Recently released into the wild, palworld is an open world, survival game clearly inspired by and satire of pokemon games. It feels like playing a baby of Ark Survival and Pokemon, sprinkled with many goofy elements and a stamina system based of recent Zelda games, where as long as you have stamina, you can climb on nearly everything.
I can’t describe the game as anything other than a breath of fresh air: The past year, with few exceptions like Lethal Company and Palworld, every single game felt like just more of the same. Nintendo could learn a lot from this, if they weren’t a soulless corporation who hates their fans. The game is everything pokemon could have been(although without the gun elements) but isn’t. Why make something new and good when you can copy paste old with slightly better graphics?
Palworld VS Pokemon
If you played one pokemon game, you played all of them. That’s an opinion I and many others share. It’s the Fifa of RPGs: You pick your starter in a small town, explore, bad group doing bad things, you beat them as you make your way through generic gyms, world is saved, rinse and repeat. The formula has been the same all the way back from red/blue/yellow until today’s Sword and Shield. All that really changed has been graphics.
Some people say “Oh but the regions/pokemons are different!”, and yea they’re “different”, but that doesn’t change anything. Mainly not when pokemons are getting less and less creative, with things like a keychain pokemon, a garbage can pokemon, icecream pokemon, etc and regions aren’t creative, they’re just parodies of real world places.
Now let’s talk new: Palworld clearly has creatures inspired by pokemon… but that’s all. You can give your penguin-looking creature a rocket launcher, you can climb the bones of a giant, long-dead thing in the water to grab a chest above, fuse together multiple pals to get stronger ones or nurture one you like from egg to godhood. You can find massive, territorial boss pals walking around, fighting others to protect its territory, place traps for people and pals, explore dungeons, build a massive base and have it raided by people or pals who may either try to self explode inside, rob your pals or just kill everything. It’s a game you can play online in massive servers for up to 32 people at a time, offline by yourself, or with friends in a small, up to 4 players server.
And not only there’s all that, but if you like games with lore, there are many NPCs you can find(or who’ll find you) and talk to, giving you insight about what goes on and how the world works. There are also lost logs and diary entries that can be found nearly everywhere, that tell the story of characters who walked the place before you.
A new trend
This isn’t a first. The past few games that have blown out everywhere were, for the most part, indies. Palworld, Lethal Company, Among Us, Subnautica, Party Animals, Valheim, Phasmophobia, etc all are indie games that stuck with people a lot more than any AAA this past decade. When was the last a Call of Duty, Halo, Assassin’s Creed or Pokemon innovated like them?
When game companies become giants, just like any other company, they go through enshitification: Services become shit and cheaply made, everything new is a copy paste of something old just slightly changed(probably for some A/B testing) and nothing deviates from a formula, in order to make as much money to the suits at the top while spending as little time, effort and money into a project. This is how AAA games are made.
Indie games don’t suffer from this. When a random dude in a basement is making what’s going to become the next best seller at steam, they don’t develop it with that goal in mind, they try to make something fun, to play with his friends or to try out some new idea that existed in the back of their head for some time. There may be a million indie games that try something and fail to get the clicks, but this wild competition and the fun it involves forces people to innovate, be it in graphic style, story, gameplay or a combination of it all. Indie developers have no billionaire CEO who never played a videogame in their lives expecting them to make a new hit while overworked and underpaid.
So, in my humble opinion? Palworld is a very welcome new thing. Despite the boomer media crying about how its “violent”(Have they heard of GTA?) and “just a joke that goes too far”, I caught myself playing it for well over 11 hours non-stop on my FIRST day, and I couldn’t recommend it more!