Xbox Game Pass’ new survival game is like Minecraft, but scarier

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Xbox Game Pass’ new survival game is like Minecraft, but scarier

A player using a bow and arrow is attacked by a giant spider.

Screenshot: Obsidian/Xbox

It’s dark outside, and I’m scared. I am hiding behind a small chest and a rock. Around me are some flimsy walls made of leaves. Outside those walls, I can hear it: a giant, angry spider. I can’t see him directly, but I can see the huge leaves and tall blades of grass that surround my little shelter moving as he looks for me. Overhead, a large mosquito flies by; a few meters behind, an ant launches itself on a fallen branch. I hate bugs and insects, and I’m starting to regret playing Grounded.

While it’s been in early access for nearly two years, Grounded it finally hit version 1.0 this week via a big update for PC and Xbox. Powered by Obsidian, Grounded is a survival game in the same vein as Minecraft. Yes, you will be hitting things with stones to get other things to make better things to hit bigger things to get more things. It is one of those games.

But Grounded has two big advantages over many of the survival games that have followed in Minecraftwake. One, it has a genuinely interesting story involving scientists with secrets. And two, it’s set in the backyard where you play as a little boy who has shrunk down to such a small size that ants, spiders, coins, and soda cans tower over you. Maybe you’ve seen the movie Honey I shrunk the kids? Good, Grounded It is that but with more violence and management of resources. And too many mistakes.

Still, even with all the nasty creatures, it’s genuinely exciting to explore a handcrafted world (no procedural generation here!) as a little survivor. Hiding inside huge soda cans or picking up huge blades of grass is something I’ve never done in a survival game. It also made exploration more interesting. What random everyday object, now made massive, would he find next in the recently deadly backyard?

Obsidian

The basic play cycle of the game allows you to build your camp with the resources you scavenge in the backyard. As you get stronger, you can find new areas of the world that contain new lore to discover and quests to complete. Completing these quests helps you in your ultimate goal of returning to your normal size, safely escaping the rule of spiders and mosquitoes.

I’ll fully admit that I almost activated the game’s anti-spider mode before starting Grounded. (Changes the appearance of the spiders in the game in an effort to make it easier for people with arachnophobia to enjoy the game.) But I decided against it, partly because I wanted to fully experience the game, and also because all the other bugs in Grounded, like larvae and fleas, would not be changed at all. So I figured I was going to freak out anyway, so why not go for the full, spider-filled experience?

No story spoilers here, but Groundedis writing it’s solid, and I found myself increasingly intrigued as to why my character had shrunk and what had been going on in the backyard before I arrived. This narrative helps you keep going when things get tough. You know those moments in every survival game where you have to spend an hour moving your base or collecting resources to build a better team? You still have to do all that in Groundedbut at least on the other end of it all there is a new story beat or a piece of tradition to be enjoyed.

A screenshot shows a player surrounded by large ants and mosquitoes.

Screenshot: Obsidian/Xbox

Another reason why I kept playing Grounded, even as I slowly became paralyzed with fear from all the damn bugs, it was how well done it felt. Navigating menus, using your inventory, crafting items, and building bases all feel great. And better yet, everything is very easy and fast. Building in particular is easy but not simple. You can create some large, complex and detailed structures, but the blueprint system keeps things organized. I imagine spending a year in Early Access, letting players help with feedback and testing, is probably a big reason. Grounded feels more polished than so many other survival games.

Grounded It could be the perfect game for people who got bored of hitting trees and making axes. Yeah you do some of that in Grounded, also. But on a very different scale. You are not cutting trees, but blades of grass and shoots. It’s a refreshing spin on a genre that has become a bit stale for me in recent years. And its well-designed story and gameplay systems keep me going, even when the moment-to-moment becomes a bit too much of survival.

If you have Game Pass from Microsoft, I would definitely check it out. Grounded on Xbox or PC. And if you want to play with a friend, co-op is also supported! Just let them know in advance that there are a lot of bugs in this game. Please.

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