The moment I set up the blueprints for a wooden chest and my Cattiva ran over to help construct it, a sense of relief washed over me. Palworld is the survival-crafting game that finally gets me: the player who is fascinated by this genre, but never wants to invest all the time and energy it takes to build sprawling, intricate bases and play supply chain simulator.

Palworld takes a remarkably simple yet explosively popular premise: take the building, crafting, and exploration of Minecraft (or ARK, LEGO Fortnite, etc), and sprinkle in Pokémon-like creature collecting. But the most important leap forward is that the Pals aren’t just there to be cute and battle each other: they’re also perfectly automated little laborers.

Base Camp

It helps that Palworld also has a much smoother start than most crafting games.

Inspired by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, new players start on an elevated position, showing (and teasing) the wider world beyond.

As I gently make my way down the stone steps, tutorial messages help guide me through movement and controls. It’s easy to whip up a primitive workbench and start thwacking Pals with a stick, then capturing them by hurling a Pokéba—er Pal Sphere.

A little further down the mountain I look for a wider, flat area near a river and waterfall to set up my first base, and plop down my Palbox. The Palbox is basically a Pokécenter where captured Pals are kept when they’re not in my active party.

It’s also where I assign Pals to work at the base.

Lamball is another early game Pal who helps around the base.

A starting base can only support a single Pal worker. In addition to combat stats and abilities, each Pal has a sanity meter, and work skills. The sanity meter determines how long they can work before they need a break (I feel you, little buddies!), while work skills determine which jobs they can perform, and how efficient they are at that task.

Cattiva is a fantastic early game Pal, as the little cat-guy can mine ore, gather food from farms, transport goods to storage chests, and help build new buildings or items at crafting benches.

Other Pals can only do one thing when assigned to a base. The fiery fox Foxparks only has the kindling skill, but it’s also dedicated to that singular task of cooking food or smelting ingots, ensuring those tasks are completed every time they’re available.

Pals Wanted

My base increases in level as I build certain facilities, acting as a wonderful guiding tool for expanding my base, and determining which upgrades I need to unlock on the technology tree.

I appreciate that Palworld doesn’t care much about my base’s actual buildings or aesthetic, something I rarely have the patience for in these games. Instead I can focus on the things that really matter: berry farms for feeding pals, logging camps for generating wood, beds for making sure every Pal has a place to rest.

In fact, only my personal bed (which I rarely use) has to be placed inside a building!

Thanks to the handiwork and transportation Pal skills, I rarely have to lift a finger. My base produces more than enough food, and creates plenty of stone and wood. I still have to select recipes at the crusher and smelter (such as iron ingots, and the quantity) but can otherwise walk away while another Pal jumps in to start producing.

I’m left to do to all the fun stuff, like exploring the world, leveling up, unlocking new technology, and capturing new Pals.

Eikthyrdeer are found early on, but they’re tricky to capture.

Each time my base levels up, I unlock another slot for a hard-working Pal. Soon I have over half a dozen Pals working various jobs, including a hilariously gigantic Chikipi (a rare lucky variant of the bulbous chicken) who lays more eggs than I know what to do with.

After several more hours I was excited to finally catch the elusive Eikthyrdeer as a potential ridable Pal, only to discover it had a level 2 logging skill as its sole work skill. That big, beautiful, purple deer is now hard at work at my logging camp building up some much needed wood reserves, as well as felling any pesky trees nearby.

I’ve now reached the point where having a dedicated transportation Pal would be quite helpful in bringing all the produced goods from the production sites into my storage chests. I’m still playing supply chain simulator in some ways, but now I feel like a boss making specialized hiring decisions, rather than an overworked employee who wears every hat at the company.

Palworld has cured my apprehension at jumping into this popular genre. Far from a Pokémon clone, it’s a smart evolution of the Minecraft formula that capitalizes on everyone’s bottomless infatuation with Pokémon creature collecting, not to mention the large world, huge number of Pals, randomized dungeons, and challenging boss battles.

Palworld is available now via Early Access on Steam PC and Xbox.

This article was written by

Eric has been writing for over nine years with bylines at Dicebreaker, Pixelkin, Polygon, PC Gamer, Tabletop Gaming magazine, and more covering movies, TV shows, video games, tabletop games, and tech. He reviews and live streams D&D adventures every week on his YouTube channel. He also makes a mean tuna quesadilla.