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Palworld gets the Stardew Valley treatment in this pastoral Pokelike

Home of the Yokai is the latest addition to the stable of Pokemon PC games, sporting a semi-open world and a tactical combat system.

It’s been a strange year for creature collector fans. Sure, we’re only a few months into 2024, but Palworld’s descent into the dark side of monster-taming games has been an experience that none of us at PCGamesN will forget any time soon. If, like me, you’re still reeling from the questionable ethics (and fluids) in Pocketpair’s breakout hit, then Home of the Yokai is the perfect palette cleanser. Even better? It’s due out later this year.

Home of the Yokai pulls me out of the depths of assembly lines and creature cannibalism charted in my Palworld review and transports me to a beautiful semi-open world straight out of a pastoral picture book. This Eastern fantasy RPG marks the second outing of Chinese indie studio Rayka Studio and the announcement trailer presents a welcome pocket of calm in The Land of the Ancients, otherwise known as – you guessed it – the home of the Yokai.

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The Land of the Ancients is a striking blend of 2D and 3D world design, and its gentle piano-led soundtrack and ambient sounds of rain and birdsong is the perfect accompaniment to Home of the Yokai’s picturesque forests and quaint villages. As a budding Yokai Keeper, we have the opportunity to chart these environments as we encounter, collect, and battle the 300 different species of Yokai that populate the land.

Of course, creature collectors live and die on their monster designs, and Home of the Yokai’s anthropomorphic critters have already stolen my heart – I’m particularly partial to the bright-eyed bunny archer and the lute-playing lamb that pops up in the trailer. And yes, if you think you can spot a few evolution stages in this trailer, you’d be right; in the spirit of games like Pokemon, Yokai do evolve, a mechanic that I sorely miss in Palworld.

A glimpse of the Yokai that appear in the Pokemon PC games bestiary in the Home of the Yokai announcement trailer.

While they don’t look that fierce, each Yokai comes with a set of unique traits and abilities, which can be enhanced further with powerful charms and equipment. Given that Rayka Studio is the team behind Prime of Flames, the well-received turn-based RPG with a roguelike twist, I’ve already got high hopes for the depth of strategy behind Home of the Yokai’s auto battler system. The trailer gives us a brief glimpse of that combat as the Yokai Keeper strategically arranges their Yokai companions as units on the field according to their strengths and weaknesses before sending them into battle.

Two factions of Yokai go head to head on a forest battlefield in the Home of the Yokai announcement trailer.

However, Yokai aren’t just units for small-scale tactical warfare. Just like in Palworld, they’re also your homestead companions, helping you to construct your very own village in which you can coexist in harmony. If you feel a little guilty about ordering your Yokai companions to put down their weapons and take up a pickaxe or frying pan, don’t fret – you can recruit a few human villagers to work alongside them and help lighten their load.

This pastoral tranquility may seem perfect, but beware. It’s also at risk of corruption, beset by a strange dark force that takes hold of innocent Yokai and transforms them into aberrant demons. Your quest to stop this corruption in its tracks will take you across the Land of the Ancients, as you challenge all thirteen Yokai Keeper schools and unite them under one banner to cleanse the Yokai and purify the land. Sure, it’s a huge responsibility, but there’s always time for a spot of fishing.

Yokai and recruitable villagers coexist in harmony in the Home of the Yokai announcement trailer.

Our list of the best relaxing games on PC should certainly help you kick back and unwind while you wait for the Home of the Yokai release date. Alternatively, if Palworld has still got you in its grip, our dedicated Palworld map guide can help you track down everything of note in the open-world game.

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