Palworld, the Pokémon-like game that lets you arm your creatures with machine guns, put them to work in factories, or just eat them, launches on Steam next week

Palworld is the game that asks the disturbing yet fundamentally sensible question: What if Team Rocket had access to a large cache of HK416s and maybe some M72 LAW rockets? After all, pulling little monsters out of your pocket and making them fight might be cute but if you’re serious about getting things done, hardware helps, right? 

And also, keeping cute creatures stuffed inside tiny cages until you want to force one into mortal combat for your amusement isn’t “cute” at all, it’s pretty awful by any measure. But I digress: The point of all this is that Palworld is finally set to launch into early access on Steam on January 19.

Arming your Pals for war isn’t the only thing you can do with (or to) them. Palworld features an extensive base-building system, and those bases don’t build themselves. Make your Pals do it, and then put them to work tending your crops and running your factories. 

You can breed your own Pals, combining their rare genetic makeups to make even more powerful creatures, or if you’re in a hurry you can sneak into your local wildlife sanctuary and just steal some. As developer Pocketpair put it, “It’s not a crime if you don’t get caught.” And if you come up with a really good one, you can sell it to unnamed parties for a quick buck.

Hungry? Pals are also edible, and as Chris Livingston noted last year, that’s pretty grim but they might also be awfully tasty. You won’t know until you try!

They also apparently eat each other: Here’s a cute-ass penguin in a tie getting swallowed whole by Dollar Store Barney:

(Image credit: Pocketpair)

Palworld promises to be pretty substantial when it hits early access, with more than 100 monsters, 350 items, 70 building types, and “a vast open world” in which players can explore, fight, and craft. It’s also dark and deeply weird, although in all honesty I find the overt villainy very funny: “Letting Pals do the work is the key to automation: Build a factory, place a Pal in it, and they’ll keep working as long as they’re fed—until they’re dead, that is.” That’s not the sort of thing you’re going to see in most creature-collecting game listings.

They’re not kidding, by the way.

But I also have to wonder how it hasn’t been sued into oblivion by The Pokémon Company. I’m not really a Pokémon guy but some of those Pals look very Poké-like. It’s the sort of thing that looks almost custom-built to draw a cease-and-desist order. Then again, the MMO Temtem is also notably Pokémon-ish and it’s doing just fine. Maybe Pocketpair figures it’s a little like eating Pal meat: You won’t know until you try!

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