Grounded early impressions: A small game with big promise

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Grounded is an early access survival game with a lot of promise, but some major changes are needed to help it stand out among other titles in the genre.

Grounded is a brand new survival game developed by Obsidian Entertainment, that is currently available in pre-release on Xbox One and PC.   We got our first proper look at Grounded during the Xbox Games Showcase that streamed on July 23, 2020, where the rather comical trailer showed off various mechanics from the game.

Despite the trailer having a lot of charm and humor, I was concerned that Grounded would be too similar to the already over-saturated market of survival games.  Games such as Minecraft, Ark: Survival Evolved, and Subnautia already dominate the market, and I wasn’t sure how Grounded was going to stack up against these already established titans.

X019 - Grounded - Xbox
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When first booting up the game, the player has the option to choose from four characters, Max, Willow, Pete, and Hoops. There is also the option to select which difficulty mode you want.

This is where my first issue with the game arises as there is no character customization.  With all of these characters lacking sufficient backstories, it’s hard to understand why this feature isn’t available, considering that most people will project themselves onto the player anyway. It’s not completely necessary, like in Subnautica, where this option is omitted, but it seems strange only to give the player four possibilities.

After spawning into a cave and getting my bearings, the tutorial was simple enough to follow.  The controls were straightforward to learn, and I was able to quickly get a sense of how to collect items, craft, and build materials.  The crafting system is rather conventional. The only significant difference is that you have to scan raw materials at a station to access more recipes that utilize that material.  This was rather tedious, as you are only allowed a handful of scans at a time and are then forced to wait upwards of ten to 15 minutes at a time for the scanner to recharge.

I was then given a handful of quests to complete, which only took me about an hour, and overall it was a fun experience.  I can’t say Grounded is a game worth playing as of yet, as there is not enough content to warrant more than a couple of hours of game time.  But at least there’s an adorable arachnophobia filter!

Any survival game’s success or failure comes from what the late-game experience is.  How will it be for those players who decide to sink hundreds of hours into this tiny survival game? Only time will tell.

Overall, I think Grounded has a lot of potential, but I believe Obsidian will have to make some significant improvements if they hope for the game to stand out among others in the genre.  I think adding more story elements could help a lot, and adjusting some of the more tedious mechanics will also add a better flow to the overall experience.

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I’m looking forward to playing the full release of Grounded and seeing what the complete experience has to offer.  It is currently available for $29.99 from the Microsoft Store and in Steam Early Access. If you are an Xbox Game Pass subscriber, it is free with your membership and available on both Xbox and PC.