Palworld has absolutely taken the real, non-pal world by storm, but no matter how big the survival crafting Pokémon brutality engine gets, I'm staying in my bunker to play crusty CRPGs from 1998 until the storm clears. Studio Pocketpair's next game, Never Grave: The Witch and the Curse, might be a little bit more my speed though.
My first thought was "damn, that looks a lot like Hollow Knight," and there's an easy temptation to lambast the studio for a repeated derivative quality to its games. Like with Palworld's Pokémon DNA, though, Never Grave's Hollow Knightness seems mostly superficial, and the game looks set to bring some innovations of a similar scope to Palworld's world beating "what if survival crafting games let you have little guys to do the boring stuff at base?"
While the environments scream Hallownest, Never Grave isn't bug-centric like Hollow Knight, with enemies including minotaurs and giant lizard-knights. Those enemies tie into one of the game's big curve balls: a hat-based enemy possession mechanic ripped straight out of Super Mario Odyssey. That was an incredible mechanic that Nintendo might never revisit, so it's nice to see Cappy get a new lease on life.
The other big shift is the inclusion of co-op and a base-building mechanic in a village above the game's dungeon. Up to four players can tackle Never Grave together, while the village reconstruction seems really open-ended: a player is shown manually arranging their house, while later some co-op buddies go through harvesting crops.
Never Grave is a weird game with a lot of disparate inspirations, but it seems like it could work. There's almost something crass about saying "Hollow Knight with base building and co-op"—show that precious indie art miracle some respect! But maybe there's an anarchic, illicit thrill to be had there like with Palworld's wanton Pokémon cruelty.
Never Grave's developer is listed as Frontside 180, with Pocketpair publishing, but looking into Frontside on Steam just redirects to Pocketpair's developer page, so who knows what's going on there. Never Grave is set to release in early access before the end of March, and you can check out its demo or wishlist the game on Steam.
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