Palworld Sakurajima update review: Bigger and better in every way

Lucas Simons
Palworld Sakurajima update

The Palworld Sakurajima update is a breath of fresh air and just what the game needed to improve. I had some time to test it before its release, so here’s a hands-on review of the latest expansion for the already huge game that just got bigger.

Pocket Pair have outdone themselves with a new and improved expansive world, with beautiful scenery, new features, and more Pals to meet.

As a fan of Monster Collector games, Palworld was exactly the game I was looking for – a huge immersive experience with a tremendously diverse map, and beautifully designed biomes.

In Sakurajima, the game takes all that and turns it up a notch, offering several new areas to explore beautiful one-of-a-kind dungeons and a challenging end-game experience that will take a lot of time and effort to enjoy at its fullest. 

Sakurajima feels lavish and breathtaking at first. But don’t drop your guard amid the beautiful scenery, the Island hides a ruthless band of Shinobi ready to take your head off with every misstep.

Expanding an already huge game

Sakurajima is the new big area to explore, with several different biomes including a foggy swamp, a mushroom forest, a deserted lightning-struck shoreline, a cursed cemetery, and of course, bamboo forests and cherry blossom orchards.

New Pals roam this incredibly detailed world, like Croajiro, (Pun intended, and I love it) a Toad Samurai with a stick for a weapon and a badass attitude. 

Croajiro in Palworld Sakurajima
Croajiro is definitely one of the best additions to Palworld.

The update feels like a massive overhaul of the already great experience the game has offered ever since the first Raid Boss update. With the introduction of the Summoning Altar and Pal Boss Raids, (Bellanoir Libero, and Bellanoir Ultra) the devs pushed for a smoother overall experience with a challenging end-game. Now, they have redoubled those efforts and you’ll feel it as you approach the max levels.

In-game events like Meteorite Fall, Airdrops, and even Boss Pals nesting in the open give a new feel to exploring. It really feels like the Palpagos Islands are a thriving ecosystem, inviting you to discover every nook and cranny.

Sakurajima Ninja Faction
The Sakurajima ninjas have advanced melee combat abilities, keep your distance.

The new Dog Coin system takes grinding for hidden loot and salvaging through Wreckage to a whole new level. This new currency allows you to buy a lot of new cosmetics, powerful accessories, and even Power-Ups for your stats. This also introduces Mimog, the new Mimic-chest-dog Pal you’ll be chasing around to get more Coins and juicy rewards.

The new and improved loot that drops from Dungeons has made delving expeditions even more rewarding. The more you progress throughout the adventure, the more you feel the need to face these challenges to get prize blueprints, manuals, accessories, and Elixirs, the new boost items.

Of course, that also includes the new Blazamut Ryu slab pieces that drop from Dungeon reward chests. And believe me, you want to be at max level with a team of more than 20 Pals in your base, and preferably, some other Pal trainers, before you attempt this Raid. 

Knocklem Palworld Sakurajima
Knocklem is one of the new and challenging bosses you’ll face.

Base building became meaningful and difficult, and that’s good

Palworld is a Survival game at its core, and Sakurajima overhauls the system considerably. 

With new buildings and a helpful overhaul to resource extraction, Pocket Pair have created a seamless chain of progression to bring your base from a shabby hut camp to an impregnable Pal city. 

Bandits and enemy factions will still try to take down your base, and when this happens, your Pals will be ready to fend them off with new and improved AI. Pals used to get stuck after a bandit Raid but this won’t happen anymore.

Depresso in Sakurajima
Some familiar faces are roaming Sakurajima’s biomes, but their levels will be higher than in the mainland.

The same could be said for all base behavior, as workstation usage-related issues have been long eliminated from the game with the ally Pal AI feeling more stable now.

If there’s anything I could criticize about base building, it’s that the limits are a little harsh. But since Sakurajima will naturally force you to have specialized bases in several places, you won’t need to build infinite fortresses all around. 

That’s up to you as a player to decide. After all, where’s the fun in setting the limits so early? The game has so much more to offer than just building the perfect base.

Stepping stones to create a better experience

Entering Sakurajima feels like stepping into the unknown. My first encounter with one of the new Pals (Helzephyr Lux) ended in chaos and death. Of course, I was greatly unprepared and under-leveled, so my Pals and I went back to lick our wounds and came back ready for a second assault.

I’ve got to give it to them, the devs understood what end-game means, and have created a solid experience even for veteran players. After exploring this new zone brimming with life, I decided to take down the turf leaders: Saya and Selyne. Hands down, this was the hardest Faction Boss fight in the game.

Sakurajima Mushroom Wetland
There are some cool Alice in Wonderland references around Sakurajima, blink and you’ll miss them.

But is this the end of Palworld Sakurajima’s content? Not even close. Even after finishing the nearly 30 hours of extra game time that the update adds (in normal mode and without tweaking down the difficulty levels) the post-Faction Boss fight experience felt smooth and rewarding. 

With dozens of new Pals added, the already huge breeding chart has expanded even more, and the possibilities are endless. Of course, there’s a lot of material grinding before we reach that stage, and now we even need to dig out for Oil to craft Plasteel, the new end-game material. And that is painfully hard to do. Trust me, you want to pay close attention to your base management. 

Even before starting to play the Sakurajima update, I had played over one hundred hours to unlock most of the content. At the time of writing, I’ve spent almost 30 enjoying all the new features of the game and I’m not done yet. There are hundreds of Pals to breed, more crafting to do, and dungeons to explore.

Sakurajima Dungeon Palworld
Dungeons have been considerably overhauled, with new loot, enemies, and visuals.

And you guessed right: More Lifmunk Effigies to gather. But don’t worry, grinding these comes with new catch rate levels. So, if you were struggling to get Jetragon before, now’s your chance to level the odds. 

I’ve talked enough about design, so here comes the fun part: Shooting down Pals with new and improved weapons. We have the Meteorite Shooter, the Guided Missile Launcher, the Grenade Launcher, or the likes of the Laser Rifle and the Gattling Gun. Blasting enemies using these end-game weapons feels amazing.

Sakurajima Cementery
The Cemetery of Sakurajima is a cursed foggy land, filled with dangerous Pals.

With the new Perks and Accessories that prevent you from delivering Lethal damage, you can drop Pals to 1 HP and Trap them safely in their Pal-Spheres. If you want to take the pacifist route, nobody is going to stop you. 

Overall, the design improvements have left me impressed, and wanting more!

The verdict – 5/5

From gameplay to soundtrack composition, Sakurajima is a great experience, with cool pop-culture references hiding in plain sight, and awesome scenario design that gives it that finishing touch that every Japanese culture enthusiast will love.

Sakurajima Cherry Blossom grove
Sakurajima is stunningly beautiful, and challenging at the same time.

While there’s room for improvement, the base restriction doesn’t distract from overwhelmingly positive updates and changes that the update brings. Pocket Pair have proven capable of upholding their promises, and I am eager to see what they’re capable of in the future. 

The gameplay feels immersive, rewarding, engaging, and more importantly, fun! Palworld has proven once more that quality and quantity is the winning formula. 

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