Grounded | First Impressions

As we finished our first co-op session on Grounded by Obsidian Entertainment, Alexa sent me a text that read: this is like Minecraft meets Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Although I'm sure the comparison has been made hundreds of times since the game was announced, the statement does hold water. Grounded feels familiar in concept but its execution is what makes it fun. Now since Grounded is still in early access I don't feel that it's right to do a full review of the game and tack on a rating. However, I have sunk a decent amount of hours into the game now so I thought I'd share my first impressions on the game as it stands now.

Grounded is a first-person survival game that shrinks you down to a few centimeters in height and has you fighting for your life in the dangerous landscape of a suburban backyard. In case you didn't already know that the game is currently just a preview, there are several pop-ups and warnings upon bootup that tell you that not everything in the game works and that bugs, of the technical kind, are to be expected. And, let's just get it out of the way first, it's very apparent at times that Grounded is not a finished product. There are lots of pop-ins, from the foliage on the ground to bugs a few centimeters ahead of you, and swimming mechanics leave a lot to be desired. Perhaps the most unusual glitch I came across was when I first booted up the game and the audio become inexplicably staticky, repeatedly cutting in and out. I tried plugging in two different pairs of headphones before restarting the game which ultimately ended up fixing the problem. With that said, despite its rough edges, I have no hesitation in saying I enjoyed my time with the game.

Gameplay in Grounded should feel familiar to anyone who's played survival games in the past. On the bottom left-hand corner of your screen are vitals (health, stamina, etc), and their importance will vary based on the world difficulty. Players can craft a wide variety of items, from axes and spears to helmets and repair tools, and the game also has building mechanics for players wanting to have their own home base and spawn point. The backyard is full of insects, some that can be eaten, and others that will eat you, and the challenge of the game comes from navigating the landscape to pick up resources and finish quests form BURG.L without dying. Though the game can look innocent, when night falls it can be an intense battle to sunrise. Seeing the tops of blades of grass sway ahead of you is an ominous sign of spiders. And although the game does have an Arachnophobia Safe Mode which lets you get rid of the eight-legged creepy crawlers, the real thrill, for players who can handle it, is turning a corner late at night, seeing a spider in front of you, and having to make a split-second decision that could mean life or death. (click here to see my near-death spider encounter)

Grounded can be played solo or co-op online with up to 4 players. As I said earlier, I played the game entirely in co-op with Alexa and I had no issues with it what so ever. At its current stage there isn't a whole lot of exploration to be done, with certain parts of the map marked as "under construction" to prevent players from wandering out of bounds, but what is there is enough to keep up to four friends entertained for a few hours.

The thing that surprised me the most about Grounded is the presence of a story. Usually, in most games of this genre, the player is tossed into the world, perhaps with a small cutscene to start, and is told to survive for as long as they can. But in Grounded, right from the getgo, there are hints at some science fiction antics at work and the game's limited story content gives players a taste of that. I am genuinely excited to see where the story of Grounded goes and if the lasers and robots that I saw in the preview are any sign of what's to come, I have a good feeling that I'll be content.

Grounded is a game that will continue to evolve over time based on player feedback, and right now my feedback breaks down to: gimme more! From item designs to game mechanics (like being able to glide to safety from great heights using a dandelion) Grounded is an imaginative game, and whether it stays in "early access" for a few months or a few years, taking Obsidian's track record into account, it's safe to say that on release day, the game will be a fleshed-out experience. Plus, with The Outer Worlds DLC around the corner and their next big RPG, Avowed, in the works, it's nice to see the developer make a relatively smaller game that's fun for all sizes.

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