Palworld First Impressions: Creature Comforts



By: Jason Siu


7 min read

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Palworld First Impressions Gallery, FullCleared

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Palworld’s recent meteoric rise to the top of Steam’s charts has surprised many in the gaming industry, especially since it comes from an indie developer. As of this writing, Palworld has surpassed 1.5 million concurrent players, ranking it third in all-time peak players, just behind PUBG: Battlegrounds and Counter-Strike 2. This is a significant achievement, especially considering the most similar game on the list, Valheim, peaked at 502,387 concurrent players. Palworld sold over five million copies within three days, helped by its more affordable early access release price of $26.99 (normally $29.99), and while many casually label it as “Pokémon with guns,” Palworld offers much more.

It’s hard to talk about Palworld without speaking about Pocketpair’s other major game, Craftopia, which released into Early Access in 2020. Some question why Pocketpair began working on another Early Access title while its previous game remains in Early Access. The answer, in my opinion, is pretty straightforward. Craftopia was developed in Unity and it was clearly Pocketpair’s first real attempt at a fully-featured game. Many concepts in Palworld are present in Craftopia, so those familiar with Craftopia may not find Palworld very surprising. Craftopia even had the concept of using minions to work at your base, just not to the degree of Palworld. To me, it’s obvious that Pocketpair realized the limitations of an engine like Unity for what the developers wanted to build, which is why Unreal Engine underpins Palworld. I feel as if Palworld is what Craftopia wanted to be, but it couldn’t because of Unity. In essence, Palworld can be seen as a spiritual successor to Craftopia, for better or for worse.

Palworld First Impressions Gallery, FullCleared

When Craftopia first released, many described it as a “Breath of the Wild clone with base building.” That description isn’t too far off from what the game actually is, but we found Craftopia to be a bit shallow. All the pieces are there for an excellent, competent game, but none were developed to the point of being remarkable or memorable. While packed with things to do, Craftopia eventually became somewhat repetitive, but it was obvious it had potential. Palworld has realized that potential, to some degree.

Palworld’s sales success can be attributed to several factors, but the biggest one is that the game appeals to multiple demographics. It’s clear that Minecraft has spawned a generation of players fond of the crafting survival and base-building genre. Pokémon’s popularity means millions of players love creature collecting games. Considering the recent Pokémon releases haven’t been particularly revolutionary, it’s understandable why that group of players jumped into Palworld without a second thought. Combat in Palworld is surprisingly competent and performs well enough to not be a detriment to the game. Another significant factor is the game’s current price of $26.99, with a 10 percent discount for its Early Access launch. This pricing contrasts with the current trend where certain AAA publishers are charging $69.99 for games, some of which are embarrassingly worse than Palworld in every aspect.

Palworld First Impressions Gallery, FullCleared

As a group, we love crafting survival, base-building games. We’ve invested nearly 500 hours in 7 Days to Die alone, a game we revisit annually to see the updates. In addition, we’ve spent hundreds of hours in games like Rust, Valheim, Conan Exiles, Minecraft, Craft the World, ARK, Core Keeper, Don’t Starve, The Forest, Sons of the Forest, Green Hell, and Night of the Dead, among others. In terms of Early Access launches, Palworld might be one of the most feature-rich of these games we’ve ever played. From Friday through Sunday, I spent nearly 30 hours playing, and there’s still so much to explore and many more Pals to capture. The gameplay loop is very refined and enjoyable, especially thanks to the numerous Fast Travel points scattered across the map. Essentially, you set off in a direction to explore, collecting all the Pals you run across, and once you reach a Fast Travel location, you go back to base. It’s simple, but very well done, making it very addicting.

However, like Craftopia, Palworld is currently just showing its potential, and much of the game still requires refinement. The bigger question is whether Pocketpair will invest the necessary money, time, and effort to improve the game. Will we see greed surface with microtransactions for Pal skins and outfits? Or will Pocketpair double down on its success by adding more Pals, buildings, and areas to explore? The other elephant in the room is how similar many of the Pals’ designs are to Pokémon designs. I think that’s a legit concern, but Palworld’s gameplay loop is quite different than any Pokémon game because at its core, it’s a crafting survival game, much like Craftopia. Yes, capturing Pals is pretty much the same as capturing a Pokémon. But, let’s remember that even companies like Blizzard Entertainment have built their franchises by drawing inspiration from existing ones, such as Warhammer and Warcraft.

Palworld First Impressions Gallery, FullCleared

I very briefly touched on Palworld’s gameplay loop, but I’d be doing it a disservice by not explaining more of the game’s core mechanics. You can establish each base by placing a Palbox, which automatically generates a circular area for your base. Resources placed in storage within that base area can be used for crafting, which is a huge blessing when you’re playing with multiple people. Instead of asking if someone can drop a material you need to craft something, they can just toss it into a chest for you to use. Player progression is measured by levels, and as you advance, you gain access to new technology, buildings, accessories for your Pals, among other things. Points are required to unlock technology, and the game appears generous enough to avoid tough decisions about what to unlock. Also, with each level, you can allocate a point to basic stats like health, stamina, attack, defense, work speed, and weight (your carrying capacity before becoming encumbered).

The game currently has minimal focus on story and end goals, but does offer bosses to defeat and 50 levels of personal technology to unlock. As you progress, the Palbox has tasks that you need to complete in order to increase your base level. Higher base levels allow for more Pal workers inside the base and increases the maximum number of bases you can establish. Typically, leveling up your base involves constructing specific structures. This overall loop works well in multiplayer too. Without a dedicated server, you can play with up to four players, and each person can do what they enjoy doing. For example, we are playing with a group of seven on a rental server, and we have some players who are dedicated to catching Pals and increasing their player levels, in order to unlock the technology needed to increase base levels. Those who prefer base building can focus on that aspect, while gatherers can collect necessary materials and deposit them in chests for everyone to access.

Palworld First Impressions Gallery, FullCleared

It has been some time since our group has collectively enjoyed a game as much as we have with Palworld so far. The adventure to fight the first boss felt almost a bit like the early days of playing an MMO, as our group of four traveled together to the first tower marked in the tutorial. There’s a certain enjoyment in a game where each player can independently explore the world, sharing discoveries for others to note on their maps, or the whole group can team up to capture a massive, fluffy alpaca named Kingpaca. Palworld is undoubtedly best enjoyed with a group of friends, and is likely another contributor to its wild success over the weekend.

It might seem odd to write a “first impressions” piece rather than a review for a game I’ve already spent 30 hours on, but our policy is to not publish official reviews for games in Early Access. Palworld is one of the most impressive Early Access games I’ve played to date, across any genre. This game requires more polish than major bug fixes. When one of my biggest complaints for a game is that there aren’t enough different markers for the map, then you know it’s a pretty good game. Another annoyance is when Pals get in the way of you building something in your base, especially a collared Daedream. However, my main issue with the game as it stands is the reluctance to have a Pal out while trying to capture others, to avoid the risk of it killing the target. Currently, I primarily use a Pal as a mount and avoid engaging it in combat unless it’s a boss fight. I’m unsure of the best solution for this issue, but I do wish I could involve my Pals in combat more often without fearing they might prevent captures.

Palworld First Impressions Gallery, FullCleared

I plan to play Palworld as much as possible until the release of Persona 3 Reload, after which I will focus exclusively on that game to write a review. Following that, I’ll turn my attention to Final Fantasy VII Rebirth at the end of February, and I aim to play and review Unicorn Overlord, Homeworld 3, and Dragon’s Dogma 2 in March. Unless there are surprise releases, I probably won’t return to playing Palworld extensively until April. This break should provide plenty of time to see which direction Pocketpair decides to take with the game.

While the foundation for an incredible game exists, it’s also true that Pocketpair has two titles in Early Access. As much as I understand why Pocketpair chose to develop Palworld, there’s valid reason to question if the company can provide support for the game, despite its financial success. I selfishly hope Pocketpair knocks it out of the park, because I can see myself playing Palworld for hundreds of hours, possibly for years, as dystopian as it may be. Perhaps the best thing I can say about Palworld is that I really had to force myself to logout to write and publish this piece. It might read a bit rushed, but that’s because I just want to go back to playing.

Palworld entered Early Access on January 19, 2024 on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. These first impressions are based on a purchased retail copy of the game on PC (Steam). While FullCleared does have affiliate partnerships, they do not influence our editorial content. We may, however, earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.

Palworld First Impressions Gallery

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With over 20 years of online publishing experience, Jason Siu is currently the Content Director at VerticalScope and used to spend most of his time writing about cars. His work can be seen on websites such as AutoGuide, EV Pulse, FlatSixes, Tire Authority, and more. As the former co-founder of and West Coast Editor of Modified Magazine, he has also authored two books for CarTech Books. In his spare time, he founded FullCleared to indulge in his passion for writing about games. Although Jason is a variety gamer, he generally prefers RPGs.

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