ESPORTS DISCOVERY

Palworld Early Access Review – Xbox/PC Game Pass Version

Note: This review is specifically for the version of Palworld available on Xbox and through the Microsoft Store on PC. If you haven’t seen our review of the Steam version, go check that out first! Nearly everything we said there still applies to this review, which will instead focus specifically on what’s different with this version.

Palworld has taken the world by storm! And with good reason: shooting cartoon animals with assault weapons then forcing them to mine ore for you all day is alarmingly fun. But those playing on the Xbox and Microsoft Store versions that are widely accessible through Game Pass have been treated to a noticeably different experience – one I’ve seen firsthand after playing over 50 hours on Xbox since wrapping up my time with the far more polished Steam version. Unfortunately the Xbox build has quite a few additional bugs and performance issues, a missing feature here and there, and multiplayer that’s limited to just four players with no option for dedicated servers. Those blemishes are expected from an Early Access game that’s still very much under development, but it definitely feels like a significantly less complete package.

The most immediately noticeable way this version of Palworld differs is that it consistently performs worse. While graphical bugs, pop-in, and framerate dips are certainly present on Steam, they’re much more glaring on Xbox, and flying around the world for any length of time is bound to lead to extremely blurry textures that sometimes never fully load even when you get really close to them. In a few instances, a weird lightning-like light started flickering and didn’t go away until I went back to the main menu. The worst among these discrepancies, though, are the sound effects on Xbox, which are all over the place in terms of quality. Some noises are extremely low quality and sound like you’re listening through an old walkie talkie, while other sound effects are just missing altogether. None of these issues were enough of a problem to significantly deter me from playing way too much Palworld, but they certainly made that marathon less enjoyable.

There are also some especially nasty bugs present in the Xbox version that I didn’t encounter on Steam. The most painful of these is that, when flying around on the back of a Pal (especially in higher level areas like the snowy mountains or fiery volcanoes where lots of stuff is going on) sometimes parts of the world don’t load correctly and become intangible, which means you’ll fly right through them and land under the terrain. On more than one occasion I actually found myself stuck under the level flying around to look for pockets where I could float through the ground again to get on the right side of the map. This happened enough times that I started to take note when certain surfaces had blurry textures, since it seemed to indicate I could go right through them. That level of jank can be really hard to bear, and isn’t something I experienced at all on Steam where the map and its textures loaded a lot faster.

There are also some small features on Steam that aren’t available on Xbox, like the fact that you can’t name your character or give any of your Pals a nickname. That becomes a little confusing when your characters are named “Player 916” instead of your Gamertag and makes communication with your friends a bit touch and go. Missing details like this didn’t ruin my fun, (after all, I didn’t want to name any of these poor animals I was about to treat very poorly anyway, given I was likely about to harvest their organs), but they definitely contribute to a decidedly less premium feel.

All of these issues are cause for some concern, but collectively they only impacted my enjoyment a small amount. There’s still dozens of interesting Pals to chase, hilarious hijinks to get up to in the open world, and some truly mesmerizing survival mechanics to get completely lost in. That’s all very much the case even with a lower framerate and the occasional game crash, but it does at least make my recommendation a little less enthusiastic for now. If you aren’t one to tolerate a few rough edges and some grime with your survival games, it might be best to wait it out a bit before jumping in.

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Author: Tom Marks