Grounded is a new survival game from Obsidian Entertainment and an extremely well-polished first attempt at the genre. It released into early access and Xbox Game Preview on July 28th and there’s already so much to love. Here are my first impressions of Obsidian’s Grounded.
A Classic Survival Game…With a Unique Twist
Grounded has all the features you’d expect from a survival game. Hunger and thirst systems, base-building mechanics and crafting are all here. Grounded feels right at home alongside classics like Minecraft, Don’t Starve and The Forest. But the game instantly sets itself apart with a unique point of view. It shrinks the player down to a tiny size, and it’s charm is phenomenal. Huge blades of grass tower over the player, casting shadows across the garden. A giant baseball acts as a landmark rather than just a tiny extra detail. A juice carton is an important location to gather droplets of liquid to drink.
Creepy Critters Fill the Garden
That unique point of view doesn’t just make the environment look huge. Critters living in the garden suddenly become beasts to watch out for. Colonies of ants scuttle around the garden whilst ladybirds slowly trample through the grass. Gnats buzz around the player in groups, making anyone panic at first. These all contribute to a larger ecosystem that feels alive. Ants will chase mites, whilst ladybirds will bring blades of grass swinging down to the ground. All of these are big, formidable opponents that prove a challenge early on, but there’s one beast that will terrify you no matter what.
Under the roots of a gigantic oak tree awaits the monstrous Wolf Spider and it is truly horrific. The sense of dread that filled me when it came shifting towards my character was something I’ve never felt before in a survival game. After your first encounter with one, the world of Grounded never feels the same. You wander the garden filled with fear. You anxiously check for webs to give you any idea of the silent menace’s approach. It suddenly changes the dynamic completely from cute survival game to horror-survival.
This dread doesn’t only come from huge spiders. The game does an excellent job of making you anxious of any danger the world could throw at you. Wandering a cave system can be exciting, until you’re torch breaks and you’re in complete darkness. Instantly, chilling, ominous sounds sweep towards you in the background. No matter what you’re doing, running back to base always feel like the right option. A mist accompanies the darkness that adds to the overwhelming atmosphere. All this together does a terrific job of making the game push you to survive rather than just eat food.
Don’t Get Lost
Getting back to base might not prove to be as simple as you’d hope. Darting through the forest of grass blades in the dark is hard. Suddenly… you’re lost. Once you’re lost it’s hard to find your way back. Of course, there’s a map in the menu if this isn’t your thing, but it is daunting to be stuck in the dark regardless.
Simple yet Deep
The game not only has an amazing, atmospheric world. It makes it incredibly easy to drop in and spend an hour or two there! It’s accessible and intuitive, making it easy to access for beginners to the genre.. Need something to drink? Go to the juice carton, there’ll be some drops there for sure. Need to learn a recipe for some armor? That acorn shell looks sturdy! Sure enough, analyse the material and you’ll’ usually get the recipe you expect. For the veterans seeking depth? Spend time creating a self-sustaining base with a dew collector and mushroom farm. Need a higher tier axe? You’ll struggle to find that so quick. Need some research points to unlock new base-building items for the home of your dreams? Best go complete some daily activities that’ll take you into the depths of the garden.
Story Is a Promise of More To Come…
These daily quests come courtesy of your resident robot sidekick BURGL. The short story in the game will bring you to him, but no further as the content ends there. This was a disappointment as the game sets up an intriguing narrative, leads you underground to a base filled with story-telling potential, just to end abruptly. There’s plenty to look forward to I’m sure – they promise new story quests and even more creatures coming soon! But, being cut off within less than 3 hours after a quick introduction did leave me with a sour taste. However, I have no doubt that by the end of the year it’ll have plenty more content to play through. When the game does release out of early access it’ll be an excellent addition to the genre.
Together Is Better
Multiplayer is great in Grounded, not bringing any issues you might expect. Pure chaos erupts amongst the group when a spider charges your base and it is fantastic. From my experience the multiplayer seemed to scale difficulty to the players. My single player game was relatively calm, until I found a wolf spider. In multiplayer, within half an hour we were being attacked by Soldier Ants at base. Whilst running away, two spiders ambushed us in the grass and instantly killed us both. I can’t confirm the scaling, but it certainly seemed harder. Multiplayer is a lot of fun, but do be prepared for a challenge.
Room for Improvement
Of course, as an early access game it has it’s faults, but these are to be expected. The inventory management system is slow and clunky. There are a few oversights such as no hotkey button to instantly move something to the hotbar. The hotbar itself can’t be scrolled through, which slows the game down. Enemy aggression range is another issue, as sometimes spiders will fall slightly out of range and regenerate their health. These issues are minor inconveniences though, and it is astounding how polished this game is for early access. There are minor bugs here and there. Clipping issues when ladybirds trample through grass aren’t uncommon. Compared to other early access survival games though, Grounded shows a lot of promise.
First Thoughts about Grounded
Ultimately, Grounded is a fantastic addition to the genre. It’s exciting to know that Obsidian will be expanding it in the coming months. The issues in the game now are outweighed by the many positives. From Grounded’s unique point of view, to the excellent atmosphere and the polished gameplay with very few flaws. There’s potential and Obsidian knows it. With more story content and a few fixes, the game will be another excellent title in Obsidian’s library. I look forward to the full release which I imagine will be sooner rather than later.
Grounded is available now on Steam Early Access and on Xbox Game Preview for the Xbox One and Windows Store. You can buy it for $29.99/£24.99, and it’s on Xbox Game Pass now so what are you waiting for? Go check it out and share your first impressions of Obsidian’s Grounded with us!
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