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Gameverse | October 27, 2020

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Obsidian’s Next Title “Grounded” Shows off New Generic Survival Gameplay

Robert Endyo

This manifestation of a Honey I Shrunk the Kids universe come to life looks as interesting as such an idea could, but I can’t say I’m excited. Survival games are everywhere. They were most popular years ago when Early Access allowed some to thrive and others to wither away before even launching. The genre is expressed in large open worlds and a variety of crafting and building skills, but as a whole, it lacks diversity. From this gameplay video, Grounded seems to fall right into the same disappointing spectrum.

The video kicks off expressing the need to eat and drink to fill the requisite meters. Not long after, you’re introduced to the same boring resource collection with another patience-draining stamina bar for your actions. Once those resources are accumulated, a demonstration of building with a repetitive “Oh Yeah!” to emphasize every successful construction provides the next weird addition.

The rest of the video mostly goes on to show off a bit more crafting and plenty of stiff combat with various types of bugs. The visual design here looks solid and would probably work with many different types of gameplay, but as a survival game, it appears to offer very little. Of course, this isn’t the first game of this style to come along in the modern era. Microsoft seems to be very interested in these perpetual online survival games since they acquired Minecraft.

Sea of Thieves also had a great core premise and, while not exactly a survival game, it presented the players with a sandbox open world to explore in multiplayer. State of Decay 2 had a similar basic design of resource collecting and building out bases in a survival scenario as well. Neither of these games had a strong release, generally being mediocre to poor among critics. However, they’ve both been funded for years and grown substantially both in content and in the perspective of the gaming community.

Other recent games that have had similar “rise from the ashes” growth are No Man’s Sky and Fallout 76. While some may still balk at the mere mention of these games, many people still actively play both and praise them. At launch, you couldn’t have ever convinced me that would be the case. Yet, today both games continue being supported and grow in popularity with each update, no matter how mediocre they may still be to the rest of us.

My issue with Grounded isn’t so much the mediocrity of yet another survival game though. The problem I see is that this is a game coming from Obsidian. The same Obsidian that just last year released one of the most enjoyable RPGs since The Witcher 3 with The Outer Worlds. A company that has a notable 17-year history in making incredible RPGs is now about to be locked in an Early Access loop of survival game development.

I can’t claim to know what inspired this chain of events, but it’s hard not to look at Microsoft part of the problem. Last month, the very average Bleeding Edge was released by Ninja Theory, a company that previously released the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. They too were recently acquired by Microsoft. 

It might not be fair to lay the blame squarely on Microsoft as these games could very well have been in development well before Microsoft was even involved, but they do have a history of such things. Their acquisition of Rare in 2002 marked the end of the developer’s long run of major hits in the 90s. Aside from some ports of classic games, they had numerous critical misfires and sad Kinect exclusives. This continued until 2018 when they become the developers of Sea of Thieves.

The one advantage Microsoft does afford to Grounded is that it will be part of Game Pass. Game Pass is great for propping up games that would otherwise have a dwindling player base since it’s an affordable method for Xbox and PC players to have access to dozens of games – often right at launch. Though I may not be excited to jump into this overgrown backyard adventure, I’m sure tens or even hundreds of thousands of people will. I suppose we’ll find out what it’s all about in July.