Grounded is a video game by Obsidian and Xbox Game Studios currently in early access on PC and Xbox but for a game that is still in its very early stages, there is a LOT to do!
The game is essentially Honey, I Shrunk the Kids – you play as a teen that wakes up next to a mysterious syringe…that is the size of your whole body. You look around and realize you are in a hole, surrounded by dirt, and the roots of the plants are also the same size as you. Your teen stumbles out into the open air and sees grass as tall as buildings and bugs the size of dogs. You quickly arm yourself with a rock and a stick and begin to explore.
There is a tutorial intertwined with a story that helps propel you through the first few hours, but as the challenges begin to mount up (and the bugs more fierce) you realize the necessity of crafting weapons and having a home base that is more than just the lean-to made out of some clover leaf. You don’t level up, but you can unlock new recipes with each new resource you discover and scan at the mysterious science stations scattered around the lawn. Eventually, you develop mutations based on specific activities that you seem to do a lot (for example: I got a mutation for my stamina because I insisted on sprinting everywhere).
Your teen must also eat and drink to survive and finding ways to gather water on a regular basis is the first challenge. There are puddles around the yard, but they are filled with dirt and who knows what else (when your teen takes a sip, their eyes get blurry and hunger increases quickly). Dew drops can be found clinging to blades of grass early in the morning and as the evening falls, but you have to keep looking up to find them and try not to fall in any pits, or worse, walk into a spider.
Oh yeah, there are spiders. Arachnophobes be warned – though there is a feature in the settings to alter the spiders so they look less spidery, but the resulting floating white blob seemed just as upsetting to me so I dunno. Taking on a spider requires patience and quick thinking and also the suspension of disbelief that a spider could not climb up a log (look, it is a video game, there have to be some barriers or spiders would be OP).
You can play Grounded solo, but I think the game is a lot more fun with friends. Venturing out to go on a hunt for ant mandibles or to chop down dandelions to get their stems, it is more fun with friends. Also, the teens have cute dialogues that pop up when they are together in a group. At one point, we found the head of an action figure in the lawn, and the two boys discussed the books and show that the character was from (I found the head on my own while playing Willow Branch in my solo game, and she just said it looked like something from a tv series and moved on). It is little touches like this that make it really fun to play together (though hopefully they will create more dialogue for the teens’ eating animations because those got old quick).
There is something here for each member of your gamer group. Those that LOVE planning out elaborate bases will enjoy the walls, windows, staircases and more you can pick from to make a unique home. Those that crave action can craft armor sets and head out to fight all the bugs, completing missions. If you’re like me, the urge to explore let’s you wander most of the yard (there are a few inaccessible spots, one that requires a gas mask and another that is just the end of the current game progress…but oh am I excited to see what is beyond the “caution” tape I found surrounding the shed).
For a game that is still in early access (Patch 0.7 just came out around the end of February) there are HOURS of game play for you and your friends. If you’re looking for your next group game, this is a solid purchase and there is SO much more to come!