Last night I launched Steam and hesitantly purchased the brand new survival game, Grounded.
Was it as good as it’s hyped up to be?
Being a brand new released game from Obsidian Entertainment, just a couple days old, I hadn’t yet had a chance to see much about it. A few tweets here and there. A couple videos popped up on YT that I skipped. But I stayed away just in case this turned into a magical adventure that I didn’t want spoiled.
Quite literally, the only thing that I learned about the game before installing it was this tip from @Capp00 about how to get water. It didn’t end up working out for me, but I appreciate the tip anyway, Capp. 🖖
Grounded looked like a LOT of fun, though, based on the trailer, and beautiful, too. Plus when it gets out of early access someday, maybe there will be a way for the company I work for to host Grounded servers, so it’s a good idea to check it out.
So, I live streamed my first two hours playing the game…. then I got sucked in for another hour afterwards. According to the trailer, though: Even if no one is watching me play the game, someone is watching me play the game.
I’m not going to get into every little detail about what was good or bad about the game. It’s still in early access, after all, and there are already updates promised that will come down the pipeline. Instead, I want to talk about how the game made me feel.
The World Is A Movie
Right off the bat the game is beautiful. It drops you into a dark hole with a lot of sticks and rocks around, teaching you the controls. Pretty standard stuff. But when you leave that hole, which contains an interesting case with human-shaped indents in it, the world gets a LOT bigger… and smaller.
By the way, there are four playable characters, but FIVE human-shaped indents in that case. Make of that what you will.
You pop out in a dense jungle of thick grass with a massive baseball looming over you. The combination of seeing these everyday objects so huge along with the mystery of the high-tech devices you encounter on your journey immediately tells you that this game is unlike any other survival game you’ve played before.
I’m not trying to be hyperbolic, either. You aren’t fighting dinosaurs or zombies or running from creepers. The game does a lot of things right to make you feel small, and not just by making grass and dandelions humongous. Distances are displayed in centimeters, which made me chuckle. Dew drops are your new precious water source that rarely hang from the tips of grass.
Even the sound design is great, with car radios flying by on the street nearby but still as if they’re blocks away. As I was wandering around, I suddenly realized that the background behind the grass blades was actually my house, and on the opposite side an unimaginably tall tree. I genuinely felt small in this world with the visual effects at play.
One of my favorite moments by far was climbing up the side of a root from the tree, and when I popped up on top the way the world came into focus was almost breathtaking. Awe-inspiring is a good way to describe it.
Crafting and building were unique, too. You have to gather materials just like in any other survival game, but the unique perspective makes it an interesting adventure. A blade of grass can turn into much-needed defensive walls. A small bit of tree sap acts as fuel to light your way through the night. A pebblette, smaller than a pebble, helps you craft tools that make it possible to hack through the overgrowth, albeit slowly.
Planning out structures was a pleasure. You can create the entire structure in like a holographic view, and then add your materials to it as you gather them. No need to memorize where you wanted to put everything during the build process, and you don’t even need to have all the materials for the structures immediately to put the holograms in place. A nice touch, especially since inventory management is a bit of a pain.
Back to lighting for a moment – the torches at night are by far one of the best ambiance setters in any game. I love the way it creates shadows and shows the world immediately around you, but keeps the most innocent bugs looking terrifying as they skitter in the distance. You never know what’s going to pop out and turn you into a meal.
And let me tell you… the monsters in this world are legit scary the first time you see them. Felt like I was in a movie the way it set me up.
Just look at this clip and tell me those legs aren’t insanely creepy.
Even with the great setting, I didn’t quite feel like I was on a mission to get back to my original size. I’d like to connect with the character a bit more beyond the (really funny) short quips and one-liners that they say. Pete was fun enough for me to want to put my glasses on and try to be him, and I loved how the android BURG.L talked to him, but I never really felt like I knew him all that well. Maybe that could be fleshed out later.
My One Complaint
The game loop is pretty typical for a survival game, and it came naturally. Sure, the story/campaign is pretty short right now, but there are planned updates coming for that. And while I’m not sure if the beauty of the game will turn dull after a while with essentially one biome to explore, but I also haven’t explored the entire back yard yet. There are definitely secrets to uncover, if the limited story is anything to go off of.
My main complaint right now is that the crafting seems a bit laborious. It’s not as painful as ARK where you spend 4 hours gathering 1,200 pieces of wood and then lose everything dying to a Dilophosaurus for the 10th time. But inventory management overall is just a pain. Most items only stack up to 10 in your backpack, while others don’t stack at all, so you can quickly run out of storage space.
On top of that there aren’t any intuitive controls, at least to me, that allow moving items around a simple task. The backpack isn’t organized in any specific way, which is fine, but with that being the case I’d like to see either keyboard shortcuts implemented like in Minecraft (shift+click to move an entire stack to your hot pouch, etc…), or buttons to organize all items in the backpack/container by durability, alphabetically, spoil time, etc… (like in ARK).
A similar issue is with crafting, though maybe I’m just missing something. If you need to craft 10 of one item, you have to click to craft each individual one and wait about a second before you can craft again. Reminded me a little of Animal Crossing New Horizons, which is probably the least favorite aspect of that game for most people. It needlessly slows the process down and makes it tedious, and that can be a problem if a spider is sneaking up behind you.
Is it Gucci? Definitely.
Overall it’s a great start to an early access survival game, and I’m really looking forward to the updates that continue the campaign’s story and possibly open up new areas to explore (though I admit I still have a lot left to explore of the existing map).
The items you craft are unique and fit right into the world you’re set in, not just another game where you make guns to blast everything away. And you have to be a bit more strategic with your materials than in similar games because you can’t carry a near-infinite amount of supplies.
If there was a bit more attention giving to crafting and inventory management, some depth to the characters, and a way to increase the carrying capacity, health, stamina, etc… of the character (maybe there is and I haven’t found it yet), then I think you’d have a really solid game on your hands. BUT it’s still early access, so I won’t complain too much. If the devs read this, hopefully they’ll take these comments for what they are: feedback.
If you’d like to see me explore Grounded more, subscribe to my YouTube channel where I’ll occasionally live stream it. Feel free to also join my Discord server where we can chat about the game some more and set-up some multiplayer action. Otherwise, grab it on Steam for $29.99 and enjoy it for yourself!
Have you played Grounded yet? Let me know what you think in the comments!