Microsoft's XO19 event came packed with a bunch of new announcements for Xbox and Game Pass, though one of the most surprising was Grounded, a new IP from Obsidian in which kids, shrunk down to the size of small pebbles, are forced to survive in the miniature wilds. It's a departure from what fans are used to for the studio, and some are worried that it may not be the game they want. But it's unlikely that Grounded will turn out to be a disaster, and it may even be a nice break for Obsidian.
Obsidian has a long history of making RPGs, and its founders have had even longer histories making games. With those histories combined, the people behind the studio have churned out titles that have been genre-defining. While the studio has been responsible for some less than stable launches, New Vegas was a small disaster when it first released, it consistently delivers games worth playing. That's because, at its core, Obisidian is a team of incredibly talented developers. That talent doesn't end just because there aren't dialogue options.
There's a lot that goes into developing games, but one of the most important aspects is world design. The Last of Us, Skyrim, The Witcher, and God Of War wouldn't be half as popular if the world design supporting them lagged behind raw gameplay. Crafting a fully-realized world is something Obsidian has always excelled at, regardless of setting. Whether the studio inherited the setting, like with New Vegas and Star Wars Knights of The Old Republic 2, or shaped their own, like Pillars of Eternity and The Outer Worlds, Obsidian has proven time and time again that it's capable of producing interesting, believable worlds.
The idea of Obsidian turning the typical backyard into a forest bent on destroying those that inhabit it should excite any fans of the studio. It's a familiar concept to anyone that watched Ant Bully, A Bug's Life, or Antz back in the day, but the possibilities of what Obsidian could do with it are pretty much endless.
Grounded will still have a narrative, that's one thing that Obsidian made clear in interviews after the stage presentation at XO19. It's something that not many survival games are willing to do, but Obsidian seems set on. The game won't have traditional dialogue options, but Obsidian does want players to have an effect on the narrative by playing. It's something new and refreshing, a nice way to spice up a genre that has had a lot of trouble in the past. It's difficult to say what that narrative will be, but the game does feature four different characters with distinct personalities, so there's a clear area for Obsidian to experiment with.
Fans do have a right to be cautious. Survival RPGs, especially those in early access, have earned a reputation for being abandoned while still early on in development. And while Grounded's team is small, it isn't the first-time project of amateur developers making a game for fun. Obsidian is a decorated studio of industry veterans with the backing of Microsoft. Cancellations happen, Scalebound is a clear example of Microsoft pulling the plug on a game, but it doesn't seem likely that Microsoft would cut the first game in a new IP for one of its recently purchased studios - especially as the studio seemingly reaffirms its commitment for smaller-scale and independent games.
Dedicated RPGs still aren't off the table, either. Obsidian has made clear that it has multiple RPGs in development, so there should still be plenty on the horizon for fans of the studio. Not to mention, The Outer Worlds just released, and there's likely still content in the pipeline for those that have already beaten it. Suffice to say, Grounded isn't gobbling up a large portion of the studio. Obsidian is a large developer, and a small team working on Grounded won't be that much of a distraction from the development of any other projects currently in the works.
Not to mention the state that the survival game genre is currently in. There aren't many standouts in the field right now, despite them dominating a large portion of Steam's early-access section. From a triple-a studio, all fans really have is Bethesda's disastrous Fallout 76. If The Outer Worlds wasn't enough to snatch Fallout fans from Bethesda, Grounded may very well be. It'll be interesting to see how, or if, the two games compete with each other, directly or indirectly.
It's still too early to say whether or not Grounded is truly worth playing, but it does look incredibly interesting. It may not be for everyone, but that's okay. Obsidian is a talented developer, and breaking from tradition is ultimately a good thing. It'll give the studio an opportunity to flex its creative muscles and try something new, which not many triple-a studios get the chance to do. If the Obsidian manages to build a world even half as good as some of its other games, it should have enough charm to please most fans.
Only time will really tell, but it seems like Microsoft is impressed enough to invest in the title, and that's a good sign. It's a small team, but Obsidian is wary of becoming too big, so maybe a small team is for the best. There really isn't that long to wait until fans get to find out for themselves, as its set to launch in Spring 2020. Grounded's announcement came as a pretty big surprise, but at least, it was a pleasant one. Hopefully, Obsidian is able to capture the same magic feeling that it has with its past few games.
Grounded is slated to release in Spring 2020 on PC and Xbox One.