After early access that has only grown with multiple updates, Grounded finallylaunches in full on Xbox and PC.
It took a little over two years for a small group at Obsidian to launch a game in early access, tweak everything through multiple updates, and finally launch the full game on Xbox as well as PC.
Welcome to the garden!
For those unfamiliar with what Grounded is, this one invites you to step into the shoes of a teenager, having been shrunk by science, to explore a huge, oversized garden. With the basics of a survival game, though much more than that, Grounded offers the option of exploring a garden in a group or solo. Discover new objects, and new resources, build with raw materials and find recipes for your weapons, your tools, your vital needs, and even your resting place so that you can successfully explore the environment without too many worries by being able to drink, eat, rest, and stay alive.
But, as mentioned, Grounded isn’t just a survival game. It hides a game with a strong component of adventuring. An unknown vision of a universe that we encounter every day. You’ll have to find out what happened to you, find the infamous mad scientist who shrunk you, and try to figure out some way to get back to your original size. The research will lead you to travel through different areas of the garden which are, in themselves, microuniverses. An adventure of epic dimensions in which each zone offers a wide variety of mechanics and gameplay. A simple area near a sprinkler that hasn’t dried out could, in fact, be a gigantic pond that attracts mosquitoes, while an area with fences could be home to gigantic spiders that will web you on the spot.
Grounded feels like a Disney movie
Honestly, the more I play Grounded, the more it seems to relate to movies I remember from the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!” franchise with the no less famous Rick Moranis. I would say it’s not so much in terms of the look of the game as the whole culture of the time. Some of the toys and objects that we see remind me a lot of what we had in the late 80s and early 90s. To be honest, you are the main character in your adventure but, in my opinion, the real character is the entire garden. It’s incredible and full of life areas, its colors, the complete visual, and all the mechanics going even to the morning dew which hangs on a blade of grass, everything is there to make you smile and the desire to continue your adventure. It’s clearly a very familiar place but, from a microscopic perspective, really becomes a whole other universe.
The garden is a great place to live great adventures, whether you are alone or in a team. The storyline serves as the backstory and comes to life in the game in a number of ways. Whichever way you decide to take on the challenge, you’ll have to live up to what’s in front of you. As in nature, every corner hides a danger or a reward. Drinking muddy water will make you sick and eating raw aphids could be deadly. This makes it necessary to think about every action you are going to perform and your survival depends on it. Prepare yourself a gourd made of maggot skin, roast some aphids, and go climb the tall grass to explore the horizons of what stands before you.
Survival before adventure
One of the things that surprised me the most was how Grounded handles the whole issue of survival. Everything is done with great care and balances the challenge and reward aspect very well without making it too intense at the risk of becoming impossible and thus ruining your experience. If you want to eat, take mushrooms, aphids, berries, and even algae. To quench your thirst, find pop cans, juice boxes, or dew so you don’t risk getting sick. You’ll even have the ability to transform your food with a campfire, grinder, smoothie table, and more.
The construction system is terribly intuitive: place the imaginary objects in the places you would like to build them and then find the necessary ingredients to complete them in the place you have decided. To improve your recipes or learn new ones, you will find in the garden several laboratories and cabins with stations to analyze different objects. Additionally, you will be able to find purple-coloured orbs that will give you a Raw Science stat boost. This transforms the hunt for new resources, a feat that becomes a great reward when you finally analyze an item that will allow you to level up your farming tools, weapons, and gear.
The best thing about this survival system is that it leaves the player free to choose how to live his adventure. Yes, you have the main quest but you will not be forced to go there immediately. These are only suggestions and these have no precedence over your progress directly. For players who prefer to build, Grounded may never end and allow you to build a real place to live in for the rest of your life.
It’s beautiful but… dangerous!
It’s thanks to the everyday life of its surroundings that Grounded works particularly well when it comes to planning your adventure. It is a traditional garden in which insects are both a source of resources and dangerous enemies. Here, the level of detail of this small universe takes on particular importance with its biomes and zones which include their own rules and change the gameplay from point to point on the vast map. Exploration becomes important at different levels of the game as much as clashes. Your first victory against a giant spider is likely to make you scream with joy, believe me! Simple curiosity and the search for more powerful resources to build weapons and equipment allow Grounded to surpass the simple survival game and turn it all into a gigantic outstanding game, even those looking for a great single-player adventure like Obsidian knows how to do it so well.
Beyond the difference of each zone, the way Grounded presents its garden makes it a pleasure to explore it and makes everything beautiful at each sunrise. The retro inspiration is noticeable and will serve as a point of reference or source of resources for the adventure. A box of mints, a Battletoad, Oreo cookies, and more! Each new discovery is like a treasure in itself.
A survival game with RPG elements
Although it is enough to explore the garden and analyze the resources to obtain recipes, the game will also help us to access new constructions and knowledge. On the one hand, we have Raw Science as mentioned earlier. This science is used as a currency to obtain various recipes and the occasional mutation in the Brasabot laboratory. On the other hand, we also have the strength of the character of our character, measured by his intellect, which increases after each analysis of new resources and by completing certain missions. As we level up, we will unlock new recipes.
Beyond the missions, which serve more to encourage us to explore and kill insects, the game includes a collectible item that will allow us to improve our character in a more traditional way: milk teeth. Scattered around the garden, harvesting them will allow you to use them in the laboratory to unlock upgrades like more hit points, more damage, more resistance, and even eliminate certain weak points of your mutations, etc.
Did I say “mutation”? This is also the RPG aspect that I loved the most about the game. As you progress through the garden, you will learn various related mutations such as the possibility of increasing your stamina by spending your time running until you’re unable to breathe, increasing underwater agility by spending a lot of time in the gigantic pond, etc. That said, be careful! These mutations can be equipped, but only two at the start. Hence the use of baby teeth to unlock other sockets.
All of this creates a huge catalog of possibilities when it comes to evolving your character and team to have the best possible chance of surviving in this garden. Some pieces of equipment prevent certain insects from attacking you while others will decrease your hunger or thirst. Of course, each piece of equipment increases certain resistances and attributes. The same goes for weapons, with some dealing bludgeoning damage or others piercing the toughest shell, and so on.
Insects and arachnids in the garden behave differently depending on their own nature, depending on whether it is day or night and your behavior towards them and your actions will have to be carefully calculated. For example, ladybugs and red worker ants won’t attack you unless you hit them first. On the other hand, bed bugs, dust mites, red soldier ants, and spiders will attack you at first sight. What’s really great, though, is that if you’re having fun killing baby spiders, your camp might literally get razed to the ground by a horde of giant spiders who will see you as a predator. Same if you dare to steal the ants’ eggs!
There’s even a mode for people with arachnophobia that completely removes them so as not to scare those players off, which is a great touch in my opinion. The officially released version has added new options that will make the experience much more accessible for everyone.
I confess that I love Grounded from the first minute I set foot in the garden. The story is fun, and the main quests and the challenges offered to give a touch of depth to this visually beautiful game in order to end up with a complete adventure and survival game. Whether you’re the grass-to-grass hopping type or the type to launch yourself into a deep, dark anthill, the game will have something for all players and will clearly provide enjoyment for one and all. Even when you think you have finished the adventure, an element will come to take you by surprise and new puzzles will rise up in front of you. Grounded is a special game, a quality adventure, and a survival game that will make you want to play it when and how you want.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: PC
Beautiful science management
AI is well balanced
Nice impression of becoming better and stronger
Way too dark at night, even with a torch
It can be difficult for people who don't like survival games