Obsidian Entertainment’s next game, the miniaturized adventure Grounded, received a demo on Steam yesterday. It’s a fun game, if a little constrained by the preview’s 30-minute time limit. Players looking to get the most out of their time with the demo would probably do well to just ignore the story missions altogether.
Grounded opens with the character of your choice waking up in a cave. I chose Hoops, the spunky Punky Brewster type who constantly refers to herself in the third-person, and never regretted it. As you explore the cave, you realise it’s actually just a small hole in a backyard, made huge by your character’s tiny size. After learning how to run and jump and all those normal video game things, you’re set free in a living ecosystem that includes various types of plants and wildlife like ants, ladybugs, and (gulp) spiders.
The first place you’ll want to stop in Grounded is a small tent that includes a high-tech analyser. Putting crafting materials you’ve picked up along the way — rocks, twigs, sap, and the like — into the analyser fills up your crafting menu with recipes for tools and building materials. Rocks, for example, can be combined with plant fibres and sprigs to make an axe, a hammer, and a spear, all of which are useful in foraging for more supplies and defending yourself. After getting details on three items from the analyser, however, you’ll need to wait for the machinery to recharge, which causes more friction with the demo’s 30-minute time limit.
From there, you should really just ignore the story missions altogether. Those goals in the upper-right corner are only there to distract you from your main objective, which is to experience as much of Grounded as you can in just half an hour. What little story there is at the moment doesn’t even teach you anything apart from “torches help in the dark,” which, duh. It eats up the limited time the demo allows you to explore. And that should be your main focus, because this world is too gorgeous and full of life to miss out on.
Grounded shows a lot of potential despite being pretty feature-poor in its current state. The aesthetics specifically are on point. The sense of scale I felt every time I came face to face with a giant soda can or bucket is both whimsical and terrifying. That said, the crafting system could be a little more engaging — it’s not fun mindlessly clicking through menus until you find what you want — and there isn’t really much to do apart from gawk at your surroundings and avoid spiders. I’m looking forward to playing around with a fuller version of Grounded when it enters early access next month.