One of October's biggest releases was The Outer Worlds, the latest RPG from Obsidian Entertainment, the developer behind two beloved RPGs, Fallout: New Vegas and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II. Having recently been acquired by Microsoft as a new first-party Xbox studio, Obsidian Entertainment has multiple development teams and one of them is working on Grounded, a new co-op survival game with a Honey I Shrunk the Kids aesthetic.
Grounded's premise is fairly simple: The player has been shrunken down to the size of an ant in their backyard and must fight off hordes of ants, mites, arachnids, and other giant insects. Players will explore the environment, establish a base camp, forage for supplies and resources like leaves and water, and craft new materials for weapons, armor, and structures that will keep everything out.
In the demo, we were dropped directly into the world of Grounded, pre-equipped with a few items and weapons that included an axe, a hammer, and a throwable spear. While the full game will allow players to explore the world at their leisure and choose their own destination to set up camp, the demo had the basic structure of a base already set-up next to the spawn point due to limited time being available. For the first 10 minutes, we were free to do anything we wanted and spent the majority of the time exploring the world and fighting off ants and mites.
Obsidian Entertainment has done a great job with the graphics and aesthetic design of Grounded which feels like a combination of Ant Bully, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and the atmosphere of The Sandlot. The environmental detail during the day was particularly impressive, including the way the sun beams through each straw of grass and casts a shadow on the glistening wet mud. We never reached a border of the map but it didn't feel overly expansive. Moving through the yard, players will come across a variety of bugs, most commonly Ants and Mites, and can cut down grass or wooden planks to create different materials to build a base, make armor, or craft weapons.
The final five minutes of the demo was by far the most fun, with survival being the key ingredient. Grounded has a similar feature to Dying Light where night-time is much more dangerous and enemies are far more aggressive. A near-endless horde of ants started to swarm the base from every direction, forcing the objective to be a combination of fighting off ants, while simultaneously picking up grass plants to rebuild the knocked-down walls. Ants by themselves are easy to defeat but can quickly overwhelm and we found the sheer volume of them to be a struggle alone. Unfortunately, we didn't get to experience other enemy types, meaning no giant spiders like the one in the initial reveal trailer.
Overall, Grounded was a lot of fun to play, even in single-player. But its long-term sustainability will largely depend on co-op play. Survival games often need to have a very specific and original hook to keep players invested long-term or people will move on to the next thing. The biggest compliment we could give is to say that it's obvious that Grounded is made by a smaller team but it has just enough heart as any other game that the studio has made.
Obsidian Entertainment has proven its talent and potential as a developer more than enough times to put Grounded on people's radar-based on their name alone. The Outer Worlds released to glowing reviews, and while the team has multiple RPGs currently in development, Microsoft had enough faith in this project to keep it alive, even after the acquisition earlier this year.
Grounded releases in Spring 2020 for PC and Xbox One.