When a game launches in Xbox Game Preview form, it clearly isn’t fair to give it the full review treatment. There could well be new updates and patches applied before the game is finally ready to launch in full, and it is for this reason that we hold back on full review thoughts. But that doesn’t stop us from getting heavily involved, letting you know how things stack up during the Game Preview / Early Access period. It’s with that in which we’ll give you some thoughts from the wild frontiers of Palworld on Xbox and Game Pass.
From the Pocket Pair team, Palworld has been advertised as basically being “Pokemon with guns”. So, is this a fair characterisation of the game, or is it just a bit of lazy reporting? Well, stick with me, and I’ll fill you in. And I’ll give you a clue – this is a lot more than just Pokemon with guns!
I’m going to start off by talking about the actual gameplay, and what we have is an amalgamation of a number of different games. We have the Pokemon angle, with the creatures that we can capture, Pals. These creatures can be interacted with in a number of ways. We also have a base building simulator, in a Minecraft or Ark kind of style, where we have to gather resources and learn how to build things, such as campfires and workbenches, right up to houses and defences. And finally we have an open world, exploration kind of game with gliders that can be crafted; this adds a Fortnite feel to proceedings. So while catching and training the Pals is a big part of Palworld, it isn’t the be all and end all, there is much more than that. I’ll cover each section in more detail as I go, but for now, let’s have a look at the way the game looks and sounds, shall we?
Well, the big news is that it looks great, in a cartoony, Fortnite kind of way. The world we inhabit is large, and there are lots of things to see and find in the landscape. The way that the Pals are encountered is a lot like the later Pokemon games in that you can see them in the landscape, approaching those that look interesting or new. The draw distance is very good indeed, and you can seemingly see for miles from a vantage point.
The Pals themselves very much live up to the Japanese principle of kawaii, which roughly translates as “cuteness” and while they do look quite similar to various Pokemon (having a 12 year old son who is a Pokemon nut meant I had a constant commentary of which Pokemon the Pals looked like), but the design of the creatures is very good indeed. I can almost sense Nintendo’s lawyers warming up on the touchline!
The sounds of the game are great as well, from the bang as you smash rocks or chop trees down, to the cries of the various Pals (the pink cat type ones have a very plaintive “meow” that you can hear a mile off). All in all, it is all very solid for a preview game. No sign so far of the bugs that plagued Ark when it launched, for instance.
Looking at the various gameplay elements and we’ll start with the crafting part of Palworld, mostly as one of the first things you need to do is build a crafting table, as in Minecraft. You can pick up wood from branches lying around on the ground, and you can also grab stones just scattered about the place. You can also punch trees and stones to break things off if all else fails. Once the bench is built, you can then make tools, and from here your gathering of resources becomes much more efficient. Mining stone with a pickaxe will also get you extra things, such as Paldium fragments – these are the key to catching the Pals. You’ll also need to craft a weapon, as in order to catch a Pal you have to weaken it first. While tame Pals will help, you will be doing the lion’s share of the work yourself!
Of course, before you can really explore, you need to establish a base, and so building a Palbox is key to this. This allows you to monitor your Pals and put them to work in the base. Having creatures back home mining stone and chopping wood makes everything much more efficient. Just remember to feed them, or they will drop dead!
Fighting is an eye opener as well as not only can you kill (and eat) the Pals that you encounter, they can kill you stone dead right back. It’s best to only start a fight that you think you can finish. This is a much more action oriented game than the traditional Pokemon experiences and you soon learn to keep moving while fighting the Pals. Once they have been weakened, you can throw a Pal Sphere (totally different from a Pokeball, honest) and capture it. Top tip – pay attention to the level of the Pals you are chasing and make sure they aren’t too strong for you, as they will mess you right up.
After you have established your base and got your workforce, you then have to explore and meet other people on the map. You are tasked with surviving, basically, and to that end you will have to attempt to take over territory, with bosses in towers that need to be beaten. Having strong Pals, stronger weapons and a lot of ammo is vital, and as you fight, you level up.
As you level up, you can increase your stats and also unlock new recipes for the building menu. It’s here where you’ll discover new and exciting gear and structures. Building a hot tub to keep your Pals happy through to building a house and a bed to sleep in, and better weapons as you level up, your base can also be levelled up and made better.
In fact, there is so much to do in Palworld that the “Pokemon with guns’ epithet doesn’t do it any favours. However, with Palworld launching in Game Preview form on Game Pass, and many, many people playing the game around the world, it looks like the future is bright for Palworld and Pocket Pair going forward.
Give it a try if you want something a bit different – just be ready for Palworld to really sink its claws into you. Now if you will excuse me, I’ve just seen an interesting looking bird I’d like to try and capture…
You’ll find the Xbox Store giving up the download you need to play Palworld on Xbox. It’s available for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. If you don’t have a Game Pass subscription, a download will cost you £24.99.
And keep your eyes peeled for a full review once the game comes out of the Early Access period and releases for real.