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My Problem With Palworld

We here at TYG are always looking for the next great multiplayer game and the opportunity presented by Palworld was one we were much anticipating. Combining the survival mechanics of Ark Survival with the collect-them-all appeal of Pokémon, Palworld offers a challenging and entertaining spin on the well-loved formats, but I have one major problem with it.

mashy's avatar and her pal crusing through the desert killing pals

Having created our own server, the members of TYG quickly set about making our guilds, building our camps and setting out into the open world of Pals to capture and destroy as we saw fit. By levelling up your character through catching Pals, murdering enemies and crafting, you unlock new items for your base, slowly adding to your arsenal of craftable items and storage solutions.

You can also unlock gear and medicines to craft for your pals. These range from saddles and harnesses to things like machine guns and rocket launchers designed for others. The saddles allow you to explore using Pals with flying, swimming and running abilities, which helps to open up the map. Whereas the weapons are utilised during battles and base raids.

mashy's avatar approaching a blue creature with big ears and a long ferret like body

Pals also help to generate resources for your base. Each has a selection of tasks they can perform with different levels indicating their proficiency. Placing workstations on your base, your Pals will be able to generate stone, wood, food and all kinds of useful things, provided you keep them happy in the meantime.

Pals are your friends. They accompany you in battles against poachers and cheer alongside you when they complete a task. You hatch them from eggs and nurture them into the perfect Pals, before returning once again to the wild to hunt, explore and capture. Here’s where things start to become problematic for me.

mashy's avatar overlooking the base of another guild

You see, providing you have not changed the server settings, your Pals grow hungry over time. Regardless of your efforts to set up your base, and provide ovens and berries, baths and beds, a perpetual server still requires you to check in and maintain your bases. Although the issues with Pals glitching and becoming depressed or injured have been largely patched, there is still a degree of necessity to ensure you don’t return to find your base in ruin. In this regard, I am reminded of Pokémon Channel for the GameCube, where Pikachu would be sad whenever you broke your however-many-days-long play streak, because your Pals would starve and pass out if neglected long enough.

Thus began my cycle of logging in multiple times a day, collecting daily resources and tending to my Pals, because Gods forbid we ever let our Pals down.

a new challenger approaches - a cool looking trainer and his pal appear
a dude with blue eyes holding a magical blue sphere

With the update this has become less of a task as having to heal 10-16 pals at each of our multiple bases was no longer a daily chore, but there were still issues. I rebuilt bases multiple times, installing foundations and managing food and resource production. With my map completed and my guildmates offline, I would check in to see my Pals, teleport to the resource points, and continue until my progress was halted by a full backpack or lack of health and ammo. Returning to base, I would reset all my Pals and their current tasks before setting out once more to collect whichever resources I needed to line up craft stations to work until I next return.

This is when I fell into the “routine syndrome” which I find happens with most farming/life-sims where I fall into a work routine and the game itself becomes somewhat inconsequential. While I have, at present, amassed over 90 hours of gaming in Palworld, I have to question how many hours of gameplay were actually spent exploring outside of my base.

Pals surrounding the food pail

That is not to say I have not enjoyed my time with Palworld. The graphics are smooth and the world is beautiful despite some asset repetition. Unlocking crafting items to enhance your base means there are always ways to improve upon your base and building the perfect home for my Pals gave me a sense of accomplishment. The battle mechanics with the Pals are not the best and my Pals often glitched in boss battles, but they didn’t make much of a difference once I unlocked the automatic rifles. Exploration is also fun and rewarding – it’s just missing something.

As much as the emotional blackmail from the imminent threat of my Pals’ demise locked me into a daily work cycle, there’s a definite drop off in content once you reach the later levels. Teaming up to defeat bosses makes conquering the map even easier and having guildmates to aid in item gathering and maintenance ate into my daily chores leaving me with fewer tasks to keep me busy between sessions.

paldeck entry for Lamball
a filled skill tree

Palworld is still in Early Access, however, and there are already plans for new Raid Bosses and teasers for additional content to come. Capping the game at level 50 and stopping players like myself from advancing too far ahead of our less invested companions also makes sense and is a tried and tested method used on lots of MMOs – and let’s face it, Palworld is basically an MMO, which I think may be the root of my issue.

There is something of a story to be found here. A lore and some hints of politics and rivalries can be derived from journals and subtext, but for the most part, this is a survival game. Much like the way The Walking Dead slowly diminished over the course of the series’, survival games tend to lack a definitive ending or win scenario causing viewers and players to slowly lose interest and drop off over time. With no story ending, the game lacks a clear stopping point yet offers little in ways of end-game content, at least at present.

a kitchen with a fridge and oven making food

Much like MMOs the minimal story also means your actions on the world are somewhat inconsequential also. Defeating a raid boss, taking down a tower or clearing out poachers begins to mean little when they just pop back up. So other than the need to survive and provide for my Pals, the only real goal I am left with is filling out the Pal-dex entries which requires I capture ten of each Pal to fully achieve.

Similarly to games like Minecraft, Stardew Valley and Ark Survival, PalWorld offers players easy-to-achieve objectives and beginner goals before leaving you to explore the rest of the mechanics for yourself. These early goals often work as a tutorial of sorts, but then what? Do you explore wildly in hopes of finding the single item which is holding you back or do you do a wiki deep-dive in search of the perfect resource locations?

Mashy's avatar gliding through the air over a green landscape

As a survival game Palworld certainly hits all the right notes. It also does a great job as a monster collector game (potential AI and copyright issues notwithstanding) and lends itself to those gotta-catch-em-all urges in a mature package which many Pokémon fans have been longing for. There’s just not enough going on outside of this to keep players engaged after hitting the high-level plateau.

I have hopes that the introduction of new Raid Bosses and islands will keep the endless grind somewhat fresh, but without the addition of more MMO-style elements and solo experiences such as side-quests, I fear I am ever closer to a new hyper-fixation that will tear me away from my Pals never to return again…





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