Available on Xbox and PC, with it being part of Xbox Game Pass as well comes a game that has caught a lot of peoples attention. Due to come out on the next generation of consoles, Obsidian Entertainment brings us Grounded. This is a survival based game where exploration, risk and strategy play surprisingly important roles.
The Game / Story
Set in what feels very 80’s in music with a sci fi feel to the game, you are 1 of 4 teens shrunk down to the size of an ant! You must travel through what at first you might mistake for a forest, but is in fact a garden’s grass. You must gather resources, build tools and survive the surprisingly harsh landscape below grass level. Ants are often always watching your move, and will build numbers to attack. Sometimes they will try to steal your equipment. Water can be scarce. That is, clean water. You are often relying on the morning dew to keep your thirst up.
Spiders are perhaps so far this game’s toughest challenge. They are numerous, and they are deadly, typically 6x or more your size, they will attack on site. There is an element of horror and fear as you see the grass in the distance shake as a spider makes his/her way through it on the hunt for food.
With all these elements set against you, you quickly come to the realisation that this game is more complicated than you had anticipated. The Vibrant graphics, the 80’s synth could make you for a moment think you are in a child friendly version of The Forest. But don’t be so easily fooled!
The game is currently in an early access stage, so what can be explored so far is limited compared to its full release which will likely happen towards the end of this year.
There is a loose fitting story which you only get a taste of in this preview, as you go around learning of the experiments being performed. A Sci Fi element that I think leaves us asking more questions than it does answer. It is a game preview so what can you expect!
Starting with nothing is the worst part. Keeping hold of your goods is the next challenge. There are more things within this lawn that could kill you than there are critters which are friendly.
Whilst the game is playable in a single player way, I feel there is large emphasis on co-op playing. The ability to delegate and come together will be a big help compared to the loneliness of solo.
At this early stage, the gameplay is already extremely smooth running and other than a few glitches (like a spider being able to hit through metal walls of a can, I thought I was safe!) the game is very well polished already. I’m excited to see all the content that will come with the final package, but there is already a fair amount to keep you entertained for hours in this early game preview.
A really nice feature of the game, and always a big selling point to someone like me, is the base building. Free to build what you want where you want is a great feature. The construction works like that of Fallout 76’s construction but is much more free forming. You can also place what you want and then collect and add materials to it at your own pace which is great from a planning perspective.
The above image shows both a built wall (using grass) and a wall I have planned to build once I’ve gathered the materials I need.
As mentioned above, there is 4 player co-op. You are able to join a friend who is hosting a game and from there you have the choice between 1 of 4 ‘teens’ characters.
Multiplayer seems smooth, other than a couple of disconnects on day 1 of the games release, there have been very few issues since. It would be nice if friendly fire could be switched off. It turns off at an easier difficulty setting, however I feel that this should be a toggle no matter the difficulty setting to assist with working together as a team and taking down some of the trickier insects.
I recommend playing with people if you can as its an ideal platform to work together.
I started out playing with 2 friends, we all had no idea what we were getting ourselves into and did many foolish things. We were overconfident and took out a worker ant without thinking of consequences! Shame on us! We were also oblivious that other ants then find their lost friend and build up a hate for us! Sure enough we were battling to keep our base as ants tried to attack in numbers, aided by the tougher soldier ants.
Once that was dealt with, we ventured to the oak tree, collecting sap for bandages along the way. The spider threats grew more and more every passing day and we’d only been able to take down 1 so far mainly because it got itself stuck a little. Soon enough a spider had found our base and we had no option but to flee having died multiple times to it. I would argue it might be somewhat over-powered as it is very hard to take down with our current equipment but the game is still in its early stages and I would hope any tweaks like that can be easily made.
Solo gameplay was quite a challenge, (most of these pictures came from my solo play through). I set up a small base, built the basic equipment and settled into a somewhat peaceful life. A little tactic I’m testing out is leaving some resources lying around outside of my base in the hopes it will keep the ants too busy to notice me, who knows – it might work? In any case I’ve found this game great. It reminds me of great films like ‘A Bugs Life’ or ‘Honey I Shrunk The Kids’ so I’m definitely feeling a nostalgia to it all.
Complexity = 7 / 10
More to it than meets the eye, you will constantly be thinking “what if” as you test out ways to survive. Its got a hint of a thriller but be aware as not to go into it and mistaking it for a simple game without getting hands on with it.
Story = 5 / 10
I give a medium rating as this is still in a game preview phase. There are lots of mystery surrounding what they’ve already hinted at. I enjoy the fact that it is a sandbox survival with a loose fitting story and lore to explore. Games like Minecraft could learn from that in a huge way.
Gameplay = 8 / 10
Already in a very smooth state at such an early stage. An enjoyable experience to play, and the combat system seems accurate and smooth. I would like to see a toggle for friendly fire so we can turn it on and off. That way you are still free to play at any difficulty. The ability to traverse over the ground, or get some height and leap from clover to clover, float town with a dandelion tuft, it is so fun to play and explore. I am very excited to see the final product. It will be interesting to see where the developer will go with this game in the future.
Online = 9 / 10
Already extremely smooth online playing with, if anything emphasis on co-op. I downrate from a 10 only because I would like more freedom on ‘who’ I can play as. With only 1 of 4 options available at the moment. This could be something they will work on for the full release. A custom character creator would be the icing on the cake for me. Their competitors like Ark and Minecraft all offer vast character options.
Overall = 8.5 / 10
An extremely fun and enjoyable game. Great soundtracks, full of thrills, laughs, and hard times. It sits comfortably in the survival genre and in such a polished state at this early stage! It that already bests many of this already crowded category. I highly recommend giving it a whirl if you’ve not already.