As a devout fan of Ant-Man, when I found out about a game that would offer me even a small fraction of the Scott Lang experience (namely, being surrounded by ants), I was intrigued. Grounded, developed by Obsidian Entertainment and released as an early access game on July 28th, 2020, invites you to explore a seemingly mundane garden in an entirely new way. You play as one of four characters and attempt to survive as a bug-sized teenager navigating a backyard that you quickly learn has more in store than one might expect. There are insects running the gamut from friendly to hostile, and resources abound to help you build your own base.
Given that Grounded is a survival game, much of your time playing is likely going to be spent gathering resources to get through each in-game day. As opposed to other survival games that may task you with chopping down trees and mining for ore, Grounded requires you to cut blades of grass three times your size and craft weapons out of pebbles. One of the most unique survival elements in Grounded is the way in which one finds clean water to drink. While there are puddles, and even a pond to drink out of, that water will poison you and take a portion of your hunger. So, you’re required to search for either discarded juice boxes or dew drops suspended on blades of grass. They can be sparse, however, and I definitely found myself drinking tainted water in lieu of searching more than a few times.
After collecting pebbles, grass, and weeds, you’ll soon be set to start working on a base. The base building mechanics in Grounded are very straightforward and satisfying. You can set up a blueprint of sorts for your base prior to building. I found this very helpful, as it’s often difficult for me to envision structures in games before they’re finished, and as a result, frequently find myself rebuilding them time and time again. There are a fair amount of options for how to go about building your base. You can experiment with different aesthetics and use materials with varying degrees of durability.
Durability is something you’ll want to take into account, as your base will provide you some protection from the various creepy, and sometimes cute, crawlies you share the garden with. Some bugs will attack you on sight, while others require provocation. One minute into my first playthrough I opted to punch an ant. This was, unsurprisingly, a bad move, as it meant that all ants nearby had an insurmountable beef with me that would only end with my death. Unprovoked, ants are often a benign presence, although they will raid your food caches and attack other insects. Spiders are also prevalent in the garden. If you’re worried about arachnophobia getting in your way of enjoying Grounded, there’s a sliding scale in the game’s accessibility options that can make the appearance and sound of the hulking beasts a bit more manageable.
Aesthetically speaking, Grounded is a beautiful game that invites you to recognize and take joy in the little things in life. As we grow older, it seems it gets rarer and rarer to find opportunities to marvel at ladybugs and explore our own environments. Grounded allows and practically necessitates one to harness childlike wonder in a way that I found quite endearing.
As Grounded is currently an early access title, it is not without its flaws. There are a myriad of bugs outside of the game’s intentional insects. I noticed the most in-game hiccups while utilizing the game’s multiplayer mode. At present, the game’s story is also extremely short. I finished the game’s available story quests in under 2 hours, and I’m certain others could finish them much faster. If this bothers you, I would highly recommend waiting a few months for the finished game. If you’re satisfied with base-building and bug hunting, you may be satisfied with the game in its current state.
Grounded is currently available on the Xbox One and PC, and can be purchased for $29.99 on Steam or the Microsoft Store. It is also free to play with the Xbox Game Pass.