PalWorld Early Access Review — Pal-ing Around

PalWorld makes great use of two genres of game, but definitely has some room to improve.
Palworld Featured

“What if you shot a Pokémon with a GUN?!” is a thought I’m sure many of us have had once or twice in our lives. Though a bit distasteful and born of a silly, juvenile edginess, it does reflect a natural curiosity about the potentially harsh realities presented in creature collector media. These fictional worlds often present a world where humans live alongside cute creatures of questionable sentience, often taking the place of real-world animals. It’s thus hard not to wonder how real-world violence, exploitation, hunting, and other such realities of life would translate to a world where the human race has no other potential source of protein than giant, fire-breathing, colorful creatures. Enter Palworld.

PalWorld dives straight into these questions and rewards you for having them, presenting a brightly colored cartoon world that is no less immune to the realities of survival. You are given the ability to catch and hunt the bubbly creatures known as Pals and must build a shelter and exploit the environment, as well as the Pals within it, to survive and thrive.

Palworld Cliff
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

PalWorld sits itself firmly in the “survival craft” genre of games. Like in similar titles, you must venture into the wilderness, gather food, craft weapons, and fight the environment and other people for survival. The game features weather and hunger mechanics, though I’ve yet to find a point where I had to worry about finding shelter and where I might get my next meal.

The big difference is that PalWorld is also a creature catcher game. The world is populated by a diverse cast of “Pals” that you are encouraged to find and catch. Encouraged is putting it lightly, as it is key that you catch Pals to survive and thrive.

I’m not really fond of the basic combat in PalWorld. I don’t like standing around waiting for my Pals to use their abilities, and it can be totally unpredictable how much help your Pal is actually going to be in a combat encounter. On the polar opposite end of the problem, it seems every time I’m about to try to catch a Pal, I really need another one in my party to last hit the Pal, killing it on the spot.

I’m not really fond of the basic combat in PalWorld. I don’t like standing around waiting for my Pals to use their abilities, and it can be totally unpredictable how much help your Pal is going to be in a combat encounter. On the polar opposite end of the problem, every time I’m about to try to catch a Pal I really need, a Pal in my party attacks. Normally, this kills it on the spot.

Killing Pals is a big part of the game (I mentioned the hunger mechanic above). While berries are plentiful, your only efficient meals will require the flesh of Pals. Though defeating a Pal sees them ragdoll and wiggle on the ground with an expression that might playfully imply they’re passed out, the harvesting of meat, organs, and glands implies that, yes, you are killing Pals.

Palworld Ranch
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

The first time I bashed a Pal to death with a stick, it was certainly jarring. For some players, that experience is the whole reason they’re playing the game. However, if you’re interested in the game yet squeamish about murdering the cute creatures, I can say that it isn’t a graphic experience at all. It’s really cartoony.

While I think the Pal combat needs some tweaks, it is still exciting to collect the world’s wide variety of Pals, and you have the power to create really unique teams by combining Pal passive and active abilities. A current favorite of mine involves using the early game fire-fox as a flamethrower as three of my Daedreams float around me, firing high-damage attacks at the enemy.

The most exciting aspect of PalWorld is the boss battles you can engage in. Some of these are preceded by Borderlands-style introduction cutscenes and feature really unique characters with their own iconic Pal. Unfortunately, these bosses were designed to be taken on with a group, as they are incredibly bullet spongey. To complete the tutorial, you must defeat a boss with a health pool of over 20,000, which means you’d better craft a LOT of arrows (some guides would say 80). This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if you could more reliably count on your Pals in combat, many of whom I saw dying in the fight before using more than a few attacks. Of course, this is if you are below the recommended level for taking on bosses; they do not scale with your level.

Palworld Boss
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

I feel like the building in PalWorld is pretty basic and uninspired. Though interestingly, you can create a totally self-sustaining base that produces all of the game’s resources pretty early on. Interestingly, the game allows you to put Pals to work on your base to mine local resources, operate machines, and even craft items for you, allowing you to explore the world and know you’ll have goods waiting for you when you get home.

Unfortunately, I feel like PalWorld also features some tedious crafting rules to emphasize this mechanic. Each item you want to craft can be done by standing at the crafting table and holding down the F key until it’s done, with an ever-increasing timer. It does this so you want to build a totally optimized Pal factory, but if you choose not to, it can lead to a lot of waiting around for something to be done crafting. Of course, you can always make this faster by capturing Pals with higher handiwork levels.

Palworld Combat
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

PalWorld starts innocent enough, with your home being a little shack where sweet elephant Pals help water your crops and cat-like Pals help you craft arrows. However, by the late game, you can run an actual weapons factory, where your Pals can work at assembly lines mass producing firearms for you to shoot other Pals with. It is, without a doubt, an utterly unique feeling PalWorld is going for, and one that many players will laugh at, while others may be left wishing the game leaned more heavily into its unique, fantastical setting without feeling like it was trying to crack a joke all the time.

Currently, PalWorld stands out among other titles as a highly unique spin on two separate and perhaps equally titanic genres. While there’s a lot of good to be seen in PalWorld, some flaws and hiccups hold the game back. However, it’s important to acknowledge that the game is currently in Early Access and is prone to big changes. PalWorld may not be the same game it is now in a year’s time.

Pros

  • A fun combination of two genres that work off each other surprisingly well
  • A vast array of different creatures to collect, level up, or put to work on your automated farm
  • An unapologetically campy, silly, and violent setting that pokes fun at nostalgic favorites

Cons

  • Lackluster building and survival mechanics
  • Pal-on-Pal combat could use improvement
  • If you choose not to use pals to craft at benches, it can feel tedious, slow, and grindy.
Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

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