The open world game looks serene and adorable until tanks, machine guns, and cat-prisons appear. Also a penguin gets crushed by a dinosaur.
There’s always been something a bit unsettling about the bright and cheery world of Pokémon. It’s all adorable and charming and sweet until you start thinking about the implications of capturing and imprisoning magical creatures and forcing them into gladiatorial combat at the hands of pre-teens.
So maybe Palworld isn’t that bizarre after all: It’s a Pokémon-like creature-collecting survival game that’s filled with colorful creatures to collect… but it’s also packed with machine guns, tanks, and rocket launchers. Instead of little poke-ball prisons, there are actual prisons, and the captured critters can be used as forced labor to build weapons and mine resources. If anything, maybe Palworld is just more honest about things than Pokémon is. The critters are cute, but war never is. Deal with it.
The new Pal reveal trailer above shows off (and finally gives names to) many of Palworld’s lovely (and heavily Pokémon-inspired) animals. But while gazing at the beauty of creatures like the flying jetragon, galloping herds of pyrin, giggling daedream, and mystical woodland vaelet, it’s hard not to notice all the, y’know, brutal violence taking place.
Things first go awry with the pengullet, a tiny blue penguin-like creature, happily wandering toward an apple on the ground, presumably to munch on it. Suddenly, it (the pengullet, not the apple) is brutally crushed underfoot by some sort of rampaging dinosaur-like creature. A lamball (a fluffy sheep-thing) and a lovander (a pink bipedal wolf) are scampering through a field together, but then you notice the lamball is fleeing and sobbing in fear and the lovander is, well, in a predatory and amorous mood. Palworld looks cheerful but the dread really seeps in quickly.
Then all pretext is dropped as we see a player straight-up emptying mags from an assault rifle into a number of large creatures, followed by a minecart jammed full of cattiva (cute cat creatures, one of them crying) being hauled into a prison fortress guarded by gun-toting goons. And you can’t miss the cute-as-heck monkey critter called a tanzee running through the snow, an excited smile on its face, an AK-47 in its hands?
(Image credit: Pocketpair)
There’s more combat as the player and the tanzee mow down a mob of charging animals and a pikachu-like creature is used as a flamethrower to ambush a gentle-looking dinosaur wearing a crown. A number of military tanks roll into battle where they’re met by several lamballs stationed behind heavy machine guns and quickly dispatched by a player hanging from a glider while using a rocket launcher. The music remains cheery and triumphant throughout the carnage.
So, yeah. Weird! Palworld looks cute and off-putting all at once, and the game’s Steam page mentions more horrors about your Pals in passing, like that you can “slaughter them to eat.” When it comes to putting them to work in factories, Pals “will work forever as long as they’re fed until the end of their lifetime” and “labor laws won’t be applied to Pals.”
That’s one colorful dystopia. The trailer doesn’t give us any more information on a potential release date, but Palworld’s Steam page says it’s due out in 2023.
Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he’d stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He’s also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.