Pax Dei could be great one day, but it needs a lot of work | Early access impressions

by on June 25, 2024

My first few hours with Pax Dei were a bit weird, if I’m honest. I launched into the early access version of the game with middling expectations. The trailers gave me Bellwright vibes, with aspirations to do what Enshrouded managed to do, but with a more community-centric atmosphere. I loped down the steadily loading hillside as textures popped in all around me to find scattered remnants of other players everywhere.

There were abandoned workbenches and campfires, huge structures that still had grass and trees inside them, but the strangest thing by far was that, despite the debris of humanity, I saw no one. Not a single person, for several hours. And when I finally did, they kind of stopped, stared at me for a while as though I had three heads, before they disappeared and left me to carry on picking flowers I didn’t know what to do with.

Turns out you can’t talk to other people anyway, as the chat isn’t fully functional. None of Pax Dei is fully functional. Even for an early access game, this is bare bones, and it’s coming out in competition with some really well polished early access titles this year, like the aforementioned Enshrouded, or Nightingale.

Pax Dei

And look, I get the idea here. This is something akin to what Hello Games aspire to do with Light No Fire, the follow up to the eventually-amazing No Man’s Sky. They want players to build and interact and feedback to them, so they can fill in the blanks and create a rich social MMO sandbox. There are dungeons somewhere, apparently, and there will be world bosses one day, player-built economies, and trade systems. But none of those things are here yet, just some awkward building mechanics and lots of flowers.

The big elephant-shaped issue currently blundering around the room breaking furniture is that, unlike most games that hit early access in such an unfinished state, Pax Dei isn’t free-to-play. The base game is £35, while an Artisan Pack will cost £49.99 and a Master Pack will cost £89.99. With so many games, free or not, offering a similar but much fuller experience, it’s hard to recommend Pax Dei right now.

Of course, there’s a roadmap that details the developer’s vision for the game, but it’s hard to imagine anyone hanging around that long with so little going on. A world where anyone can be anything (within reason) sounds enticing. I’d like to set up shop as a blacksmith and charge people to mend their swords and armour, or sell them rare ingredients I’ve sourced. But all there is now is an expensive bare bones experience with extra transactions baked in.

Pax Dei

While the cash shop is hardly a thing yet, you can buy land with real money, and charge people virtual money for services that may or may not be worth it. The sense of community simply isn’t there yet, and while you can club together with a large group of people to build a village or whatever, progression is slow, resource gathering is painful, and most of the gameworld is simply empty. No magical points of interest, just endless gathering quests and little to come home to.

Pax Dei has amazing potential on paper. A true shared world system on an even larger scale than something like Death Stranding, with rich, deep quests, and a player-made economy to run player-made towns and cities. Unfortunately, it seems we’re a long way away from the developers realising any of that and, in the mean time, they’re selling a game that is simply unfinished. And sure, that’s maybe the point of early access, but it’s a very crowded market. If this was a free-to-play early access period, it would be easier to swallow. Sadly, though, it’s not, and while there’s some potential here, it’s very hard to recommended right now.

Pax Dei is currently in early access on Steam.