Palworld Early Access Review: Monster collection revitalized

A satire of that one monster-collecting franchise we all know...

Developed by Pocketpair, Palworld ventures into familiar yet uncharted territories by introducing a unique blend of creature collecting, resource management, and sandbox creativity into a genre that has long grown stale over the years. The result is an unusually compelling survival gaming experience that stands out uniquely in the market, making it an addictive journey unlike anything available elsewhere.

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Gameplay

Your adventure in Palworld begins with you creating a character, which is nothing to write home about. While it has a few basic options for you to mess around with, it is serviceable enough to get the job done. For unexplained reasons, you are then awakened from your slumber on a strange island by three strange-looking creatures that quickly flee from you the moment you stand to your feet. It is here that the first gameplay loop starts, and for those familiar with how survival games play, you already know what to expect.

In Palworld's tutorial, you're directed to gather essential resources like wood and stone to craft a basic workbench and, subsequently, a Pal Sphere. These spheres play a pivotal role as they serve as the means to capture Pals—formidable creatures with strength and abilities far surpassing your own. The essence of Palworld hinges on capturing these Pals, as all activities from combat to constructing bases revolve exclusively around this central element. The island is full of all sorts of Pals ripe for capture. They must be sufficiently weakened before capture is possible, and this is done through combat.

Image via Pocketpair

Palworld's combat, in line with third-person shooter expectations, offers options for precision aiming and mobile shooting. Crafting various weapons is crucial for self-defense and capturing wild Pals. What really distinguishes Palworld's combat, though, is the unique ability to summon your pals to actively join your engagements against hostile forces.

This combined arms setup results in combat scenarios that are incredibly enjoyable. While you're notching arrows and firing bullets, your Pals are spinning up giant tornados or hurling bolts of lightning down range. In most cases, these scenarios are a glorious spectacle, but visual clutter does sometimes get in the way of gameplay, especially when several Pals are spitting their various effects on screen at the same time. Fortunately, this issue isn't that common, as most encounters don't last long enough for this problem to become apparent in the first place.

Besides combat, you'll be building up a base in Palworld, and using it to acquire more powerful gear. Pals also play a big role in this aspect of the game, because they are your primary builders, crafters, and gatherers. While you can do most of the tedium yourself, doing so is far from efficient in Palworld. Most jobs in Palworld can be automatized by your Pals, freeing you to perform the more interesting tasks such as capturing new Pals and putting them to work. After all, why do work that you can force others to do?

Image via Pocketpair

Palworld fully embraces that notion, allowing you to seamlessly transition between being a compassionate overseer or a brutal taskmaster at your discretion. The emotional well-being of the Pals in your base is entirely within your control and you can choose to acknowledge their feelings or disregard them altogether. That option is part of what makes Palworld unique, especially as you experience your first Pal's fall to madness from overwork or neglect (not as dark as it sounds).

Score: 5/5 Stars

Multiplayer

Unfortunately, while Palworld's multiplayer component is functional enough to enjoy, it is riddled with problems ranging from de-syncing to outright corruption of save files. Dedicated servers, whether official or custom-made, suffer from constant hitching and lag during movement, making avoiding attacks from enemies and even performing mundane tasks much more of a chore than they should be.

The worst part of this is the multiplayer aspect of the game is as fun as you'd think it would be. Players can band together in guilds and work as a team to capture and defeat the most powerful foes Palworld has to offer. It is a shame I can't recommend playing multiplayer at the time of this review, as the problems with server stability are just too severe to give a pass.

Score: 2/5 Stars

Related: Palworld Latest Steam & Xbox Patch Notes January 2024

Graphics and Performance

Graphically speaking, Palworld can be described as simply fine. It doesn't exceed any expectations, nor does it disappoint. Vistas and mountains on the horizon can sometimes be an impressive sight to behold, but environments in the immediate vicinity often appear muddy or lacking in proper detail— largely due to the game's unique art style. While I wouldn't necessarily call this a negative, if you're interested in Palworld for its graphic fidelity, then this isn't the game you're looking for.

That said, it is obvious Pocketpair spent a significant amount of time ensuring the game runs silky smooth on a majority of systems. On current consoles, Palworld runs at a very stable 60 FPS at all times, despite the amount of action that may be on screen at the same time. On PC, Palworld easily exceeds this FPS limitation, as I was able to remain above 120 FPS on a GTX 3060, i9-10850k at 4Ghz, and 3GB RAM at all times. No amount of graphic fidelity matters if the game doesn't run well, and Pocketpair understood the assignment absolutely.

Score: 4/5 Stars

Audio and Sound

Upon firing the Musket for the first time in Palworld, the substantial discharge may catch you off guard. "Surprised" is fitting here, as one might not anticipate a game like Palworld to deliver such satisfying audio. Whether it's the thunderous report of a firearm or the distinctive sounds emitted by Pals, your ears are treated to a delightful auditory experience. The repetition of these familiar sounds, be it a gun firing or a Pal's characteristic noise, manages to captivate without inducing monotony—well, mostly.

While the sound work is fantastic, it is not without its hitches. It's somewhat common to witness a sound effect stuck playing over and over with no end in sight. It is especially bad when it happens in your base (a location you'll spend a lot of your time in), as the only way to fix such an issue is to restart. These issues are overall minor at best, but they are undoubtedly irksome.

Score: 4/5 Stars

Verdict - An enticing creature collector with a perfect survival touch

Palworld thrives on a basic cycle of repetition that remains engaging thanks to the diverse array of Pals awaiting discovery in the expansive game world. The motivation to enhance your base propels you into uncharted territories, encouraging you to uncover and capture previously unknown Pals. It is a simple concept, yet its execution resonates exceptionally well, making for a captivating and rewarding experience (despite the numerous amount of harmless bugs and flawed multiplayer components).

A free copy of the game was provided to PGG by the publisher for review purposes.

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About the Author

Darrus is a creative-minded individual with a passion for all things gaming. As a seasoned Game Guide writer that has been writing for the past 10+ years, and an active Narrative Designer for 5, he charges headfirst into the line of fire, taking on anything the industry has to offer him. The RPG genre is his home base.

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Palworld Early Access Review: Monster collection revitalized

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