You’re Grounded, Son

Grounded is a game that I have a love and hate relationship with. I absolutely love the setting and visually it looks quite impressive. It’s basically Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, even mirroring the movie’s time period of the 80’s. To say Grounded is unforgiving is an understatement. Death is common and the penalties aren’t severe: some loss of equipment condition and a corpse run. Even decently geared some insects can mess you up if you’re not careful.

As an early access game, I’ve enjoyed watching the progress of Grounded. There’s been a lot of additions: new areas, new insects, even new equipment. I never get sick of viewing the semi-translucent effects evident in blades of grass or even ants.

That being said, Obsidian can be a bit heavy-handed with their emphasis that you are small and weak. In my last play-thru, I woke up near the starter area where I had started building only to be terrorized by a wolf spider on the 2nd day. Wolf Spiders are particularly fast, can wander a large area, have a poison attack, and can one-shot kill you even geared if you’re not careful. They are pretty much the endgame creature. In real life, most wolf spiders are nocturnal, and for the most part, the game follows that rule. If you don’t want to die, go to bed. If you want to take on the game’s big bad, stay up late.

No, the game’s overly oppressive insects aren’t my main frustration because as I mentioned above dying is just a fact of life in this game. Right now, this game lacks a serious sense of progression. A good example is the acorn and koi armor sets. One is quite easy to obtain, the other takes a lot more work. Yet both sets have the same amount of mitigation despite the koi armor being marked as 2nd tier. In fact, the game has a lot of parallel items. For a game that is entirely gear-based, not seeing gains in gear is actually a demotivator to acquire other sets.

The biggest issue is that some of the items that would be useful for taking down an enemy you don’t acquire until AFTER you take down that enemy. For example, AFAIK there are only two bows: the starter bow and a bow you only can only craft from wolf spider parts. What’s the point of a weapon you get only after you take down the strongest enemy? Also, some of the items you need to properly explore the pond are found in areas where it’s easier to drown and come and loot your backpack later.

Fortunately, this playthrough I haven’t had to deal with insects demolishing my base. I typically build right by the pond near the juice box as it’s flat and one of the calmest areas in the game (the orb weavers don’t come over that far). Usually, no matter where I build the ants seem to find my stash, but blessedly they haven’t come visiting. To be fair ants in real life can find food anywhere, much to my dismay, so it’s not entirely unexpected they would be incredibly annoying in the game as well.

Also, I’ve absolutely enjoyed exploring the labs in the bush and the pond. Even though there are some frustrations in the design right now, I’ve seen such great strides that I’m excited to see what the end game will be like. If you haven’t had a chance to try Grounded, you can buy it on Steam for $30 or if you just want to sample it you can get the MS’s game pass (which I’ve gotten for $1 twice now).

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