very barebones, so much that I didn’t even feel like the watering can upgrade was necessary. The tea shop has some shop management elements, such as creating certain orders and making sure you are prepared for certain customers. However, I always had more than enough ingredients due to how plentiful foraging tended to be and there’s no real challenge to it.

This is coupled with The Palace on the Hill occasionally feeling a bit clunky. The game looks fantastic and I didn’t have any issues with it breaking or crashing. However, it doesn’t always introduce concepts well. For example, farming is very easy to do, but since it doesn’t work like other farming sims and isn’t well explained it might take you a minute to learn how to plant and water crops for the first time. The same can happen the first time you’re getting inspiration for one of Vir’s paintings. It comes up a little, but I feel like it is more of a reminder this is an indie game from a newer developer, rather than a failing on Niku’s part.

Especially since the team does a great job of ensuring other elements of The Palace on the Hill come together. The art direction is fantastic. I love the style of the game and the depiction of the town and its characters. It stays true to the area and time period, which is important. It’s also quite a welcoming experience with clearly defined characters, ingredients, and goals, so it really compels you to keep going.

The Palace on the Hill feels like the sort of game where Niku Games wanted to tell a specific story, and the farming, shop management, and life sim mechanics surround it to propel you forward. They aren’t taxing. They won’t hold you back. However, they do provide a sense of ambiance and let you know what life might feel like for Vir in India at that time. You’re experiencing a brief moment in his life, and I do mean brief as I finished in under eight hours. However, it definitely feels like your time is well-spent.

The Palace on the Hill is available for PCs.

The Palace on the Hill

A heartfelt story of ambition, struggle, and friendship told from the perspective of a young boy in fictional 90s rural India. Explore ancient palace ruins, set up your garden, cook Indian food, run errands for quirky characters, and learn about your history by making art. PC version reviewed. Review copy provided by company for testing purposes.

The Palace on the Hill feels like the sort of game where Niku Games wanted to tell a specific story, and the farming, shop management, and life sim mechanics surround it to propel you forward.

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Jenni Lada
Jenni is Editor-in-Chief at Siliconera and has been playing games since getting access to her parents' Intellivision as a toddler. She continues to play on every possible platform and loves all of the systems she owns. (These include a PS4, Switch, Xbox One, WonderSwan Color and even a Vectrex!) You may have also seen her work at GamerTell, Cheat Code Central, Michibiku and PlayStation LifeStyle.