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Grounded has consistently stuck out to me amongst the newer selection of Xbox Game Studios titles. Its miniature nature provides a fresh take on the survival genre, while also presenting a charming 80’s aesthetic. Honey, I wonder what that could possibly be a reference to.
Having played through a few hours and the minimal story content present so far, it seems to be a promising start. Those looking for an experience similar to other games in the survival genre will be pleased with the familiar gameplay. However, instead of an apocalyptic wasteland or alien planet, this adventure takes places amongst towering blades of grass. Having to collect familiar resources such as shrubs and weeds on a huge scale makes for a vastly different experience that manages to keep the game fresh.
Enemies in this game consist of creepy crawlies, and some of them have never been cuter. Gnats and Ants make for a good source of food and friendly allies respectively, and seeing more than 20 ants run out of grass to attack a single stinkbug is truly a sight to behold. However, not all these creatures are friendly. Ladybugs can be especially territorial, but are far from the most dangerous creature you can find. For those who, like me, are uncomfortable with certain eight legged arachnids, an “arachnophobia mode” lessens the impact of the tough, web-crawling foes.
There also appears to be some system of spending points found throughout the world. I saw a few during my time that did not appear to be randomly placed. What these points do is a little confusing, or possibly simply too minimal, to notice at the time of writing. However, I can imagine them being used to purchase unique skills or items, or maybe even to find a way home…
Story and Map
The story so far is extremely minimal, with two main objectives that will take no longer than two in-game days to complete. That’s not to say it’s bad, though. What little narrative is currently in this Early Access version of the game is enough to leave me wanting more. A mysterious organisation, a potential kidnapping, and floating geometric shapes. The plot hooks are definitely there and I’m so excited to see what Obsidian does with them.
One potential worry I had was that the map, consisting seemingly of only the yard itself, might be fully explored relatively quickly. That said, I can see plenty of opportunity for expansion — after all, there’s a whole neighbourhood beyond the fence. I can only hope that further expansion is in the works, but for now, this world will do nicely.
Overall, Grounded has definitely managed to peak my interest in its preview, and with the game being on Game Pass it makes even easier to access. While this title won’t appeal to everyone, for those wanting to scratch that survival itch, it’s at least worth a try. The small scale provides an eerie atmosphere that combines with the vibrant colors of the garden, and seeing the colossal house always looming over the blades of grass constantly reminds you of just how small you are.
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