Before I lost my life to Palworld this weekend, I had heard the game being labeled as “Pokemon with guns” almost everywhere. Now, it isn’t quite that and whilst it bears so many similarities, it displays more resemblance to Ark Survival Evolved in how it functions and plays. For someone who didn’t get on at all with Ark even though many of my closest friends devoted their lives to it, I wasn’t hopeful of liking Palworld much. I have to say after over 24 hours poured into the game this weekend alone, I adore it.

Now I have to state this from the off, I am nowhere near close to discovering everything on offer with Palworld. It is also important to note that the game is very much in Early Access/Preview status with plenty to come in the future. For these reasons alone, I will be keeping my article to a review in progress rather than scoring it this early on. For those with Game Pass Ultimate, you can access the Palworld (Game Preview) as part of your subscription on Xbox and PC.

At the time of writing, Palworld has amassed over 8 million copies sold and hit an impressive 2 million concurrent players on Steam. These are massive numbers and only Counter-Strike and PUBG are eclipsing this. I don’t think the development team expected this surge of popularity and whilst the game has several issues to contend with, the reception is mostly great praise. The Steam version of the game seems to be a bit ahead of the game in comparison to the Xbox and Microsoft Store editions. But this doesn’t take away from the time-sink gameplay loop this can generate.

In simple terms, at present only the Xbox and Microsoft Store versions support cross-play. Sadly those of us on console can’t interact with anyone playing on the Steam copy until further updates. You can have up to 4 player co-op PvE action on Xbox/MS Store whilst Steam has dedicated servers supporting up to 32 players in a server at one time. Now you may be wondering if PvP is a thing here, at the moment it isn’t but it is high on the agenda and was highlighted as coming in a future update.

You’ll hear plenty of comparisons to a variety of games out in the market already, but apart from the cutesy cartoon aesthetics of the Pals you can catch, tame, and breed, it is nowhere near what Pokemon offers. You aren’t roaming around communities having conversations, wading through overgrown portions of the world catching and fighting in Pokemon-esque arena fights. Instead, this is a nice little casual introduction to a survival-based world where crafting and exploration are key. To expand your bases and protect them, you’ll need to source materials, capture pals, and put them to work for you.

Now all this sounds very cruel, but of course, you’ll want to keep morale high and provide a nice comfortable environment for them. Ensuring that they have places to rest, relax, and gorge on the delicious food that you can source out in the world.  It isn’t just a case of chucking a few berries their way and leaving them to it, there is an element of “The Sims” when it comes to watching over your animated clan. But don’t worry, it never becomes overbearing or frustrating and you will be able to wander off for a long explore and they won’t be waiting for you to direct them to the loo or to send them to shower. It is minimal, but enough to add a layer of gameplay for you.

One of my main concerns was how large the map would be, looking at the size of the game and it only weighing in at 6.6GB I was a little wary. Panic over when I loaded in and saw how vast the expanse is, the world map is huge and I still haven’t looked into every nook and cranny. Scattered across the world you’ll discover dungeons that can be explored, treasure chests, eggs that can be hatched back at base, pals that have been captured and need to be rescued along with powerful bosses to attempt to overpower. Whilst a lot of the world looks a little barren and bare and the Pal behavior can be a little sporadic at times, it’s a good start, and hopefully, more will be added in time.

Whilst the game runs pretty smoothly for the most part during this early access phase, it is safe to say that the experience is riddled with bugs, missing animations, and some pretty questionable visuals. Having said this though, it is playable and not game-breaking. Sure there are several other frustrations such as server crashes, frame drops during some of the most heated moments, and some other annoying moments, but it is all part of the process of moving forward. Linking up with your buddies makes the whole experience worthwhile and whilst I feel you’ll eventually exhaust the PvE sector of the game, there is still potential for hundreds of hours of gameplay here alone.

Palworld has had an incredible start to its Early Access journey, with over 8 million players investing in the game in its first week on the market, the future is intensely bright. The huge revenue injection will do wonders to support the current development team and potentially open more opportunities for the expansion of the team and the project itself. The continued success is now dependent on whether they can continue to fix all the issues, open up dedicated servers and cross-play support across all playable platforms, and keep the content coming in regularly. One thing is for sure, when PvP arrives, the game will become a totally difference experience to gloss over in and produce a final score for the game.

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