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Palworld Early Access Review

Josh Knowles Updated: Posted:
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I’ve spent the last ten days fully immersed in Palworld. If you are blissfully unaware, Palworld is a survival game that borrows elements from popular survival games like Rust, a little “Souls-like” inspiration, some Breath of the Wild, and, of course, Pokemon. Is the whole more significant than the sum of its parts? Is Palworld worthy of the hype? Well, fortunately, we are here to let you know!

It’s hard not to see Palworld and immediately go down the road of “Pokemon with guns!” as many have referred to the game as such. After 40 hours of gameplay, I can happily tell you it is much more than that. At its core, Palworld is a survival game through and through. As is with many survival games (or so I’ve been told), preparation is the name of the game. The world of Palworld is enormous and unforgiving. Pals want to kill you, poachers wish to kill you, PETA-style cultists want to kill you, and the elements want to kill you. You will have a bad time if you venture too far without the right gear, Pals, and food.

At the same time, most of the preparation and advancement will happen at your base(s). You must rely on the right Pals to keep up with food production, crafting items, and resource upkeep. While all this happens, you also want to ensure your Pals are healthy and happy. This means return trips to bases are indeed important. Quickly, you learn that while your character in Palworld is fragile and slow, the right tools are integral to survival, and you just so happen to catch them in the wild. 

Palworld Offers a Unique Spin On Old Ideas

Palworld starts you off with a brief and not super-great tutorial. You learn to craft your first tool, Pal Sphere, and how to farm materials and catch Pals. From there, you are directed to build a Palboard and set up a base. Building in Palworld is much like Fortnite, except worse in almost every way imaginable. I’ll get to it in a bit, but less is more in base-building. 

After you build out your base, the tutorial missions will have you level it up and build resource-gathering solutions, like a berry farm, lumber site, or rock quarry. Most things you need to craft and develop can be done independently. When I started the berry farm, I realized that the time it took to grow berries wasn’t feasible. At this point, you need to utilize the Pals you’ve been catching.


You see, in Palworld, Pals are like tools. Yes, you catch them in spheres that shake up to three times on a successful catch. You do need to wear them down before catching them. You even benefit from incapacitating them before a catch, but that is where the Pokemon inspiration ends. Pals aren’t much different from wild animals in any other game. They may look like the Pocket Monsters of old, but they function far differently.

The Right Pal For the Job

Like Pokemon, Palworld’s Pals all have elemental affinities. Each Pal also has particular skills and jobs it can perform. These skills are the same for each Pal, so you will find yourself stocking up on the right Pals for the job. 

Early in my game, I tried to catch at least one of each Pal, but the Pals also had traits. These traits will help indicate how well they do certain things. Slacker Pals won’t get much done. Some qualities make a Pal exceptional at resource-gathering. Other characteristics make a Pal better at combat. Unfortunately, some trait combinations make a Pal effectively useless. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to do with these Pals, but then I discovered the cleaver tool. You can butcher Pals to create meat or resources to keep the pal machine running.

Yeah, killing Pals is an unfortunate but needed aspect of Palworld. In my playtime, I’ve only butchered a handful of Pals, mainly those with traits that made them harmful to other Pals in my bases and useless in the field. I’ve heard of some Pal trainers that abuse the feature, but I try to limit the proverbial blood on my hands. Heck, I even slaughter Pals in my slaughter shack, so my little virtual animal workers don’t have to watch me do the dirty work in the open.

Meanwhile, my Pals on base handle their somewhat assigned jobs. I keep a set of Pals that are more built to keep me alive in the wilds. Pals will learn different attacks that carry elemental attributes. I took at least one Pal for riding around, another for tanking damage, a Pal for whittling away catchable wild boss Pal’s health, and a few with solid attacks. Because a knocked-out Pal needs to go into the Pal box for ten minutes, I have to ensure that there are multiple Pals to fit the roles.

Fighting to Survive

Palworld’s bulk of gameplay has been surviving while finding better Pals to fill roles on my teams or at my bases. When traveling around the vast map, I ensure I keep enough food and resources to get to a teleport point.

Dotted all over the map are statues that allow you to teleport from one to another or even to the Pal boards you set in bases. In most cases, these statues are also close to points of interest. I found a sculpture near a run-down church that was surrounded by ore. Most boss towers have a statue nearby, and settlements and large caves usually have one. The rule of thumb was that if I saw a statue, there was something to do nearby.

On the topic of boss towers, there are large glowing towers worldwide. These towers all have a boss inside that you need to fight. This is a Pal-tamer from one of two hostile factions accompanying their Pal. Without cheesing these fights, these bosses are tough, for sure. In perspective, the average wild Pal boss has about 3500 health at level 25. The tower bosses have at least 60000 health. They also hit like a truck. 

Beating these bosses requires you to master movement and hiding. As a veteran “Souls-like” player, I did well on dodge rolling, but some attacks require more than just a solid understanding of I-frames. Pals are the key to winning this fight, as they do more damage than your character can. Keeping the Pal in the battle is also super important, so pulling a Pal before a boss lands a huge hit is a must, but it also means their attention will go right to you after. Beating these bosses doesn’t seem to do too much yet, and they can’t be caught (usually), so I think they are just there for the leveling. The fights are fun, though, so I do recommend them.

Pal-ing Around With Friends

I finally got to spend some time playing Palworld with friends. I didn’t join any dedicated servers, as even at 40 hours of game time, I’m still learning things. However, setting up a multiplayer game was easy enough to do as creating a world, giving the invite code to friends, and then meeting up to tackle the wilds.

Now, you may wonder if you can take your character from one world to another. The short answer is no. At first, I didn’t like this, and while Pocketpair seems to have some sort of plan to do this, I grew to enjoy it. A new map requires a new character. I played on my son’s world and had friends visit mine. 


Starting a new character seems like a tall order, but leveling up with the host players was easy. When I joined my son’s server for the first time, my low-level character and his high-level character ended up fighting a level 50 shiny Pal. After whittling away the health and dying a whole lot more than I wanted to, we accidentally killed i,t, and I shot up eight levels while my Pals went up about 12. This put me close enough to him to venture to more dangerous areas without feeling like I wasn’t contributing.

Now, I keep a few chests with armor, weapons, accessories, and Pal Spheres near the spawn point for new players and a sign to remind my visitors to join my guild so they can play with me and interact with my base. We discovered that you can borrow Pals from your co-op buddies. I’m unsure if it was a glitch, but I could pull workers from my co-op friends' bases and put them on my team.

The Good

To say I’ve been having fun with Palworld is an understatement. Palworld is a fantastic indie game that has been an approachable way for me to experience survival games for the first time. The mechanics are familiar to other games I’ve played. Drop-in and drop-out co-op makes it easy to join someone already playing, and managing technology points allows you to control your progression directly.

My highest points in Palworld have been finding the next perfect fit for what I needed in my bases or battle teams. When I stumbled across a tier 3 planting Pal, I rushed back to my base to throw them into action. The same happened when I caught a flying Pal and realized I could craft a saddle to ride it around. A lot can and will be automated from your base, but you still need to venture out to find things like seeds, ore, paldium, and other resources that aren’t procurable from base farms.

Progression is vital, which is generally tied to what you need to build to level your base up. My adventures have focused on getting the following key items for growth while finding and catching new Pals. There are over 120 Pals with species variants, but there hasn't been any point yet where I've felt like I'm just doing the same over and over.

When Palworld is working as intended, it is such a fun experience. The game is challenging in the best type of way. Growth isn’t easy, but it hits right when you progress. When you get your camp working and there aren’t any issues, Palworld may offer one of the best gameplay loops.

The Bad

I mentioned it earlier, but easily, the second most frustrating and aggravating element of Palworld is the building aspects. Your base is literally and figuratively the backbone of every base camp you build. Crafting benches and storage degrade when directly exposed to elements. You can repair these things, but keeping them indoors and in a safer location is much easier.

Initially, my million-dollar idea was to build a large base with floors dedicated to crafting. For example, the first floor would be general crafting, food storage, and incubation. The next floor would be weapon crafting and Pal accessories. From there, I wanted to create assembly lines on the above floors. The thing is, building in Palworld sucks. You have limited designs to place, and after a floor or two, you'll be lucky if you can even place a piece where you want it.

When building a multi-floor production base, I found myself with many unusable spaces and forced design choices that looked horrible. I also found that I couldn't even use some crafting areas because sometimes the game decided not to let me. Frankly, I wasn't all that mad when the equivalent of PETA in Palworld attacked my base and threw a firebomb that burned it all to the ground.

The worst part of Palworld can be a deal-breaker for some. Pals are an integral part of success in the game. Keeping them happy and productive will lead to quite a few boons. Unfortunately, Pals are dumb as hell. Pal pathing leaves a ton to be desired, and it's not uncommon to end up With Pals that are just stuck. Sometimes, Pals stop what they are doing and stand there until they are so starved and stressed that their lack of sanity causes them to develop ailments like depression or ulcers.

After building the proper armor to deal with the elements, I journeyed to the ice region. I set up my base to produce food and farm some resources so I could build some key upgrades when I returned. Imagine my surprise when my key Pals couldn't reach the feed bins on the ground beside their beds. Because the Pals in charge of farming berries stopped working, the berries spoiled in storage, and all my Pals were starving to a point where none were motivated anymore.

In my experience, there's no way to avoid things like this at this time. I left once and Came back to a Pal on my third floor, sleeping off his depression because of work conditions. What was it doing on the third floor? On top of this, Pals have a lot of struggles getting into structures you build, too.  I've had many times where a Pal cannot cross the threshold of a doorway because the base is just a few centimeters too high. You can't put stairs into the ground, so they just stand there and starve.

A Bright Future

I enjoy Palworld to this point. Sure, it isn’t the perfect game, but for an indie title, I’m impressed at the sheer amount of gameplay it offers. It is important to note that at this time, Palworld is in VERY early access. Pocketpair has stated that we won’t see a full 1.0 release until at least next year. The roadmap already has PvP, group raid, and Xbox and PC crossplay, so there is much to look forward to.

At $29.99, Palworld is one of the best gaming investments you can make right now, especially with the current state of AAA. It’s far from a perfect experience, but Pocketpair has already hit the ball out of the park with much of what the game has. 

If you want an enjoyable timesink that offers a ton of min/maxing and exploration, Palworld is worth checking out.

Full Disclosure: A copy was purchased for the purposes of this review. Reviewed on PC.

8.0 Great Early Access Review
  • Palworld is a fantastic entry into the survival genre.
  • The redundancy is limited; almost all aspects have a fun element.
  • Growth in Palworld is quick and easy yet also rewarding.
  • Building is a major weakpoint
  • Pal AI leaves a lot to be desired
  • Glitches are still rampant, and you’ll see many weird things

Early Access Reivew: This review is based on the Early Access launch of the game, and is not reflective of the game's status when it launches its 1.0 update.

To learn more about our approach to how we review Early Access and why we are applying scores to Early Access releases now, check out this post.


Josh Knowles

Longtime games journalist and Florida resident. I'm a Guinness World Record holder, wordsmith extraordinaire, JRPG fan, devoted dad and husband. I'm here to spread the gospel of video games