Roots of Pacha is not your typical farming sim. Rather than taking place in modern times, Roots of Pacha instead takes place in prehistoric times. Despite the lack of agriculture and domesticated animals, this stone age farming simulator has all of the addictive qualities of modern farming and life simulators. Quite frankly, Roots of Pacha takes just enough creative liberties to make itself memorable, charming, and fun.
The inevitable comparisons to farming giants like Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley are unavoidable. And while there are many similarities in terms of the general features, the mechanics couldn’t be more different. I mean that in the best way, because Roots of Pacha creatively differentiates itself through fantastic quality-of-life additions, charming characters, and a wonderful soundtrack.
Roots of Pacha was published by Crytivo and developed by Soda Den. It is available to purchase on Steam for $24.99. There are plans to launch on consoles in the future.
Story: A Tale of the Pachan Clan
Both your character and the rest of the clan follow the whispers of the alluring Pacha tree, a giant tree that has a spiritual significance. The first sequence you see after creating your character is your clan leader, Vuak, leading everyone into new and unknown horizons. Upon finding an acclaimed Pacha Tree, it’s decided that this is as good a location as any to settle down and live. The new land is wedged between several areas including a savanna, a beach, a forest, and a mysterious cave. You’ll become familiar with these areas due to the different seeds, animals, and resources in each.
The Clan Is My Family
The residents of your tribe are the bread and butter of what makes it tick. There’s a lot of people in the clan, and many of them have specific roles. There’s Maeri and Igrork, your adoptive parents, who offer kind and gentle advice as well as easing you into the swing of things at the clan. Others of note are the previously mentioned leader and his gruff, forward demeanor. As with other farming sims, there are plenty of bachelors and bachelorettes for your character to mingle with. There’s even a couple of kids, such as Vor and Brah, who follow the younger adults around just as kids do.
I won’t say that these characters are particularly well-written, but there are so many that the clan does feel alive. Each NPC has favorite and hated items, and they all have plenty of story events so that you can get to know them a little better. Of the events I’ve encountered, there are a few that are memorable. For example, having a dancing-minigame in a cave with one of my lady friends, or the child who wanted to move out of his parent’s house because there was a spider on his bed. Unfortunately, most of these events are short and don’t really have any meaningful choices. The success of other farming games’ relationships really depend on the context of your choices, but here most of the decisions you take with others are straightforward. I can’t say I particularly cared about many of my fellow clansmen.
Regardless, as you talk to each individual throughout the seasons, they gradually open up and become a little more personable. This extends to the neighboring clans too! There are two other clans that you are sandwiched between: the Mograni and Yakuans. Just as you would expect, these clans don’t get along so at some points you may feel like a mediator between them.
Gameplay: Adjusting to Prehistory
Roots of Pacha plays a bit like you would expect any farming game, but with the caveat that humanity hasn’t really developed. Agriculture? Animal husbandry? Tools like axes, hammers, and buckets? Yeah, we’re so far back in history that these things don’t really exist. Part of the appeal of Roots of Pacha, at least for me, is developing these technologies and watching your clan prosper. Right from the beginning, you’re tasked with developing “ideas” on how to improve your clan’s lifestyle. One of the first ideas you discover, with the help of your clansmen, is agriculture. By foraging for seeds in the forest and around your home, you can plant your crops, water them, and have a source of food.
This progression, with your ideas unlocking new gameplay mechanics, is so satisfying, and makes it easier on you as a player! For example, unlocking animal husbandry leads directly into learning how to ride your animals. This saves so much time navigating around the large gathering areas, and therefore you have more effective time during the day. Same goes with other technologies like irrigation, which honestly changes your entire day once it is unlocked. Of course, unlocking many of these ideas requires items and contribution points, a form of currency with your clan.
Struggling to Survive
Contribution is gained by donating it to the clan, much like how you put items in a bin like in Stardew Valley. The more you donate, the higher your clans “contribution meter” will go, but it will always increase marginally even if you don’t contribute anything. As time goes on and your clan’s contribution continues to increase, your clan will get their own ideas to make your homestead a little more… well, homey. As an example, at one point there were a group of folks that thought having a second contribution box would be helpful, so they built another box! Of course this is helpful, as now I didn’t have to hike all the way back from my fields to contribute my crops.
Speaking of crops, there are systems that I feel aren’t balanced as well as they could be. Farming and taming animals, two skills you learn near the beginning of the game, are not worth a lot of contribution points. For a long while I struggled with how to gain extra contribution despite having large fields full of crops and barns full of animals. After all, the cosmetic clothing and decoration are not cheap, and I needed a way to sate my need to not look like a blustering caveman. I ended up wearing a coconut to hide my bad hairdo for months!
I would spend all day in the fields watering crops just to barely make ends meet with my ideas– I was definitely not thriving and would frequently run out of time or energy during the day. Call it bad time management, but I really wanted the days to be just a little bit longer. Eventually I found a more profitable method to the madness, but I regret that I spent so much time farming and tending to animals.
Exploring the Stone Age
Exploration is a central and essential to the experience in Roots of Pacha. By exploring each area every season, you’ll discover new seeds, items, and animals. Nearly every animal you find out in the wild can be tamed, whether that be wild boars, ostriches, or ibexes. You can miss out on certain crops if you don’t find them, and they’re not marked on the map. I was near the end of Summer before I found chilies, one of the summer crops.
Eventually, you’ll come across the cave. You might think the cave is full of nasty enemies for you to murder with your primitive weapons, right? Well, not exactly. In simple terms, the cave is a massive maze filled with puzzles. There’s a few characters for you to meet in here – a handful of talking armadillos. The deeper you go in the caves, the more valuable ores you’ll find. And of course, with the ores, you’ll be able to unlock new tools and equipment. Despite there not being any combat in Roots of Pacha, venturing into the caves takes preparation. You’ll likely need plenty of food to make any headway in these long, rock-filled tunnels.
One great perk about Roots of Pacha is that it is built with multiplayer in mind. Immediately from the start of the game, you can host or join a friend’s game and play with others. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test this however I am eager to try it. I played a lot of the multiplayer mode in Stardew Valley, and I have some friends and acquaintances that would prefer the slower pace and lack of combat that Roots of Pacha provides.
Just Plain Fun
Since there’s no combat, there are a number of fun minigames to spice things up. From fishing to taming animals to racing, there are so many different gameplay experiences you’ll encounter during each session. Fishing seems to be the hot topic here, as it’s nothing like similar farming games and is more of a relaxed experience. The racing minigame, which occurs every other week, is somewhat uncommon so it’s fun to do when it shows up. There’s even multiple race courses and prizes for each race.
One aspect where Roots of Pacha excels above the similar games is the sheer amount of quality of life and convenience features. There are too many to mention, but Roots of Pacha is often just a joy to play. For example, there’s no need to hunt for certain NPCs because you can see where they all are on your map. The information in your menus is beyond useful, and I frequently found myself pausing to take a look at whose birthday it was and where my clansmen were located.
The conveniences extend to exploration and your daily chores too. You can see which crops are in or out of season, and you can even find free crops scattered around the maps. If your barn is full and you find a new animal, you can release an existing animal and it won’t disappear into the void – instead it will go back to its habitat where you can still interact with it. You can even breed your animals to increase their base stats like speed, production, and quality. It takes work, but really incentivizes raising animals!
Technical Hiccups & Polish
One thing I have noticed are the amount of bugs and technical problems that can crop up. Just in my time playing, I’ve had item descriptions not load and funky collision detection going on with items, especially when riding on my mount. If you look online, there are comments about the multiplayer being a little buggy, with players not being synced up in cutscenes and other miscellaneous bugs. However, there have been nearly a dozen patches just since the game released, so the developers are actively squashing bugs as they are reported. They have been providing solid updates on the Roots of Pacha Twitter feed.
The controls, while not bad, take some getting used to. On controller, you’ll need to press multiple buttons just to access your tool or seed bag. If you’re actively clearing out your field, it can be a chore to switch between your tools so frequently. With a mouse and keyboard, it flows much better but it still can take some time to adjust. One thing that I really like is the inventory. There are separate bags for both your tools and your seeds. This means that you won’t have to play Tetris with your inventory and storage chests.
Graphics and Audio: Charming in All the Right Ways
You can tell the team at Soda Den have extremely talented artists. The pixel art and sprite work in Roots of Pacha is second to none, and it’s crystal clear their team put a lot of hard work into the game. I’m particularly impressed with the animals and the animations. Sometimes I found myself admiring how adorable these virtual wolves and mammoths looked. If you pet one of your animals, they’ll usually give a cute little hug or lick. Absolutely heartwarming!
That being said, it can be a tad frustrating to have giant masses of crops in your fields. The reason for this is the plants are so big and tall, they obscure everything behind them. Sometimes it was hard to tell if all the plots in my field were watered because the blasted eggplant in front was too big. I had the same issue with grass in my animal pasture. My animals lounged in the grass, which is fine, but they were effectively invisible because the grass was too big. Even if they were standing, they were hard to pick out. It’s not a huge problem, but it can be annoying to deal with.
Music plays a large role in the culture of the Pachan Clan. There’s an option to dance with any person if you have a high enough friendship level, and there are festivals and minigames dedicated to music. With this in mind, I’m glad that the music is generally catchy and fits the vibe of a stone age village. There’s lots of percussion here, and there are even characters who focus on playing drums, pan flutes, and other simple instruments.
Can I Play Roots of Pacha on the Steam Deck?
If you own a Steam Deck, you’ll be happy to know that Roots of Pacha is fully compatible. The game has that wonderful green, verified checkmark and I played on the Deck for most of my playthrough. I did have a few hiccups here and there. One example I can provide was during one of the racing minigames. I had terrible stutters during this race, which is bizarre because I had zero problems at any other point. It could have been my Steam Deck warming up from sleep mode, but it was bizarre nonetheless. Other than that, I had great battery life and it was a blast to play on the Deck.
Roots of Pacha was reviewed on Steam with a key provided by the publisher.