Palworld Active Players Count Goes Nuclear! Is This the Pokémon Killer Game We’ve Been Waiting For?

hello world!
Ben Hazell
| January 23, 2024
hello world!

A few weeks ago, if you asked me about “The funny Pokémon rip-off game with guns”, I’d have laughed and said, “Oh yeah, Palworld, that’s finally coming out?” and I’d probably start laughing at how dark the trailer was, how little “Pals” could be put into sweatshops, run power plants and pick up a rocket launcher and blast enemies to kingdom come. “There’s no way this game is going to be good,” I would say, but I would play it anyway just for the spectacle. I mean, it’s gotta be entertaining, right?

And they got us. Pocket Pair, the makers of Craftopia, made an absolutely jaw-dropping release of a gem, which improves on about five beloved games, all at the same time. You’ve got Ark: Survival Evolved, Pokemon Legends: ArceusDigimon World: Next Order, Fortnite and even The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild with a tiny bit of Genshin Impact for good measure. All these games find their best gameplay mechanics taken and improved on and placed in Palworld.

Suddenly, to say that this game is a rip-off would be a confusing endeavor. It becomes hard to work out which game any one feature comes from. Almost all designs in this game find inspiration from elsewhere, but they’re legally distinct, making them their own thing. In fact, while some attributes are designed to invoke nostalgia it’s never completely obvious where a certain Pal might have come from.

Casually watching Pals cook breakfast with a gun out.

Palworld is a perfect storm of the gaming landscape, perfectly targeted at every disgruntled and upset fandom that has ever been and granting their wishes with insane precision. If you’ve played only one of the games, don’t worry; there are features from the other five to keep you entertained. The real strength of Palworld is that it takes from so many popular games, then goes, “I can do that better”, and the best thing is, you don’t feel like you’re playing a game you’ve played in the past, because, Palworld implements these mechanics at the same time working in unison to create the illusion.

It also has its own identity as “the game where you can do terrible things to your critters”. The attraction of Palworld is freedom, even if that’s also freedom to be an evil character. One item I got simply states you can butcher pals for their meat, which is a little grim. You can be your pals’ best friend or their worst nightmare. Also, the surprising ability to catch humans and make them work for you as well. That took me by surprise; they aren’t good at combat or powerful, but you can sell them on the black market. And to think, they said Grand Theft Auto was a bad influence.

You upgrade your character as much as the Pals.

Do you like Fortnite but don’t want to be playing “The shooting game with all the kids”? Well, don’t worry because this game has incredibly dark humor, so it can’t possibly be a kids’ game. Soon enough, you’ll be shooting your friends in game too when PVP drops, so why not come and experience Pikachu with a gun?

Do you like Ark, but you’re tired of the steep learning curve and outdated graphics? Well, Palworld is here with admittedly beautiful graphics rivaling that of any big-budget title. I think they pretty much nailed “Not looking like a mobile game or a Gmod game”, as everything in this game is clearly crafted to look amazing. Also, the Pals aren’t as aggressive as the dinosaurs. That was what put me off Ark originally. So, I guess this worked on me.

One of the best but overlooked parts of this game is how every model has its own carrying animation.

Early access promises PvP, which will likely take some form of Rust experience and be implanted into the game on specific servers. Rust’s map-making feature would be amazing for this game. Hopefully that gets implemented for private servers. The map in Palworld is quite big, and sometimes, the layout can be hard to navigate.

Finally, the one single decisive factor in Pocket Pair’s success is The Pokémon Company. Pokémon has always been popular, but over the past few years, they’ve really had this atmosphere of letting the fans down. releasing supposedly unpolished games, not making more Pokémon Legends Arceus DLC, and the backlash towards Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. Players have wanted more effort put into Pokémon games for the better part of a decade and have remained unfulfilled until now. It’s the promise, and the solution to a very long absence of care put into monster-catching games, and this game seems to have hooked onto that feeling. This game, right here, is the one that made the bar. Not TemTem, not Coromon, not Monster Sanctuary, but this. I honestly can understand it, this is the first game to deliver a satisfying experience on Early access launch in the monster hunting genre outside of well… Monster Hunter.

This gives me World of Warcraft flying mount vibes.

So, after playing the game for about 25 hours over the last three days, I can confirm that this game is addictive, but is it good? Well, that remains to be seen. This is an early-access game, and I’ve seen loads of bugs already. Pals’ falling through the ceiling, getting stuck on your buildings, and falling asleep on the air fryer. It still needs to be polished, and for a sandbox game, completing the syndicate towers on one server is going to take you at least 60 hours, so I haven’t gotten the full early access experience yet.

So, for 25 hours of fun monster catching, base building, egg hatching game play, was I happy? Oh yeah, absolutely. Gathering eggs and seeing what I get from my loot box style hatching was really tickling my trading card-loving brain. The guns are okay, but honestly, I don’t care much about the guns. I found this build where I can put 5 of the pal Daedream into my party and have them all just fire a ton of energy balls at my target, completely destroying them. It was fantastic. Building my base was fun; almost exactly like Rust. Catching monsters is amazing, letting you see the catch rates in real-time above caught Pals’ heads. The dungeons are really fun, giving you rewards and boss versions of pals’., Playing with friends, getting your base up together and chatting is also a really fun time. I even got a Pal I was trying to catch stolen by a Turkish guy on a public server, who then started breakdancing on me. A real 10/10 experience.

You start low and it gets higher each pass, so it’s 3 successive rolls to catch anything.

But we’ve talked a lot about other games; let’s talk about what Palworld itself has to offer from the well of originality: Firstly, every Pal has animations unique to itself, Pals have existing variants and the lucky system allows you to gain bigger versions of pals on an RNG basis. And of course, there’s the base-building which, with the addition of Pals’ running things and having to micro-manage them, makes this a unique base-building experience.

Palworld’s ultimate strength is that it’s already worth more than what we paid for it, and there is more coming throughout early access. In a way, It’s exactly what happened with Baldur’s Gate 3. It’s weird to say, but this might be the sort of passive rebellion phase of gaming without microtransactions, DLC or battlepasses, but promises of improvement without monetary gain, this project is absolutely flourishing the same way Baldur’s Gate did. Palworld is a game made by people who know exactly what they’re doing, and it would be a lie to say that they aren’t doing it well. The only question that remains is, how are they avoiding lawsuits?

So to sum up, Palworld has the making of a fantastic game. Is it a Pokémon killer? Well, yes but, not in the way you’d expect. Palworld, just by existing, is going to frighten The Pokemon Company. Because if a company like Pocket Pair, which is much smaller than them, can churn out a game that fulfills that itch players have, Players may rebel against their monopoly on monster-catching games. This game is amazing, but it’s also incredibly derivative. Yes it improves on what it copies, but it’s still a copy just taken to moral extremes and logical fun experience enhancements. The success of this game will have wider implications for the industry, and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens next.

This bunny ended up being my favorite, leave a comment which of these critters you like the most!

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