Pokémon has long been the undisputed champion in the creature-collecting genre. However, the latest contender, Palworld, a hybrid survival game developed by indie studio Pocketpair, and its millions of week-1 fans, have easily outshined over a decade of Nintendo dominance.
The game’s unique blend of survival elements from titles like Rust and Ark: Survival Evolved, coupled with Pokémon-inspired gameplay, has captured the attention of gamers worldwide. With over eight million copies sold just on Steam alone in barely a week of being out, Nintendo’s got a lot to learn from this indie hit.
#Palworld has sold over 8 million copies in less than 6 days!
Thank you very much!!
— Palworld (@Palworld_EN) January 25, 2024
Palworld’s Diverse Appeal
Palworld has managed to captivate a broad audience by taking the fundamentals of creature collecting and infusing them with survival game elements. Unlike Pokémon, which has traditionally catered to a younger demographic, Palworld tips the scales by incorporating concepts like guns, Pal butchering, and even capturing other humans.
Despite all that, the game also retains the cartoon-like charm that attracts younger fans. Palworld’s success lies in its ability to appeal to a wide range of players, combining gameplay features desired by fans in a genre dominated by Pokémon. Though I won’t deny it, they did take inspiration from many Pokémon designs.
Palworld outshines Pokémon in the realm of multiplayer interactions. While Pokémon has only recently started embracing a more robust multiplayer experience, Palworld’s early access state has already surpassed these efforts. Palworld allows players to host co-op or dedicated servers, enabling them to experience the entire game together.
This flexibility fosters a sense of competition or cooperation, appealing to players with diverse gaming styles. The result is a more immersive and memorable multiplayer experience, an aspect where Pokémon has historically lagged. Plus, the promise of adding large-scale PvP in the future also got Pokémon beat in the co-op department.
Palworld’s multiplayer mechanics not only enhance cooperative gameplay but also open the door for players to create unique memories in a free-roaming and dynamic world. Pokémon, with its limited multiplayer features, could take inspiration from Palworld’s success in creating a more engaging and expansive multiplayer environment.
Palworld’s Visual Overhaul
Despite starting off with a modest budget of $10,000 and a small development team, the game manages to outshine Pokémon in terms of graphics. While Pokémon’s visual appeal has often been constrained by the limitations of the Nintendo Switch, Palworld, built on Unreal Engine 5 for PC, delivers a more polished and visually appealing experience.
The graphical prowess of Palworld becomes even more commendable considering the challenges faced during its development, with four of the original five members having zero experience working with Unreal Engine. Not only did they almost go bankrupt in the progress, but they also had one guy teaching them the whole process the entire time.
I mean, seriously, Game Freak doesn’t even bother making attack animations for certain moves. Palworld demonstrates the potential for improvement in Pokémon’s visual presentation. As a multi-billion-dollar franchise, Pokémon could invest more in elevating its graphics to provide a more immersive and visually stunning gaming experience.
Guess which one of these games was made by a multi-billion dollar company pic.twitter.com/eD6xxhjgKU
— Opera GX (@operagxofficial) January 23, 2024
One of the standout features of Palworld is its exceptional performance, running smoothly on platforms like Xbox Series X and PC. This performance superiority is partly attributed to the advanced hardware capabilities of these platforms compared to the Nintendo Switch. We can only hope that the Switch 2 addresses all the existing issues.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, at launch, suffered from significant performance issues, including frame rate drops and low-quality textures. While patches have addressed some problems, occasional hiccups still persist. Pokémon game developers should prioritize optimizing performance.
While achieving the level of performance seen in Palworld may be challenging, a smoother gaming experience on the next Pokémon installment is crucial for making a positive first impression. It’s 2024 already, and it shouldn’t be a hot take that a full-priced game shouldn’t be a clunky mess.
Better Crafting Mechanics
While Pokémon has incorporated light crafting mechanics in recent generations, Palworld takes crafting to a whole new level. From camps to weapons of mass destruction, Palworld offers a diverse crafting experience that surpasses Pokémon’s attempts. Most of this can be attributed to the game’s genre though.
Palworld’s survival game aspect intensifies the need for crafting, introducing different armor for harsh biomes, tools to enhance Pal-catching, and quality-of-life items like gliders and grappling guns. Palworld’s crafting mechanics not only contribute to the immersive survival experience but also provide players with a wide array of options.
Automation in the later stages of the game allows players to focus more on gameplay than crafting, striking a balance that Pokémon’s crafting system could benefit from. By expanding crafting options and incorporating more meaningful and diverse crafting elements, Pokémon could enhance the overall gaming experience.
An Actual Open World
Palworld embraces a truly open-world design, contrasting with Pokémon’s recent attempts to move in that direction. While Pokémon games like Scarlet and Violet allow players to choose their path, Palworld eliminates the barriers imposed by level differences and offers a more seamlessly connected world.
Palworld’s approach to level differences and challenge distribution creates a non-linear experience, allowing players to explore any part of the island without artificial restrictions. Pokémon could learn from Palworld’s open-world design philosophy by offering a more expansive and interconnected game world.
But despite the freedom of exploration, there’s still not much for players to explore aside from Pal biomes. The game’s only been out for a few days though, so I won’t be holding that against them for now. I won’t be surprised if the map gets updated in future versions either, giving players more Pals and/or more land to explore.
— JAP (@JapanQC) January 22, 2024
A New Level Of Pal Interactions
Palworld introduces a level of interaction between players and their creatures that surpasses Pokémon’s recent efforts. Beyond fighting alongside Pals, Palworld’s unique features like mount capabilities and Pal reactions elevate interaction dynamics. Mounts in Palworld aren’t just for transportation; they come with distinct features.
The features can turn your pals into impromptu tools or weapons when the situation calls for it. Take Forxspark for example. As the name suggests, it’s a fire-type pal that you also can use as a portable flame thrower for lighting campfires and the occasional syndicate thug. The crafting and gathering system involving Pals adds another layer of engagement.
Each Pal has specific skills, such as crafting, gathering, or watering, contributing to the player’s resource management without tedious manual collection. Pokémon, in its evolution of creature interaction, could benefit from incorporating more meaningful and varied interactions, enhancing the bond between players and their Pokémon.
No comments on the combat styles since, obviously, the games are completely different genres. One is more strategic and turn-based, and the other lets you fly over your enemies while dropping hellfire missiles on their wooden bases and then selling the survivors off on the black market for spending money. I’ll let you guess which is which.
You can also sell them on the black market (they're worth a LOT) or, if you need materials, pic.twitter.com/qIDjC9Dj79
— Coney (@CONEY) January 17, 2024
More Mature Themes
Palworld ventures into darker and more mature themes, showcasing a willingness to tackle complex subjects within a traditionally family-friendly genre. While I know that the primary audience for Pokémon games is children, many older fans, like myself, grew up with the franchise. By this, I don’t mean that Nintendo should let us kill NPCs either.
“Detective Pikachu Returns,” despite its occasional clunkiness, demonstrated Pokémon’s potential to engage with heavier subject matter, such as corruption and domestic troubles. Pokémon doesn’t necessarily need to adopt all the extreme content. However, a more sophisticated narrative could add depth to the gaming experience.
Palworld emerges as a formidable challenger to Pokémon, demonstrating that there’s room for innovation and improvement in the creature-collecting genre. While Palworld is not without its imperfections, its early access state already outshines recent Pokémon games at launch.
Pokémon has the opportunity to learn valuable lessons from Palworld’s success. By embracing these lessons, Pokémon can evolve to meet the expectations of a diverse and ever-growing fan base, ensuring its continued dominance in the world of creature-collecting games.
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