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Sunday, January 21, 2024 8:45:54 PM

Palworld Review (Master WanYe)

Most of my game time is on Gamepass since i have friends in both places but mostly play on there.
I wonder what Game Freak and the Poke'mon Company must be thinking right about now. About how this game just took the world by storm as something with clear and present MAJOR parallels to their work. About how something new and refreshing has been desperately needed from the franchise for years now and this game just came and ate their lunch. it's too soon to tell if Palworld will be able to rise to the challenge of being as great as it has the potential to be, but it couldn't have asked for a better foundation. The following will be more of a first impressions and a wishlist for what should come in the future. Palworld is VERY Early Access, especially on GamePass where it's a few versions behind Steam, and writing a formal review for such a game is silly.
At it's core, Palworld is no different than the likes of Ark. You level up and gain points you can put into new recipes and skill points to increase health, carry weight, damage dealt and so on. You start with nothing and collect rocks and twigs off the ground to build your first bit of gear and then set off to build a base. You even beat creatures near to death and then tame them. All the familiar trappings are here, and the execution is solid but could use some polish.
The difference, of course, is in the aforementioned clear and present parallels to everyone's favorite children's JRPG starring adorable anime creatures. Pals are, without question, the best thing about Palworld for a myriad of reasons. Just like in Poke'mon you can make apparatuses to catch Pals, and a Paldex to keep track of the ones you've seen and caught, and the addictive "gotta catch 'em all!" feeling is here in full force and it feels great to do it in a game that feels decidedly different from what is essentially the same game we've been getting for years. But another one of those reasons is the acknowledgement that the initial Poke'mon audience in the days of Blue/Red/Yellow Version are grown adults. Palworld isn't afraid to tackle some of the more grim and darker topics surrounding our cute and cuddly friends that Poke'mon halfheartedly tried to do with Black & White but ultimately, in my opinion, failed to really do anything with.
The game also does suffer a bit from tonal issues that can hopefully be cleaned up. I get the feeling the idea is that you as the player are meant to make the choice for yourself, will you abuse your Pals for your own selfish ends, or will you find a better way that doesn't involve you being a piece of human trash. But this doesn't come through clearly, and it's hard to tell if Pocketpair are making fun of Poke'mon for not doing this, are memeing in their own game about these more grim topics, or are genuinely trying to tell a darker story than Poke'mon is willing to and just aren't there yet. I hope it's the latter most option and we see development occur that pushes this idea further. The game also seems to suffer from a lack of identity. Beyond the designs of the Pals, you can see a lot of influence in other games taken and placed here. This ranges from the aesthetics of the HUD (The Breath of the Wild temperature meter) to things that exist in the game world. One of the game's field bosses (a Penking) is trapped in a straight up Evergaol from Elden Ring. There's also a church that bares a striking resemblance to a location in Limgrave, and the gigantic tree that can be seen in the north gives me Erdtree vibes. The mining animation is straight from Fortnite, the list goes on and you get the idea. I'd like to see Palworld move towards it's own unique style. It's ok to make references and easter eggs and homages and I actually love the idea that the Evergaol boss is a thing. But there's a difference in making an homage and ripping off of another work, and right now Palworld does feel somewhat like it's leaning to the latter, especially with Elden Ring (I don't care that some of the Pals look all too similar to actual Poke'mon, when Game Freak and The Poke'mon company develop some respect for their aging IP and actually do something interesting then we'll talk, for now they're just sitting on what are essentially unused assets and wasted potential).
A lot of what I think would be good additions have already been mentioned by the devs; arena fights, bosses that require Guilds to take down together, and updates to existing systems all sound good. Beyond that, seeing more of this world wouldn't go amiss, new maps like Ark that become available once you've beaten the bosses and more civilization wouldn't hurt either (there's at least one small village in the game you can visit).
I'm recommending Palworld because that's the best chance it has for success, for everyone to jump in and give voice to what they want to help make this game realize it's potential. And it's success would be important not only to it, but also to Poke'mon. Game Freak and The Poke'mon company have no incentive to take any kind of risk, to do really anything other than continue to pump out the same tired JRPG every two years like they've been doing since I was roughly 7 years old, with very little in the way of meaningful change. That CAN change, but only if they're given a reason to do so. This Trainer hung up his hat a long time ago, but good gracious did this make me pick it back up again.