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Gotta catch ‘em all!

Updated on: 25 February,2024 07:13 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Jaison Lewis |

There is a lot of hype around Palworld lately, and it’s mostly about its similarities with Pokémon. Does this game do enough to stand out, or is it just another monster-taming game? Read on…

Gotta catch ‘em all!


Rating: 4.5/5
Developer: Pocket Pair
Publisher: Pocket Pair
Platform: PC, Xbox
Price: Rs 1,300

At first glance, Palworld may seem like a Pokémon clone, but the game is so much more. Let’s start with the controversial bits. Yes, the creatures look “inspired” by Pokémon, just like Anu Malik draws inspiration from trending music for his totally unique, not at all copied, music. Pals are very similar, just with some variation. My kids legitimately thought I was playing a new Pokémon game.

The capture method is also oddly similar, and different types of capture balls have varying degrees of effectiveness, just like Pokémon. Yes, you have to go around the world capturing Pals, and you can use them during battle to takedown other Pals. There are also other Pal trainers that are evil because they mistreat the Pals, and you have to defeat them eventually. However, these statements would only scratch the surface of what Palworld is.

So, what is Palworld, then? The game is part of creature taming, but it also belongs in the survival genre. The object is to, of course, catch ‘em all, but it is also to put them to good use so you can progress in the game. In fact, most of your time in the game will be spent building your base and putting your pals to work. There is an initial bit of grinding, but the game lets you automate all the processes by getting pals. This is crucial to why the game succeeds so well. All the systems interact and fit into the game perfectly. If you want to automate food production, get some pals with a green thumb, others with watering abilities and some with handiwork capabilities to have the farm automated. Your base will also need some defending as it can be periodically raided by other groups and these groups sometimes have hilarious names. There was some Pal liberation army that invaded my base, and also fangirls of some sort. It is very weird in a very Japanese way. This is possibly because the developers are from Japan. 

Other than the survival base building aspect. There are some RPGH bits as well where you have to level up your character and pals for better stats, passive and combat abilities. Pals also have some useful abilities in combat and just for ease of traversing around. You can ride around on certain pals or, even better, fly around by mounting some flying Pal species. 

The Pals also have personality traits which make them suited for certain tasks, paying attention to all of this is also a very important aspect of the game. At later levels, you can even set up a love nest for your Pals so you can selectively breed the best ones for a Pal with ideal traits. Did I mention guns? Well, there are guns, and you can mass-produce them and even arm your Pals with them. It’s really something to see a cute penguin-like creature taking care of business with a rocket launcher. 

The map is huge with rich biodiversity. There are volcanic peaks, snow-clad mountains and lush green meadows. Each region has specific boss monsters and pals that you can capture. Some are common in all regions as well. There are also dungeons spread across the land, and finding these is a task. While exploring the land, you can also find a treasure chest and hatchable Pal eggs. The game has villains other than the boss monsters. These main villains are, of course, other evil trainers who have their own set of agendas and use the pals for evil or mistreat them. No, it’s not Team Rocket or Giovanni, but it is very controversially similar. 

For me, the morally grey areas of the game are really what makes it stand out. Yes, you are fighting against evil Pal hunters who misuse and abuse the Pals. Through the course of the game, to get by, you have to do the same, and in the end, Pals are no better than slaves that you command around and overwork. Some get irreparably damaged in the process, some get depressed, and if you don’t want dead weight on your team, some may end up as dinner. You can also capture humans in the game and essentially enslave them to work at your factories. Most will do it begrudgingly but it is possible. This makes the game very different from anything Pokémon will ever do. You can’t be so brutal with your monster pals in any Pokémon game, and neither can you capture humans in a Poke ball. This unrestricted gameplay feels free and makes you feel like anything is possible.

I have spent at least double the amount of time I had planned on playing to review this game and I enjoyed every moment of it even if it does have bugs. Pal World is in preview, which means there are going to be a lot of bugs, and from time to time, it will crash on you. There are also stuttering issues and some texture and sound issues as well. For an open world this vast and this complex with interlinked processes, this game is surprisingly well put together. Even better than, say, Cyberpunk 2077’s initial release. 

So, while playing the game, you have to keep in mind that it is a preview, so frustrating things can happen from time to time, but this does not take away from the core of what makes this game so great. Palworld, despite its flaws, is a reasonably polished game for something still in preview. You can play the game solo or with friends, but it’s obviously more fun with friends. The game is available on Steam for the paltry sum of Rs 1,300, which is an excellent deal. You can also play the Xbox version for free if you have Game Pass. Regardless of the platform, this is a game that shouldn’t work but does and should be part of your library. It is guaranteed to take over your life for the next few months.

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