Roots of Pacha might be like Stardew Valley in many ways, but its map is a revelation. No more pouring over wikis for Marnie's location on a rainy Thursday afternoon, Roots of Pacha instead gives you a flowing live chronicle of where everyone is, what wild crops are ready, where wild animals are, and more at a glance. It's simple, effective, and a huge part of how important your tribe is in Roots of Pacha, but it's also just one of the many things that makes this Kickstarter success more than worth your time.
Taking influences from a variety of cultures to sculpt its compelling narrative, you're part of a tribe that follows the guidance of a spiritual tree. This is Stone Age Stardew, where resources and technologies are primitive at best, and at worst, not even invented yet. But, that's where your tribe comes in. While someone may be closest to the animals, another has skills with paints, and somewhere else is your tool-maker. You'll need all of them – and, more importantly, their ideas – to help make this place a better home. Someone's random ponderings may end up being a preserving pot or fruit press if you give them the right encouragement and materials.
Queen of the Stone Age
Essentially, Roots of Pacha asks us to invent the farming sim genre with every quest. Armed initially with little more than a multi-purpose stone tool, you must figure out how to farm, fish, nurture livestock, and more in increments through discovery. Seeds can be found simply by wandering around and finding wild vegetables growing, for example, while more complicated elements will need to be created by you or the tribe. But, to begin with, your little triangular stone will be plenty to get you started, whether that's clearing a field of rocks and branches to start your field, or fishing by tracing the silhouette around a cute pond and waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
Fishing is just one example of how Roots of Pacha imbues classic farming sim tropes with its own personality. There aren't many games that will have you playing the flute to a wild animal to get it to trust you; yet, here I am. Just a cavewoman, standing in front of a wolf, asking him to let me pet him. Each animal has its own little melody too, so it'll stop you from going too mad repeating the same miniature rhythm-action game for every boar, ibex, and other critter you want to befriend.
Roots of Pacha's whole vibe is pretty chill though, particularly because it's so unphased by the need to constantly earn money. Instead, your tribe accrues prosperity at the end of each day, which unlocks different narrative points and other elements as it grows. You can personally earn prosperity too by gifting meals, veg, and other things you can collect and make to the tribe. Yes, it's essentially a currency because you can then use that in part to get better tools or funky outfits, but there's something so wholesome about the way that Roots of Pacha packages it that it feels less about greed and more about giving back.
There's also more to Roots of Pacha than just fishing and farming. Like Stardew, there are caves but again sprinkled with a little of the spirituality that makes this game so unique. There are spirits to appease, gifts to be given, and powers to gain that'll let you get further in. There's some brilliant dialogue in these sections in particular, and memorable characters that I feel are going to give the Junimos a run for their money (and merch).
It's also compelling that Roots of Pacha has a robust storyline and associated quests too, so there's always something to be working towards or focusing on, rather than purely the self-propulsion to just get a bigger farm or make more money. Of course, if you want to, there's romance to be had and favorite gifts to figure out, along with festivals to attend and prepare for – so also very Stardew Valley.
Overall, Roots of Pacha just continues to surprise me. No doubt born as a Stardew-like, it manages to feel unique and refreshing, mostly because of its setting and its approach to progression. And that's before I've tried the multiplayer mode for some co-op cavemanning.
Roots of Pacha is out now on PC.