Palworld, More than Pokemon with Guns

Back when the Game Pass trailer for Palworld played, I laughed at the obvious Pokemon references. It came off as a knock off with guns added and a Pikachu on steroids. I remember joking that it’s basically Pokemon, ‘Merica edition. I knew I’d eventually play it, but more as some sick curiosity. Well as most gamers know by now, the game is so much more and absolutely blew up in popularity.

Blowing Away Expectations

Lamball, Cattiva and Chikipi Pals awaiting your character to wake up

When release day hit, I was expecting middling reviews with people getting mad about how much of a parody Palworld is of Pokemon. Well I’m sure there are a few salty reviewers like that, but wow did developer Pocket Pair capture lightning in a bottle. Even though they are a smaller dev, the popularity is already driving numerous Amazon Pal products.

It shot up Steam sales charts, despite being available on Game Pass. Sure it helped that the Steam version was well ahead in game updates, but still, that’s an impressive feat. As it shot up the sales and concurrent player charts, it reminded me of the flood of popularity that happened to Valheim.

I’ve never played a Pokemon game, but I knew enough to form some expectations. I figured Palworld would be an open world game about capturing the pals, then throwing them into fights. Guns were there for added wow factor. I never expected a deep survival game.

After hearing about how many hours people sunk into the game just days in, I decided it’s worth buying on Steam for easy Steam Deck access. It also helps that Steam allows much faster updates and bug fixes versus the Game Pass version.

Palworld Cutely Combines Survival, Crafting, Pals and Violence

Palworld my gray haired old man character overlooking my first crafting table

The character creator seems decent enough, but I had only planned on playing real quick. I changed to the the old guy model with white hair and created a single player game. Upon my character waking up in Palworld, the size of the map caught me by surprise.

It looked great, but also reminded me a lot of Zelda Breath of the Wild. The game even has a very similar paraglider to Zelda, that I just recently unlocked. There is definitely nothing wrong with a Zelda/Pokemon/Survival/Crafting mashup.

The setup was very familiar to other survival crafting games. I’d collect wood and stone, then create a crafting table for tools and so on. The immediate difference from all the other similar games I’ve played was crafting the Pal Spheres. They are obviously Palworld’s version of Poke balls.

Capturing Pals in Palworld

I lucked out back then by capturing my first pal, a Lamball, on the first try. There’s was a small chance of capture displayed before I threw the sphere, but I beat the odds. If a capture attempt fails, those Pals get mad and attack. The disturbing part of the game that earned it some complaints from PETA was the method of increasing the capture chance, at least early on.

That process involved beating the Pals with a stick and eventually other weapons. I didn’t feel great about beating the cute animals, especially Cattiva, the cat-like Pal. Sure they are cartoon creatures, but no sane person really wants to beat on cute, furry animals.

The upside is I spent the next couple of hours basically making amends to the beaten and captured Pals. After setting up my base, I provided beds and food. In return, they also started working around my base.

I’ve seen some disturbing videos of people using the Pals for hard, almost slave labor, but I treated my Pals as part of the team.

Pals are the Magic Ingredient

My Palworld carrying an axe near my base with a new big green crowned pal walking around

Survival mechanics, crafting, base building and all that have been done over and over. Where Palworld really sets itself apart is the Pals. Once I assigned the first Lamball to my base, the magic started. As I’d start crafting things, he’d jump in to lend a hand and increase the crafting speed.

Upgrading the base by building new infrastructure increased the number of Pals I could assign to the base. More Pals lead to more work getting done. They’d collect stone and wood while I was doing other things. They’d chip in while I built new things at the base.

It provided some benefits that only coop partners could before. Watching them busy doing things at the base was just smile inducing. They were also available to throw at enemies to attack. With all those benefits, I happily added berry farms and a food dispenser to keep them happy and fed.

Pals are Hilarious and Useful

Next I need to work on entertainment and stress relief. My Cattiva Pal constantly slacks off, overeats, gets stressed out and goes to bed mad. It’s a bit like my real life cat. Things like that are just hilarious and put this game on another level.

The few hours I have logged right now, I’ve only collected a dozen different Pals. The videos I’ve seen show just how much more there is to see and how big some of them get. The Foxsparks (firefox) I’ve seen people carry them like a bag and use their fire breath like a flamethrower.

I’ve even seen videos of Pals fitted with machine guns and rocket launchers with the players riding them like mechs. Definitely looking forward to capture my first Pal I can mount like a horse or fly like a giant bird. It’s all there, waiting for me to find and capture. The game is nuts.

Palword Coop is Fun, but Needs Quality of Life Improvements

Palworld old man character carrying a spear with mountains in the background

My son also bought Palworld on Steam and sunk dozens of hours in with his friends. I decided to join in one night to check out coop and was hugely disappointed that the game forced me to create a new character. I soon found out that each character is tied to that specific world.

That means the work I put into my original character was pointless for multiplayer. It’s on the dev roadmap to allow transfers, but that’s likely not an easy update right now. My son and his friend were so far ahead of me in level, that there was no way I’d be able to catch up.

I’ll stick to leveling up my single player character with hopes that I can use it later in multiplayer like Valheim handles their characters. I did notice that I could not access my sons equipment until he added me to his faction and there’s security set on various items (like chests). Those are nice touches to at least avoid random griefers.

It was nice that he simply sent me an invite code to go directly to his world, but there’s no voice chat, at least none that I found. We ended up using Steam chat. That seems like something obvious they will add, but odd VOIP is not ready.

The game is still early access, so it’s just a minor gripe. My son is so fickle with the games he plays, that it will be awhile before we’d play the same game again anyways. I do look forward to eventually being able to fly through Palword together on our Pal mounts, dropping bombs on bosses and have chat just work.

What’s Next for Palworld?

Palworld Roadmap with planned future updates and improvements

The wild popularity of the game has obviously caught Pocket Pair by surprise, as they furiously try to hire more help. I look forward to sort of slow rolling my gameplay, knowing improvements are on their way. It’s a great game to enjoy on my Steam Deck from time to time, as it seems to run very well so far (remember to turn on FSR2!).

I just want to avoid too much time away where I forget enough about the game where it’s hard to get back in (looking at you Valheim). If Palworld is an omen for the type of gaming year we are all in for, it’s going to be a wild ride. Buckle up.

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