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Palworld - More "Ark" Than "Pokémon With Guns" - Early Access Game Review

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All views are that of the author and are not influenced by any copies of games provided by publishers for review purposes.

About the Game

Palworld is an open-world, creature-collecting survival game that’s created and published by Pocket Pair. Players collect mysterious creatures called “Pals” solo or with friends using co-op multiplayer and use these Pals to build bases, craft items, and fight other creatures in an open world.

Palworld is currently only available as an Early Access title on Xbox and Steam. This review and score will be revisited once more updates are made available.


To get this out of the way immediately: Palworld has no story. There are hints of lore sprinkled throughout the game when players collect journal entries, but the only way to read them is to hunt them down in the game options. Instead, it's an open sandbox for players. That's not a major issue for me as I wasn’t expecting a story-driven adventure to begin with, but it does make coming across these journals all the less exciting.

What Palworld lacks in story, it makes up for in an addicting gameplay loop. While the “Pokémon with guns” comparison isn’t entirely inaccurate given the design similarities between certain Pals and Pokémon, the game resembles Ark in gameplay more than anything else. Don’t let the adorable Pals fool you–this game is a survival game first and foremost, and it’s a huge part of the reason I cannot put it down.

Much like other games in the genre such as Valheim, Palworld requires you to collect resources and return to your base to craft items for your inventory, such as weapons, resistance outfits, shields and more. Players are expected to automate almost every single aspect of crafting and resource-collecting through the Pals you bring back to your bases, but the game is a bit glitchy in that some Pals won’t do exactly what you expect them to. Given that it is still in Early Access, I’m willing to let some of the jankiness slide, especially since Pocket Pair had already shared a roadmap that includes prioritizing fixing pathing and Pals’ AI.

The game doesn’t take itself seriously–and it benefits from it. You can equip certain Pals with handguns, machine guns, assault rifles, grenade launchers and a lot of other wild weapons that you wouldn’t expect to work. One of the more exciting elements of the game is capturing a new Pal with your spheres and finding ones that can be mounted. There’s really never a dull moment.

What will keep bringing you back for more Palworld is how vast and open the map is. There are huge regions to unlock through Fast Travel statues and areas that are much higher level than you would expect them to be, given that the open world nature of the game allows you to go anywhere you want, assuming you have good gear and decent mounts. Once you’ve unlocked the entire map, the game does become a little grindy as you approach max player level 50. However, the base-building elements will certainly keep you coming back if capturing 10 of each of the 100+ unique Pals doesn’t grab you as much.

The game can be frustrating even when it’s incredibly fun. You might find yourself struggling to gain control of your own movements during certain attacks or the game might glitch and the Pals at your base all decide to chill atop a rock and complain about being hungry. Other times, everything might go smoothly. Once you’ve secured enough Ultra Spheres–spheres that have a much higher capture rate, you grab onto your glider or hop onto your flying Pal to traverse the lands for hours with a Huge Food Bag and no server issues preventing your friends from joining your world. Experiences will vary, and I’m cautiously optimistic about the roadmap, but there is no denying that Palworld is extremely entertaining.


The first thing that drew me to Palworld was the visuals. It isn’t exactly unique as it has the same graphics style as the modern Legend of Zelda games, but it is gorgeous every step of the way. With a distinct gigantic tree in the top left corner of the map and stunning locales ranging from the desert to snowy mountains, the game begs to be played on the biggest and most powerful screen.

There are some instances in my 50+ hours in the game so far where nighttime is almost unplayable, even with a torch or a lantern in my Key Items. Whether these are Early Access hiccups or not, it can still be a bit frustrating having to navigate around some of these graphical missteps.


I’ve been playing Palworld on PC using Xbox Game Pass. This is worth mentioning because the Steam version might not suffer through the same compressed audio issues that the Xbox version has. And I use the word “suffer” literally here.

The water sounds are horrendous, but they’re nothing compared to the mining sounds that are more cling-clangy than they have any right to be. This is also true for the slightly obnoxious “completed” noise when you finish building any new component in a base or even the lack of any soundtrack whatsoever when you’re out exploring the vast, open world. 

I’m a little more sympathetic knowing that Pocket Pair is not a AAA games developer by any means, but if I miss out on a shiny/lucky Pal because I decide to keep the game audio muted, then it’s a risk I am absolutely willing to take for now.


There are the occasional crashes in Palworld as well as lags here and there, most of which are likely due to the unexpected growth and concurrent players since the game’s Early Access launch. There is plenty of room for optimization so here’s hoping Pocket Pair keeps the momentum going.


This is where Palworld is up in the air. While it gets a little harder to level up exponentially the closer you get to 50, it’s not clear at this moment how replayable the game becomes afterwards. There are plenty of things to keep working on when it comes to base building and crafting tools, but the creature-collecting and boss fights might feel less exciting after some time.

The roadmap seems exciting and it might prove that Palworld has longevity, but it is hard to tell exactly which parts stick and which don’t. I’m not one to partake in PvP so I’m not on the edge of my seat for that, but new content, islands to explore and Pals to catch has me looking forward to lots of replayable value.


One of the best features about this game is its world settings. Almost everything is customizable to suit your needs, from changing difficulty to Casual to updating frequency of the base raids and difficulty of capturing Pals. It’s highly accessible in that sense, if you were looking for a more relaxed monster-hunting experience.

Where the accessibility in Palworld lacks is with the absence of a mini-map, making traversing with friends all the more frustrating. There are very few UI settings, no way to change color contrast or font size, or even options for motion sickness. Here’s hoping the devs work on some accessibility improvements sooner rather than later.


Despite some Early Access woes, Palworld's blend of open world, survival, and creature collecting manages to click. While its long-term durability remains a question, the satisfying core loop of capture, build, and explore keeps you coming back for more.

Gameplay: 8/10 
Visuals: 8/10 
Sound: 5/10 
Performance: 7/10 
Replayability: 7/10 

Overall: 70/100

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