Greg is actually Palworld’s most concerning Pal

Greg is actually Palworld’s most concerning Pal

Palworld has been a controversial game, boasting the ability to enslave and butcher your cuddly new friends. At first, I wasn’t sure that there was much to dissect there. It’s easy to play the game and just vibe without thinking more deeply about the moral implications. It was only once I started playing with my brothers, building a sophisticated base, and collecting every Pal that some complexities began to reveal themselves.

It all starts with a poor bastard called Greg, who now lives among my Pals. Greg is a random goon that I caught with a Pal Sphere, and his capture is when the ethics of our playthrough really started to go off the rails. He was a simple Syndicate agent, but he looked like a Greg, and so I went into his profile and changed his name. Greg now hangs out surrounded by Pals with names like Sugarplum, Sasha, and Choco.

Palworld is a combination of survival games like Ark or Rust and legally distinct Pokémon-style creatures. My brothers and I are part of the same guild and share a little trifecta of bases, each custom-built for its own purpose. Our main base is absolutely bustling with Pals who are highly specialized, able to cut down forests’ worth of trees, mine through ore in seconds, or craft dozens of items with the flick of a wrist.

And then there’s poor Greg, a guy with a basic handiwork skill. I’m going to be honest and admit I threw a Pal Sphere at the goon on a whim, and was surprised when it actually worked.

Greg, a Syndicate goon, stands in the middle of a hot spring, surrounded by high quality goons and accomodations. Image: Pocketpair via Polygon

There’s a very good reason not to just capture human beings en masse: They’re absolutely terrible. Greg will sometimes half-heartedly jog over to a workstation, only for an Egyptian-garbed dog-man to walk up and do the exact same task 500 times better.

This skill gap is made even worse by the game’s robust breeding system. Once you unlock a breeding ranch and learn how to make cake, you can funnel Pals into the ranch to breed. There are three reasons to breed Pals. The first is that you can create new Pals that aren’t available in the open world by combining two unrelated species. The second is the ability to create elemental variations of existing Pals, like an electric version of the Relaxasaurus.

The third, and most potent, is that you can make better, stronger Pals by breeding them together. For example, the Anubis is a powerful crafting Pal, but selective breeding can create one with positive traits that make them eat less, work harder, and cause less of a fuss. My buddy Matt is in charge of breeding — or, as he insists we call it, Pal Resources. Every time I embark on a mission to find ore and other valuable resources, I return to find him obsessing over the particulars of Pals. Not every combination is a winner, but that’s OK — excess Pals can be fed into the slurry pile, where they’ll be consumed to make the winners stronger.

A burgeoning factory center, built in a player base, on a dedicated Palworld server. Image: Pocketpair via Polygon

Greg is, perhaps blessedly, immune from this entire process. You can’t breed people in Palworld, which makes sense for ethical reasons. Human beings appear as non-binary, and while they might appreciate cake, you can’t create more Gregs. It doesn’t feel right to release him back into the wild, though, so he’s a man without much purpose. Sometimes we put him in the storage container, where he presumably experiences an eternal limbo until one of his betters needs a break. Then, we pull Greg out, so he can aimlessly wander around the base.

There are likely optimal ways to play Palworld that my friends and I have yet to discover. Instead of looking up guides, we’re playing things by ear, experimenting and trying out different things. Some of those work out, while others, like poor Greg, are dead ends. While Greg isn’t able to contribute much to our success, I enjoy having him around as a sort of keepsake.

Whenever I see Greg, I reflect upon man’s inhumanity to man — or, if you think about it, man’s inhumanity toward Pals. At the end of the day, the Pals are fattened with cake and forced to create offspring, some of which are doomed to an essence tube. Greg is, comparatively, free. Sure, his name wasn’t originally Greg, and he doesn’t have much to do, but isn’t there a liberation in being jobless and getting to sleep whenever you want in a giant bed built for dinosaurs?

Even with a bunch of fun, cute Pals around, I still get a kick out of seeing the poor guy meandering around our base. Whether he likes it or not, he’s coming along for the ride. Is he helpful? No. Is this wise? Probably not. But the absurdity of his circumstances is part of what I enjoy about Palworld — the familiar signposts from other genres combined in weird, unexpected, and sometimes extremely unethical ways.