Palworld players discover you can kidnap and sell humans just like pals, although you will be warned it's not very polite

Palworld early access
(Image credit: Pocketpair)

It's a Palworld, we're just living in it. Pocketpair's AK-equipped Poké-like has dominated both the charts and the discourse since it came out last Friday, and the debates and discoveries about it are coming out faster than I can keep track of.

But the latest development is both debate and discovery, and I can't decide if that makes it easier to cover or harder. Here's what's happening: Enterprising and morally pliable Palworld players have stumbled upon the fact (via IGN) that you can use the game's Palspheres (they're Pokéballs, let's not beat around the bush) not only to capture the game's animal inhabitants, but to kidnap human NPCs too. 

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You can see Coney, a streamer, figure this out in real time in the tweet above—complete with a chirpy tooltip from the game that "On Palpargos Island, capturing humans in Palspheres is considered inhumane," as if it were a matter of personal opinion—and it's been verified by us here at PCG too. But things somehow manage to get even darker.

As you can see in this Palworld subreddit post by user Ashl3y95, captured humans appear to obey all the same mechanics that the game's captured creatures. That means players can put them to work in their base or summon them to fight on their behalf, although they don't actually seem to be much use for either compared to the game's creatures. You can also, ah, sell them on the black market. It's a bit much!

So much, in fact, that the discovery of slavery in Palworld has already been swept up into the broader hurricane of debate currently surrounding the game. More than a few people are discomfited by the fact that the game lets you participate in actual human trafficking without anything more than a vaguely admonishing tooltip, and that's before you get into the other controversies around the game's depictions of animal cruelty and allegations of copying models.

Palworld guides

Palworld Black Marketeer - Petting a Pal

(Image credit: Pocket Pair)

Best Pals: What to catch early
Palworld roadmap: The early access plan
Palworld mods: Best tweaks to install
Palworld multiplayer: How to co-op
Palworld dedicated server: Full-time Pals
Palworld breeding guide: Get started with cake and eggs

It's an understandable reaction to depictions of literal slavery, although plenty of other people have pointed out that everything from Rimworld to Europa Universalis 4 has some kind of slavery mechanic without spinning up a comparable level of controversy.

Personally, I wouldn't say I'm particularly put off by Palworld's implementation of a slavery mechanic so much as I'm entirely apathetic about it. In his write-up of the game, Lincoln Carpenter said that Palworld's conspicuous edginess was like "having to hang out for hours with somebody who's made Bugs Bunny smoking weed their whole deal." Adding slavery into the mix is like, I don't know, giving Bugs Bunny a gun too. I'm no more or less scandalised than I was before, I'm just even keener to go hang out with someone else.

Joshua Wolens
News Writer

One of Josh's first memories is of playing Quake 2 on the family computer when he was much too young to be doing that, and he's been irreparably game-brained ever since. His writing has been featured in Vice, Fanbyte, and the Financial Times. He'll play pretty much anything, and has written far too much on everything from visual novels to Assassin's Creed. His most profound loves are for CRPGs, immersive sims, and any game whose ambition outstrips its budget. He thinks you're all far too mean about Deus Ex: Invisible War.