Introduction to Palworld
Palworld, released January 19, 2024 by Pocket Pair, Inc. is a survival game that has recently gained a lot of popularity. The game's premise is a survival game where you capture and hunt “Pals”, the game's equivalent of Pokémon. One of the main draws of the game, and how its marketed was as “Pokémon with guns' which led to its main appeal.
As of writing in just five days the game has accumulated over seven million sales between Steam, PlayStation, Xbox, and Windows PC with gamepass.
However with this popularity came some questioning of plagiarism in the game. This is due to the creators' history with endorsement of AI as well as the overall similarity between the Pals designs and many Pokémon character designs. While there is no conclusive evidence towards plagiarism this is what truly caught my attention towards the game and led me to want to create this review.
Before I get onto the review I want to preface that I only have about 2 hours of gameplay for this game and haven't really gotten deep into the woods of the game.
Now, after about a day of looking at twitter and seeing all this I knew I had to try it out so I bought the game. I did look at the file size and saw it was almost 30 gigabytes. So that did sour my perception just a bit starting out. Once I actually got into the game I was greeted by the character customization screen. Once my character was made the game starts with a cutscene of the player character waking up on an island surrounded by three of the Pals who soon run away after seeing them wake up. Then the gameplay begins with the player in a weird temple but soon you will run outside to the first glowy thing you see and unlock fast travel.
That's where any real semblance of learning the game is integrated into actual gameplay ends. As then you are given a tutorial checklist on the top right of the screen. This is what you will be following to learn anything about the gameplay loop going forward. However there are some flaws to it. One major flaw is that if you do any exploring outside of the main tutorial on the menus or in the world, if you haven't gotten to that part of the checklist it will never be checked off. Which really is awful when its something such as learning crafting recipes since you cant do it again, meaning that will never be checked off and the tutorial checklist will never move on and tell you other information you may need.
That was what I first encountered which did end up with me having to reset.
Once you actually get into the gameplay it mostly consists of scavenging, crafting, hunting or capturing, then rinse and repeat as you level up and build up your base and your pals. For example: in order to catch your first pal you have to get wood to build a crafting bench, build said bench, unlock the pal sphere recipe, get stone and pal crystals, then build it, hunt for a pal, attack them, and then capture them based on their capture likeness score. While this may be a lot it is a fun loop in the end which most survival games do fall under just without the pals.
Criticism towards Unoriginality
However my main criticism is that the game doesn't have a single ounce of creativity and originality in it. The game is just a collage of what a bunch of popular games do anyways. Whether that's how the player controls which is very similar to Fortnite of all things, the world design which is more close to The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, the Pal designs which as stated before are very much meant to look like Pokémon, and just overall everything in the game doesn't feel like the creators really had passion and more so looked at what was popular to make some money. This isn't the first time the creators had done this before with a major example being their earlier work Never Grave which many have pointed out has a extremely close art style and gameplay to the Metroidvania game Hollow Knight. This to me has shown how little actual creativity was put into these games and i do not blame anyone for accusing them of plagiarism. The whole game reeks of legally distinct this and legally distinct that.
So overall the game, while fun and having an interesting premise. Does nothing original with that premise. Only using original designs and such due to not having the rights to Pokémon. Nothing more and nothing less than that was used for actual original ideas.