Grounded Review

One of the biggest bite-sized adventures out there!

by Marc Magrini

After two years, Grounded has come out of Early Access. This small-scale survival title puts players in the shoes of shrunken teens, forcing them to fight against massive bugs and other creatures if they want to return to normal. While there are many obvious survival elements, such as crafting and base-building, the variety in both features and monsters provides an experience that feels like a mixture of action and exploration. There’s a lot to love in Grounded, but players should be aware of all its quirks before diving into its massive backyard.

Beginning Your Grounded Adventure

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Something that Grounded must be given credit for is its wide breadth of options. Controls can be universally remapped even if you aren’t playing with a keyboard, the interval of each auto-save can be changed, and there’s a wide variety of accessibility options. This includes an arachnophobia mode, though it’s somewhat redundant due to the presence of other intimidating bugs. Where the game truly shines is its customizable difficulty; practically everything about the game, from player damage to active quests, can be turned off and on at will. The basic Mild, Medium, and Whoa! options don’t offer too much on their own, but Custom difficulty can allow players to make the game as hard as they want. There’s also a creative mode that allows players to explore and build to their heart’s content.

Unfortunately, those looking to play online with all of these options will need to use an Xbox account. Even if you play the game on Steam, you must link an account from Microsoft to play with your friends. This is a minor issue, but certainly one that can’t be ignored — it creates extra steps to set up the game just so you don’t have to explore the world alone. It’s particularly a shame because the game was obviously designed for multiplayer, even featuring an in-game chatting system. One can only hope this requirement is made more lenient in the future, but considering the game is published by Xbox Game Studios, it’s not likely to change anytime soon.

Exploration and Content

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Unlike many other survival games out there, Grounded has a basic world map that isn’t randomized. This might kill replay value for some players, but it will make things an absolute joy for speedrunners. This lack of randomness also means players can make full strategies for every aspect of the game, from how to complete quests to where the greatest resources can be gathered. This will be extremely helpful as there are hundreds of different items that players can create, offering a great deal of variety even outside of the game’s world.

On the subject of what Grounded’s world offers, players will explore a huge backyard filled with plants and insects of all shapes and sizes. As they explore, they’re given quests to find new labs and gather resources to help themselves reactivate a machine that can hopefully restore their size to that of a normal human’s. The tutorials surrounding these quests are very in-depth and helpful, giving a pretty good idea of what to focus on first. There are very few quest markers, and even the ones labelled on a player’s map won’t reveal any direct path towards the next objective. Grounded encourages exploration above all else. If you’re willing to embrace that, it won’t be too difficult to get where you need to go.

As players explore, their characters will make various comments and quips about the world around them. They’ll also encounter BURG.L, a friendly robot that offers to help players achieve their goal of returning to normal. The quality of dialogue and voice acting does vary from time to time, but it can easily be turned off should it ever get to be a bit grating. Where Grounded truly shines is in its bugs. A lot of time and polish has gone into Grounded for its full release; performance might be a bit spotty even on mid-range GPUs, but the only bugs most players will find are the creatures they encounter.

Creepy Crawlies and Deadly Dangers

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There’s an incredible number of creatures in Grounded. Early-game encounters will be a bit basic, as with any survival game, but exploration will lead to the discovery of many new lifeforms. Some of these are mostly harmless to the player, with weevils and ants being easily ignored, while others will be highly aggressive. What’s particularly noteworthy is that some of these bugs will attack each other, giving a greater sense of realism and even strategy to many bug encounters. There are even entire boss battles to be found in the game, offering incredible challenge even to players with the greatest gear.

While there’s a great variety in creatures — and even the ways you fight them — overall combat in Grounded can be somewhat tough to enjoy. Many bugs are meant to be fought with fairly strong equipment, and while this encourages a sense of danger around certain areas, it can also lead to unwinnable situations. Mosquitoes are a great example of this, tearing players apart in mere seconds if they don’t have any good armor or ranged weapons. You can use various strategies such as throwing rocks and stunning tougher bugs to quickly escape, but many of these foes will be guarding important story quests. Don’t expect to follow the story at your own pace as a result; unless you’re playing on Mild or Creative difficulty, you’ll pretty much need to stop and craft new gear before delving deeper into the backyard.

Thankfully, death is quite temporary outside of Custom difficulties. With each death, you drop a backpack containing every item not currently held in your hand. You can have multiple backpacks at once, allowing you to temporarily ignore your most recent demise even if there are some valuable items you’ve lost as a result. Your tools might be somewhat damaged with each death, but thanks to the game’s progression systems, it isn’t too difficult to get your hands on resources for more. There’s plenty of challenge for those that want it, but you won’t be punished too harshly for wishing not to engage with it.

Final Thoughts

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Overall, Grounded offers a fantastic experience for players of all backgrounds. It combines a survival experience with a world of oversized nature, offering plenty of its own charm and challenge that most fans of the genre would be unfamiliar with. The price might seem a bit steep at $39.99 USD, but anyone with the friends and ability to play online will get more than their money’s worth. You shouldn’t expect an experience completely oriented around action and skill, and yet the game isn’t solely about survival either. Embrace the resources, exploration, battles, and world of Grounded and you’ll fall in love with everything it has to offer!

This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.

- This article was updated on September 27th, 2022

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  • Score: 4.5 / 5
  • Available On: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
  • Published By: Xbox Game Studios
  • Developed By: Obsidian Entertainment
  • Genre: Survival
  • US Release Date: September 27, 2022
  • Reviewed On: PC
  • Quote: "Grounded is a charming survival experience that mixes exploration, action, and crafting into one grand package. There are plenty of options for those wishing to get immersed in the world, and anyone willing to put up with the odd multiplayer requirements will surely get hours of enjoyment out of this game."
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