It’s dark outside and I’m scared. I hide behind a chest and a rock. There are several flimsy walls of leaves around me. I can hear it behind these walls: a giant evil spider. I can’t see him directly, but I can see the massive leaves and tall blades of grass that surround my tiny shelter move as he searches for me. A large mosquito flies overhead; a few feet behind, an ant is running along a fallen branch. I hate bugs and insects and start to regret playing grounded.
Although it has been in early access for almost two years now, grounded Version 1.0 is finally out this week thanks to a big update for PC and Xbox. Developed by Obsidian, grounded is a survival game in the same vein as mine craft. Yes, you will hit rocks with rocks to get other things, to do better things, to hit big things, to get more things. This is one of those games.
But grounded has two big advantages over the many survival games that followed in mine craftcommemoration. First, he has a really interesting history with scientists who have secrets. Secondly, the action takes place in the backyard, where you play as a small child who has shrunk to such a size that ants, spiders, coins and soda cans tower over you. You may have seen the movie Honey I Shrunk the Kids? Well, grounded this one, but with more violence and resource management. And too many bugs.
However, even with all those nasty critters, exploring a hand-crafted world – there’s no procedural generation here! – as a tiny survivor is really interesting. Hiding in massive soda cans or collecting huge blades of grass is something I’ve never done in a survival game. It also made the study more interesting. What random everyday item, now massive, will I encounter next in my deadly new backyard?
In the main game loop of the game, you build your camp with resources that you collect from around the backyard. As you get stronger, you can find new areas of the world that contain new lore pieces to discover and quests to complete. Completing these quests will help you reach your ultimate goal of returning to your normal size and safely escaping from the power of spiders and mosquitoes.
I fully admit that I almost activated the game spider defense mode before the beginning grounded. (This changes the appearance of the spiders in the game to make it easier for people with arachnophobia to enjoy the game.) But I decided against it, partly because I wanted to fully experience the game, and also because all the other bugs in grounded, like larvae and fleas, are not customizable at all. So I figured I was going to go crazy anyway, so why not just try the full spider experience.
There are no plot spoilers here, but groundedwrites solid, and I’m more and more intrigued as to why my character has shrunk and what was going on in the backyard prior to my arrival. This storytelling helps you move forward when things get boring. Do you know those moments in every survival game when you have to spend an hour moving your base or gathering resources to craft better gear? You still have to do it all groundedbut at least on the other end of it all there is a new story or piece of lore to enjoy.
Another reason I kept playing grounded, even as I was slowly paralyzed with fear from all the damn bugs, how well it was made. Navigating menus, using inventory, crafting items, and building bases are all great. Better yet, it’s all very simple and fast. Building, in particular, is easy, but not easy. You can create large, complex, detailed structures, but the blueprint system keeps everything in order. I’m guessing spending a year in Early Access letting players help with feedback and testing is probably a big reason. grounded seems more polished than many other survival games.
grounded can be the perfect game for people who are tired of cutting trees and making axes. Yes you do some of it grounded, too much. But on a completely different scale. You do not cut trees, but blades of grass and shoots. It’s a refreshing take on a genre that’s gotten a little outdated for me over the past few years. And its story and well-designed game systems keep me moving forward, even when the game gets a little too much like survival from moment to moment.
If you have Game Pass from Microsoft I would definitely check grounded on Xbox or PC. And if you want to play with a friend, they also support co-op! Just let them know in advance that there are a lot of insects in this game. Please.