When Grounded appeared on the Steam Store page a few weeks ago, to say I was ecstatic would be an understatement. As the trailer humorously admits, it's by no means Cyberpunk 2077, but it sure is something to be excited about and could certainly keep you going steady until then... well, if CDPR ever release the game...
Currently in Early Access but wielding a wealth of content to really sell the whole experience, Grounded is a game which takes the concept of that hit 1989 classic Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and says, "teeny-tiny teens lost in a back garden? Yeah that would make an awesome survival game..."
Playing as one of four meddling kids, either alone or with three other friends, you wake up in a ditch besides a carry case for tiny people, like Woody and the gang, straight out of the Toy Story 2 airport scene. But this is no airport and you ain't no toy neither. Nope, your just an itsy-bitsy kid in an everyday garden and with no idea how you got there.
As if the concept of surviving the magnified horrors of garden undergrowth wasn't enough already, you'll need to search for food and water, as well as find resources to craft all the gear you could possibly need to defend yourself from pesky gnats, territorial soldier ants, and far, far worse...
In fact, there's a fair few dangers to be stumbled upon, so you'll even need to consider building yourself a base from grass planks, weed stems, and for some of the more complicated base amenities, the body parts of your fallen foes...
Speaking of falling, if you come across any dandelions (which you definitely will), then grab one of those tufts and get gliding! No really, they're not just a novelty, I never leave my base without at least two in my backpack. Just be sure you've got them equppied though, or else you might suddenly find yourself with two very broken legs...
There really is quite a bit to do in the current version of the game, and with all of this, plus a gorgeous art style, phenomenal sound design, and a plethora of attention to detail that will really catch you unawares in the best kind of way, I honestly think this is a must have for any fan of the survival/crafting genre.
If any of this sounds even slightly interesting to you, then I can assure you you'll love it, and I'd highly recommend checking it out.
Of course, it's important to remember that it is still in early access (full release expected sometime in 2021, though when exactly has not yet been confirmed) and as such, there are a few things to be aware of. Namely, there is still the odd bug (not the insect kind in this case) though I would add that, compared to many other early access titles I've played over the years, there's nothing game breaking, and both single and co-operative play are remarkably stable. The story line is also very thin currently, with only the initial "chapter" fully implemented. There are however, numerous other places that, if you explore them well enough, will have you stumble across tid-bits of things to come, alongside some other little "Easter Eggs" which I won't detail here, since I don't want to give away too many spoilers.
But that aside, it really is a gorgeous and immersive little game with what I believe will be a big, bright future. Check it out on Steam, and if you're looking for a new system to play it on too, then why not check out our full range of gaming PCs?
If you're looking to pick up a copy for yourself, or if you've already bought the game and are wondering where best to start, I'll leave you with a few tips from my time playing to help you on your journey through the undergrowth!
They're cheap and easy to craft, can be placed almost anywhere, and allow you to both sleep through the night and more importantly, set your spawn. If you've got a big fight ahead of you, pop one down nearby, set your spawn, and know that if you do die, you won't need to traverse the entire garden, just to retrieve your favourite club.
Probably the first weapon you'll craft in the game, you'll be using it a lot in the beginning. It can be used for some very speedy poking and does do reasonable enough damage, but if you want to take out smaller game, especially when hunting for food, master the art of lobbing that bad-boy. It'll pretty much one-hit anything smaller than you, and deal critical damage to similarly sized insects.
Sometimes you'll find yourself fighting a big bad enemy with a whole lot of health, plinking them from afar with a sprig bow and thistle needle arrows. I won't judge you if you like cheesing it by standing somewhere you can attack the enemy without the AI being able to path to you, but in Grounded it can be an unforgiving tactic. Almost certainly a product of the game being in early access, many of the garden's inhabitants will run around like headless chickens and sometimes, away, if they can't fight back - and if they get too far, well, their health just straight up resets... not too fun if you've just spent 5 minutes putting over a hundred arrows into something, just to see it briefly disappear from view, and return moments later completely unscathed.
When you find yourself in the midst of a vicious melee with some 6 or even 8-legged horror, blocking is your best bet. Without armour, you are very, very squishy, and with it, depending on the tier, you're considerably less squishy at best - you'll also be extremely unlikely to ever deal enough damage to kill something big, quicker than it can kill you, especially if you're alone. And if you're in a fight with more than one big beasty insect, or even just a handful of angry ants, don't even bother swinging unless you've got an ungodly number of smoothies and bandages set on an auto-clicker. However, master your blocking and you'll become practically invincible.
There are only two key things to remember with blocking in Grounded; firstly, you have a sort of cooldown bar, which, as you suffer damage, it absorbs it (indicated by how much red fills the metre). As this block cooldown bar maxes out, it stops blocking a percentage of damage until it's basically useless (meaning, theoretically, you can't block forever). Secondly, there is such a thing as a timed block - blocking right as an attack is about to hit (which actually has quite a generous window) will both block the damage and prevent the cooldown timer on your block bar from increasing, meaning you'll be able to block for far longer, thus avoiding that lethal damage. You can tell whether you timed the block successfully by listening for the distinctive *ting*/parry sound.
One-on-one, this means you can get through an entire fight relatively unscathed, but hordes, or pairs of big bad beasties will require additional protection...
As you analyse items in Grounded (which you should be doing constantly, by the way), among other things, you'll unlock new sets of armour, which you'll notice have their own offerings in terms of both flat defence, and a unique buff. These will offer you numerous options in terms of your playstyle, but in my opinion, not all armours were created equal, and not just when it comes to flat defence.
At first glance, looking at some of the easier to obtain sets in the game will make you wonder why you'd bother with anything else - grub hide armour, for example, increases you maximum stamina, meaning you can sprint further or swing longer before it needs to regenerate, whilst the acorn armour for instance, has one of the highest flat defence bonuses in the game, as well as increasing your maximum health, giving you the ability to shrug off normally lethal blows. However, these sets pale into insignificance when you unlock the Ladybug armour.
Besides having the highest flat defence on offer in the game, it has one very OP buff, which, if you weren't savvy to how useful blocking was before, wouldn't seem nearly as attractive as increased health or stamina... but lucky for you and me, we are, and well, Ladybug armour increases something called your Blocking Strength. Wearing a full set and wielding the tier 2 ant club will turn you into the human ankylosaurus of the garden. Your cooldown bar will rarely get anywhere near maxing out, and any bleed over damage caused by the ever so slowly decreasing block efficiency, is pretty much mitigated by the flat defence bonus. Stick a few smoothies or bandages on your hot-bar, and you can go toe-to-toe with the hardest enemy in the game (currently) without much more than a scratch.
With all the combat tips so far, this is also a gentle reminder not to fall into the trap of thinking you have to fight anything you come across, especially in the early game, and even more so on higher difficulties. More often than not, skill, wit and quick feet will keep you out of harm's way. Also of note, your running speed seems to be affected by some items equipped from your hot-bar; you might feel safer running away with a big old ant club in your hands, but it'll slow you down big time - stow it in the backpack and leg it!
Something that Obsidian have done quite differently to other similar games in the genre, is how inventory space is managed, making it much more of a premium in Grounded. By which I mean, as you unlock more tools and armour, don't expect to keep the same inventory space that you once had.
In Grounded, your hot-bar is exactly that, a hot-bar; it's not an extension of your inventory like it is in many other games, meaning what you see is what you get when you look in your backpack. It makes sense to me, and it's not a huge bother, but you will need to think about what you're intending to do occasionally - if you're going gathering, just take a weapon and the relevant tools, and dump the rest of your inventory to maximise your carry capacity. Equally, and something I hope they'll change in the future, armour works in the exact same way; equipping armour into your armour slots doesn't remove it from your inventory, so if you want to stay fully kitted out, then you'll need to sacrifice three inventory slots to do so. Again, not the end of the world and certainly something straightforward to work around, but good to be aware of - as you reach the current endgame, you can quickly find your inventory full of tools, weapons, ammunition, consumables and your armour, often leaving half or less of your inventory available for gathering loot and resources (which, as it is, currently don't stack beyond 10 items).
When you first build a canteen in the game, you may find yourself a tad disappointed, as it can only ever store enough liquid for two uses. Which is quite underwhelming. However (and this is definitely a citation needed here), it seems to me that drinking from the canteen will restore marginally more of your thirst than drinking straight from the dew drop.
It also gives you the opportunity to store juice from juice-boxes and tin cans, and not just water. It's no Lemon Crime, at least not every time, but it will restore a small amount of hunger, as well as thirst. They're quite useful on long trips out to areas with less food available and fewer water sources.
What's more, when you reach the point of building liquid containers for your base, it will allow you to ferry water from these sources or your dew collectors, to the liquid stores, which you wouldn't be able to do otherwise.
On the whole, building in Grounded is an absolute breeze. Unlike similar titles where you generally feel the need to find the perfect location to settle first time round, for fear of not having enough resources or else it being too tricky to establish in the late game, Grounded has made it easy enough to settle down and up and go, whenever, and to pretty much wherever, you like.
I'd say a good 75% of the materials you'll need in base building are just plant fibre, clover leaves and grass planks, all of which are in abundance almost everywhere on the map (as well as sometimes re-growing when you are far away enough from exhausted areas for extended periods of time, or when logging back into an existing save).
However, the primary thing to consider when it comes to materials, is specifically weeds/dandelions, which are the only source of weed stems in the game currently. Furthermore, generic "weeds" require tier 2 tools, so until you progress to that point, anything you build requiring weed stems will rely solely on dandelions. So I'd recommend keeping an eye out for how far away you're intending to build from them. It's still perfectly do-able to build far away from them, but the constant running back and forth could get tedious quickly.
This was one of the first things I came across playing the game, which proved to be quite useful later on when I decided to build in some tighter spaces. If you're patient, and with a bit of luck, you can actually place blueprints where they would normally highlight red (meaning they couldn't be placed).
To pull this cheesy hack off, find the nearest place to where you want to build something, somewhere that you can actually place a blueprint, and try to have one of the snap-mounts next to where you want to hack your new blueprint. Then, placing your cursor/the blueprint you want to hack on one of the other snap-mounts, whilst it is highlighted blue, quickly move your cursor to where you actually want it and click. Sometimes you can even move your cursor back and forth rapidly, spamming left-click quickly, and this can work too.
From what I can tell, it works by tricking the game into thinking the placement of the second position was allowed (when in fact, it was actually the first position, but you moved too quickly for the game to recognise the change in placement). I'll be honest, it is definitely a bit clanky, takes a lot of mastery, and will probably be patched out eventually, but for now, I use it way more than I probably should as it does allow me to quell some of my base-building OCD...
And there you have it - ten tips to help you out in Grounded, whether you're just starting out, or have been playing for a while. Hopefully at least one was of use!
Let us know in the comments what your thoughts on Grounded are. Is it a new favourite? What do you think the future of the game will hold? We always love to hear your thoughts, so let us know!