A few weeks ago, Pyroplop started telling me about Grounded. He had played the demo and thought that it was right up my alley. And, he is right. I love open-world survival games that incorporate crafting elements, and that is exactly what Grounded is. Early access was released on July 28, 2020. I have the XBOX Game Pass, so I am playing on PC.
What is early access?
Grounded is an early-release survival action game. Currently, you can play for free if you have XBOX Game Pass. Otherwise, you can purchase access from Steam for $29.99. If you aren’t familiar with early-access games, be aware that early access means the game is not complete. Early access gives players the ability to assist in the development process by reporting bugs and other issues to the developers so they can move the game toward alpha/beta phases and, then, final release. Early-access has become a more frequent part of the gaming community, so be aware that you are not purchasing/playing a fully completed game, so go into game play with an open mind.
Unfortunately, after two days of hardcore game play, I already found myself being seduced by boredom and no amount of open mindedness seemed to motivate me to continue playing.
What I liked
I almost feel guilty for feeling the way that I do. It is a visually stunning game. You will not be disappointed with the look of the game. I also love the concept. In Grounded, your character wakes up in a strange place and has seemingly forgotten the events leading up to the current state of things. You explore the yard hoping to find clues to restore your memory on how you ended up in such a small state. Of course, not everything in the yard is going to see you as non-threatening, so you have to do your best to survive. From building shelters, to finding suitable food sources, it has all the makings of a very solid open-world survival game.
Bugs. Let’s talk bugs. They are so well done. If you’re a bug enthusiast, you may get giddy at how the ants quizzically look at you, or how the ladybugs seem to chatter at you. And then, there are the spiders. If you have a severe case of arachnophobia, the game has an arachnophobia mode to make the spiders less threatening.
Building. I really like how simple the building aspect of the game is. You chop some weeds for “wood”, slap on some grass/clover and you have a basic base. What I REALLY love is the blueprint feature. Before you actually craft, a blueprint can be placed without using your resources. That way, you can technically build a draft of your base and make changes without spending resources. Also, if you don’t have all of the resources, you can still apply it to the blueprint. You don’t need all of the supplies on you to begin your building endeavors. By far, one of the best features of this game.
Crafting. Crafting is also super easy and not over complicated. As you discover items, you use a science base to analyze them for new recipes. It beats having to hunt down recipes.
What Fell Short
As I mentioned, this is an early-access game. So, my opinions are solely based on what I, personally, found lacking that tarnished my enjoyment of the game in its current state. In no way am I condemning an incomplete game. I’m simply sharing why I think I lost interest so quickly in its current state with no consideration placed on what has been promised to be added.
Game Progression. I play quite a bit of 7 Days to Die which is, in my opinion, the gold standard of an early release/alpha/beta game. 7 Days has been around for years and is still comfortably sitting in the alpha phase of testing. Despite being an incomplete game, they’ve done well to keep me coming back.
The open-survival genre is simple. You’re dropped into a world, you start with nothing, and you have to slowly gather/create the things you need to survive. As you level up, your stats grow and you, as the adventurer, grows stronger. Where Grounded fell short for me is the distinct lack of noticeable progression. In most games, there is some sort of leveling system which Grounded completely lacks. This bothered me. In fact, it bothered me a lot more than I thought it would if I am being perfectly honest. I played for days and it made me feel like I was working toward nothing. I quickly discovered something about myself that I did not know prior to playing Grounded. I apparently need a leveling system to get enough gaming satisfaction to keep me interested. If you’re an explorer and love to unlock different areas, I can see how the game, in this current state, would keep you interested. I am not an explorer. I like exploring in conjunction with a story line, and that is just a personal preference. No right or wrong.
The Story Mode was INSANELY short. I think it took me less than a couple hours to complete what story mode they had available. Again, before you start gathering the pitchforks and torches, I understand it is in early access, but if I am being perfectly honest, it wasn’t enough to charge $29.99 on Steam for. I do think some of you will be very disappointed. That being said, that price does afford you all future updates through final release, but be aware that you might be met with initial disappointment. Once you finish the initial story content, you do get a message that content will be added as the game develops. Who knows how often or how soon that will be.
Inventory Management. The lack of good inventory management can make or break a game for me. Unfortunately, Grounded has a lack of the basic inventory management features that other games in the genre have. Specifically, I could not figure out how I could easily move stacks of items from my inventory to my storage without drag and dropping. In most games in the genre, you have a keyboard + mouse shortcut that will deposit stacks of items into your storage. I couldn’t find that in Grounded. There is also a lack of sorting. If you’ve figured these things out, leave a comment below and educate me, because I was struggling. Again, I try not to compare it to other games, but honestly, that is hard. It would be like playing a first-person shooter and “R” isn’t the default reload. There is a reason the unspoken standard exists. Some people appreciate being different. When it comes to standard gaming controls, I do not!
Food/Water Requirements. I was playing on the default mode, which I believe is called “Medium”. The rate at which one needs food and water is a bit, and I use this term loosely, but, well…unrealistic. Your character will drink a droplet larger than the character’s head, and yet, shortly after, you need more water. While food and water are relatively easy to find, it is an annoyance. This is easily remedied by playing in creative mode. I can always do that.
The Lack of Information on How to Use Crafted Items. Some tool tips or an in-game tutorial when you make new items that have certain restrictions would be nice. For some of you, finding this out on your own might be your cup of tea. A tool tip feature can easily be turned on or off, and maybe I didn’t do enough exploring to figure it out. If I did, feel free to let me know in the comments.
These were the main issues that I think contributed to my very fast burnout. There are a few game bugs that are also annoying, but not a deal breaker. For example, in the menu system, it will show a keyboard shortcut, but it won’t work. I’m not going into all the bugs I ran into, because overall, they did not contribute to how bored I got with the game. I was easily able to overlook any glitch/bug.
I think that a lot of what made me lose interest is simply because it is an early release game. I think if you have a better set of skills to overlook what the game is missing and are able to appreciate the game for what it is in its current state, you will probably enjoy this game a lot.
For now, I am going to tuck the game away and wait for a few more updates before starting all over. Do I recommend it? I do. I think it is going to be a fantastic game once more content is available. Again, if you have a XBox Game Pass, it is absolutely free to play, so you really don’t have anything to lose. However, if you don’t, I would recommend that you wait. You might be disappointed in what your $30 buys you.