We've had the privilege of experiencing the wildly imaginative survival and construction game Palworld over the past couple of days, where you can capture Pals and put them to work like slaves.When we first introduced this game, the array of bizarre gameplay elements and the terrifying setting of dismembering Pals for food earned it a low initial score of 7. However, after actually playing it, we've found it to be more fun than expected and quite an enjoyable experience.
The world built with Unreal Engine 5 isn't breathtakingly beautiful, but it's decent, and the overall color scheme is quite vibrant and comfortable. The water effects look pretty good too. There are survival elements like fullness and temperature to keep an eye on. As usual, we started by chopping trees and mining, but soon, these tedious tasks were handed off to the Pals.
To survive in this world, you first need to find a spot to build your Pal Terminal, which serves as the center for your base. The Pal Terminal is essentially your Pal storage, where you can keep many Pals you've captured. You can select up to 5 Pals to join your team for adventures while assigning a few others as laborers to work at your base. Initially, you can only deploy one Pal as a laborer, but upgrading your Pal Terminal increases the number of Pals you can deploy.
To upgrade the Pal Terminal, you need to complete upgrade missions issued by the terminal. These missions are a form of guidance,leading you to build key facilities essential for development to ensure a good gaming experience, These are unlocked by spending tech points when your character reaches the required level, and are not too difficult to complete.
Work with Pal
Having Pals work for you is a major feature of the game, and it's much more fun and more interesting than one might expect. Construction and crafting at your base involve a concept of workload, requiring time to complete. Once you develop a bit, you simply can't keep up alone
and must delegate to your Pals to manage the daily construction and operation of the base.
All the tasks at the base are divided into 12 categories like starting fires, cooling, herding, and logging. For example, operating a wheat field first requires Pals with manual labor skills to build it, then those with sowing skills to plant the seeds, and those with watering skills to water the plants. Once the wheat is ripe, those capable of carrying will transport the wheat to nearby boxes for use in the mill. You forgot the hardest part! uh.. yeah..? Needs to be harvested before it can be transported. The wheat is turned into flour by watering in the mill,
and then baked into bread by Pals skilled in fire-starting, either in ovens or over campfires.
The bread produced can be placed in feed baskets for the Pals to eat
and boost their work efficiency, while a portion goes into the refrigerator for me to enjoy, which in turn requires Pals with "cooling" skills to maintain. Just this string of tasks would take an eternity if done by humans alone, not to mention the countless other tasks like tree-cutting, stone-mining, and smelting.
Different Pals have different work skills, and each type of work skill has innate proficiency levels specific to each species. For example, the Blazing Dragon is not only great at starting fires but also has a level 3 carrying ability. Moreover, each Pal has various passive traits that further affect their combat and work capabilities, which are randomly assigned. Even Pals of the same species will have different passive traits. Those with traits like Craftsmanship, Diligence, or Diet Master are worth cultivating. While those with Lazy Addiction, Clumsiness,
or Bottomless Stomach, unless they have great combat traits, are best used as raw materials for enhancing other Pals.
To make identification easier, you can also rename your Pals. Additionally, Pals have hunger and SAN values; working or fighting causes SAN to drop slowly. Low SAN leads to frequent breaks or lethargy, so it's important to ensure they rest and eat well. Building facilities like hot springs can effectively restore SAN, while actions like medicating them to speed up their work will cause a sharp drop in SAN. Pals with the Positive Thinking trait can last a little longer.
As you progress in the game and your level increases, you'll gradually unlock countless facilities and items, requiring a large labor force to operate. Thus, you need to capture various Pals from around the world to enrich your Pal pool and strategically allocate and optimize your Pal labor force based on the current situation of your base, making it run efficiently. This is quite an interesting aspect so you can't just let a Pal work because it looks cute, you know. No, I can! Being pleasing to the eye is also a job you can't replace the only watering-capable penguin with a good-looking Pal, leaving me to do all the watering. Yes, there is you. In a sense, you are also a Pal. In this regard, you can either exploit your Pals with grueling work or treat them well and make your base a paradise for Pals, which I always clash over.
How about killing this one? How can you think of killing the ones in our home? Aside from the rich and intriguing settings, the design of Pal's motions in the game is also quite excellent. Pals move adorably, and they are endowed with a variety of animation modules.For instance, different Pals have unique carrying postures, bathing motions, and reactions to being petted. While tree-cutting and mining,
some small Pals wield axes and pickaxes, while others, like wild boars, use their tusks to dig stones, crown dragons use their tails to knock trees, and purple mist deer use their antlers to butt trees.
This lifelike portrayal of Pals, as if they were endowed with souls, greatly enhances the immersive experience, making even a single-player game feel like your base is bustling with life. In terms of the gameplay of surviving and building with Pals, the experience you get even from the early access version is quite impressive. I think it's been done very well.
Fight with Pal
Next, let’s take a look at the combat aspect of the Pals, which is also quite fun. Firstly, like players, Pals can level up, gaining experience through both combat and work. There are nine attributes such as fire, earth, dragon, etc., and some Pals may have dual attributes, for example, the little penguin possesses both Water and Ice attributes.Then, each Pal has a "Partner Skill", which is a unique skill inherent to each type of Pal, highlighting the distinctive characteristics of the species. For instance, the little sheep can be used as a shield, the chicken lays eggs, the firefox can act as a flamethrower, some can be used as flying mounts, and others can increase the attack power of specific attribute Pals in the team, and so on.
Currently, there are 111 types of Pals in the game, which means there are 111 Partner Skills available, offering a wide variety. You can choose up to 5 Pals to join your team for adventures, though only one Pal can be summoned at a time, the passive Partner Skills of all five are active simultaneously. So, you can select 5 Pals to create different builds based on the situation.
For example, when going out for a gathering, you could include a Mischievous Cat in the team to increase backpack-carrying capacity or a Mud-Slinging to increase logging damage. When setting out to explore and treasure hunt, you could bring a Punk Duck that reveals the locations of nearby dungeons, and for fighting bosses and elite monsters, you would assemble the five strongest Pals you have for the most powerful combat force. Each Pal can learn three attack skills, which are gradually unlocked as the Pal levels up.
Attack skills not only come with attribute judgments, but many also have effects like knockback, frozen, or paralyzed, making the battles between Pals quite impressive even the fights between the weakest Pals like chickens and sheep, are earth-shattering and moving. Besides these three attack skills, many Pal Partner Skills provide additional combat options, such as the electric hedgehog that can be thrown to cause thunderstorms, but you first need to craft special gloves. The jade-leaf mouse can jump onto your head and attack your target, but you need to craft a special machine gun for it, and so on. Some Pals' Partner Skills allow them to be used as mounts, and when riding a Pal, not only does your movement speed increase, but you can also use the Pal's skills to engage in mounted combat. Here you also get to know the cooldown time for each Pal’s skills. Additionally, being in the mounted state doesn’t hinder you from activities like opening treasure chests, shooting arrows, or even throwing Pal balls to capture Pals. This design is very user-friendly.
Moreover, by observing, you can discover different hidden traits among Pals. For instance, when walking in the wild with a large Pal, small pals are scared away from a distance, but they are not so afraid when I'm alone. These chickens have question marks on their heads saying:
Huh? What happened? That’s what you get for being nosy! That’s what you get for...
Large amounts like the Purple Mist Deer can injure small animals just by walking over them, and while the Wolf can't do a double jump like the Deer, its riding speed is faster, and so on. Every so often in the game, there will be a Siege Event where a horde of creatures attack your base, which everyone probably enjoys. Unlike the wilderness battles where you can only summon one Pal to fight, the base is full of laborers working, so when it comes under attack, it turns into a massive brawl, which is quite thrilling. As technology advances, you can also build sandbags, assign a Pal to be on constant guard, or enclose the base with large fences, but we've kept the base open to preserve the beautiful scenery.
So far, the monsters that come to siege have all met a dismal end. Besides Pals, you are also a force to be reckoned with. You can equip various armors, and weapons, and distribute skill points.During combat, you can dodge, the movements are agile, and the sense of impact is also quite satisfying, so the experience of fighting alongside Pals is pretty good too. I want to add something! you can make clothes here, right?
If you can get your hands on a better blueprint you could even make clothes of a rare, higher quality. uh. Is there even have Blueprint? Yes! you can get blueprints from opening treasure chests, or you can buy them from that merchant. Do the clothes you made for me.... Yes, they are made from a blueprint.
The game's world is quite vast. You can explore it in various ways, including on foot, swimming, climbing, gliding, and riding. Different Pals inhabit different areas, and you can check the habitat for each type of Pal in the Pal handbook. The game also features a day-night cycle. At night, many small Pals simply lie down and sleep in the wild. Attacking them during this time guarantees critical hits and makes them easier to capture.
Some Pals only appear at night. When using a Pal ball to catch a Pal,
aiming at the Pal and holding down to charge will display the capture success rate beforehand, which is affected by the target Pal's level,
remaining health, and whether it's facing the player, among other factors. If your Pal team is full, any captured Pals automatically go to the Pal pool in the Pal Terminal, which is very convenient. Plus, when capturing, you still get resources from the Pal, the same as you would from killing it, so there's no need to worry about not getting high-level resources when capturing Boss Pals.
Another thoughtful design. Sometimes you'll encounter rare versions of ordinary Pals; these rare Pals will shine brightly, always having the "Rare" trait which boosts attack power and work speed. The size will also be especially big~!
Moreover, their combination of three attack skills differs from that of their common counterparts, and they are larger. I like to put elite Pals to work as laborers, which often puts our base operations into serious jeopardy. Around the world, you will occasionally encounter NPCs or notes, from which you can learn the background story of this world. While exploring, you might stumble upon Pal hunters' dens, where the bad guys and Pals are battling each other. After eliminating the enemies, you can recruit the Pals from cages into your Pal pool. There are also NPC villages scattered around, but we were too busy traveling to experience this content.
According to the official introduction, there are multiple factions in the world of Pal, each with corresponding gameplay. We only know that you can also attack these NPCs. Near our first base, there was a Pal Defense Force camp. We mistook the NPCs for monsters or bandits
due to their health bars and accidentally attacked them, which spiraled out of control, and we ended up being wanted. But our Palus fought to a draw with them, our little sheep and such.
There are various dungeons scattered across the world for you to delve into, with intricate paths, treasure chests, monsters, and bosses waiting for you at the end of the dungeons. But be careful of bumping your head while walking underground. In addition to dungeons, you'll encounter nests of bosses, and the bosses inside are formidable. Fortunately, there's usually a teleportation point near the boss's lair. It's recommended to teleport back to your base, switch to your strongest Pal lineup, and then return to fight.
Bosses are valuable assets once captured, they can be entrusted with important tasks. For example, our first captured boss, the Wave Blade Warrior, has the Partner Skill of Ultimate Iai Slash and possesses fire, ice, and grass attribute skills, with level 2 fire-starting and carrying abilities, and a level 3 lumbering skill, making him extremely fast at cutting wood, with cool actions even while sleeping and bathing.Lastly, there are towers scattered across the world, and your ultimate goal is to defeat the bosses inside all the towers. Every time you defeat them, you'll earn ancient tech points, which can be used to unlock powerful ancient technologies, Sounds a bit familiar.
While exploring the world, there's the above content to enjoy, but we feel the world is a bit hollow. Although we occasionally come across beautiful fields of flowers and different terrains like green forests, maple woods, and yellow leaf forests both visually and content-wise,it seems a bit thin. Of course, we've only explored a small part of the entire map and hope that the areas we haven't had the chance to explore hold many more surprises for us. Constructions Apart from interacting with Pals, similar to other survival construction games,the game features a complete housing and building system.
In this regard, the game has another thoughtful design: within the range of the Pal Terminal, items placed in boxes can be used globally, anywhere. There's no need to carry a bunch of wood in your backpack just to construct building modules, Pals making items will also use resources globally. It seems that global resource access and de-gendering character creation are becoming trends in recent game development.
Global resource access not only greatly facilitates building and crafting processes but also eliminates the need to remember what items are in which box. So you can build boxes everywhere, and just throw things into the nearest one. It's very convenient, and in Palworld, many decorative items come with built-in box functionality, so the boxes are placed all around the base to make it look more natural and lively.In terms of building houses, the game uses a weak load-bearing mechanism, which means as long as there is a wall roughly underneath, you can build upwards without needing to design a load-bearing structure. In terms of building materials, besides wooden structures, you can unlock stone and metal buildings as your character levels up. The game provides a limited number of building modules, but it's enough to construct a decent house.
Perhaps because this is an early access version, there are some flaws in construction, such as roofs being difficult to position and align, the inability to extend stairs downwards, and difficulty expanding from higher to lower levels because stairs don't align with the foundation.We hope these issues will be improved in the future release. One advantage of construction is the variety of decorations, which are finely modeled and distinctive. Various styles of cabinets and furniture like wardrobes can store items. Oddly, though, you can't sit on chairs.What you're seeing now is the indoor scene we decorated at character level 22. Later on, you can unlock more unique decorations like showers and pianos. You can also unlock an electrical system, powered by electric Pals, to use electric lights and other power facilities, which should make the interior decoration even more attractive.
The houses you build will also provide shelter effects. The temperature drops sharply at night, and if you're not wearing warm clothes, you'll lose health outdoors. However, you'll be fine if you enter a house with a roof. Besides houses, as you level up, you can build various quirky facilities, such as a Pal compressor for strengthening Pals, and even a breeding ranch to crossbreed different Pals.
During the two days I played online, we didn't experience any disconnections. However, there seems to be an issue with the synchronization between players; the movement of the connected player was noticeably jerky and not smooth, and sometimes the other player would temporarily disappear. When playing online, if you get downed, you can be revived by a teammate. This happened when we were fighting a boss. The dungeons around the world can be entered by multiple players together, but the tower boss fights are solo only.
At the Pal Terminal, each connected player has their own independent Pal pool, and each person can only see the Pals they've captured. However, the worker Pals deployed are shared and synchronized between the connected players. So if I take a Pal from my pool and deploy it as a base worker, then another player can reclaim this worker Pal into his pool.
In terms of building and crafting, since all work tasks in the game take time, teaming up with a partner in the early stages when there are few Pals can significantly increase efficiency. How did this get reversed?
Don't you think it's backward? A single player can only summon one Pal at a time, but two connected players can have two Pals out simultaneously. Having two people with two Pals each can be quite enjoyable as you can outnumber many other creatures, and it would likely be more lively with more players. Plus, each player can bring along five Pals, so you can also experiment with pal-build coordination.For example, I could have an attack-oriented squad of Pals, while another player might have a build of five creatures focused on healing and support.
Overall, Palworld is much more fun than expected and surprisingly brilliant. This is thanks to the development team's efforts in the game's core mechanism, the Pal system. They have worked extensively with a variety of Pals, job types, attributes, and skills.
By providing a generous amount and enriching the Pals with a variety of random traits, they have increased the fun and replay value of collecting Pals. Coupled with the adorable and varied Pal behavior modules, as well as all sorts of thoughtful and convenient designs,the overall experience is quite good. However, the somewhat sparse world makes me wonder if it can sustain the post-novelty phase of gameplay. If managed well post-launch, I believe this game could be
a da..dark horse in the survival construction genre stirring up more excitement in the already competitive landscape of 2024.
Of course, there are still many areas for improvement, like the lack of a mini-map and some emptiness, among other things. It all depends on the developers post-launch.