Grounded has an official synopsis, but it can basically be summed up as “Honey I Shrunk the Kids: The Game.” That was my understanding of Obsidian Entertainment’s new small-in-size but big-in-heart title before I had a chance to check out a sneak peek of their new update. Now, I’m wondering if the experience of the shrunk-down survival game is enough to justify buying my first-ever Xbox because I kinda want to play the Xbox/PC title immediately.
To catch you up to speed if you aren’t familiar with Grounded, it’s a survival-adventure game where you’re shrunk down to the size of an ant and you need to survive in a backyard environment. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, some 1 million players in the game’s first 48 hours of release found out just how tough it is. The Obsidian devs, led by Game Director Adam Brennecke, admitted how much fun they have watching Twitch streamers encounter spiders for the first time, build insane bases, and test the game’s limitations, all while listening to feedback for stability, survival gameplay, combat, and more.
After the game launched this past July in Early Access (where it remains as of this writing), Obsidian added their first big monster in August with “The Bird” as well as perk mechanics via Mutations. That was followed by a September update that introduced the base-building mechanics (and secrets) of the vertically oriented Hedge and its cross-crossing ziplines. Obsidian’s goal is to release updates monthly, and while that’s complicated somewhat by the ongoing COVID pandemic, they did just release their latest patch to get Grounded ready for what comes next.
And what comes next is Grounded‘s largest expansion yet. It’s the game’s third major update, along with Xbox Series S and Series X support, and it’s arriving this November … with a test server launching today! Many of you may have guessed at the expansion but we can now confirm that “The Koi Pond” is indeed the latest and greatest addition to Grounded.
It’ll add an underwater level to explore, though the structure (and the “big-ass fish”) already exists. This is Grounded‘s first big update with four new creatures, new content, new traversal mechanics, including new equipment and crafting, new base-building options, new underwater gameplay mechanics and much more. Let’s dig into it!
There’s the Diving Bell (swimming spider, YUP!) which may be antagonistic but will also trap much-needed oxygen for deep-swimming players. There’s also the ambient / harvestable creatures like the Tadpole, Water boatman, and a reworked water flea. Oh, and, yeah, the giant Koi Fish… It’s worth mentioning that the tadpoles have schedules, personalities, and ambient behaviors that can be exploited (say, perhaps, by harvesting them for tadpole meat). Also, the water flea was introduced in the August update, but the November update adds new animations and makes them hostile and “creepy”; just check out their translucent effects to see what we mean.
With newly available crafting materials, like lilypad wax among other new additions, players will be able to make gear and weapons that will be essential to underwater survival and exploration. These include: Flippers, diving helmet, underwater lantern, Pebblet dagger, trident, rebreather, diving mask, koi scale armor, and more! Daggers and spears will be your go-to weapons underwater where it’s harder to swing away, while ultimately aiming to take down a Koi Fish will grant you the Koi Scale Armor (eventually). And crafting a rebreather will allow you to explore the depths of the Koi Pond where more secrets lie in wait, but you’ll have to rely on oxygen bubbles during early shallow sojourns. Run out of breath and depleted your oxygen gauge? That’s definitely a bummer, but the good news is that your backpack will float to the surface for easy retrieval. However, if you manage to kill an underwater enemy, you’ll also be granted a burst of oxygen to help keep you going.
As for new base-building options, players will be able to add a floating foundation and buoy, which is just the start of where the endlessly creative and imaginative playerbase can take their designs.
Some additional miscellanea we saw while checking out the new work-in-progress trailer:
- The murky, underwater environment is full of plants and particulate matter and looks and feels like a real pond
- Arachnophobia mode also works with underwater spiders
- Exploration is important so be sure to check all nooks and crannies
- Water boatmen will go after moss as part of their goal-oriented action planning, so look for moss-covered areas to farm boatman; be prepared for them to get aggressive if they feel threatened
- Deep in the pond, you’ll need a lantern is needed, but there’s also a whole other layer that awaits you and guides you along your journey to get big again
New Updates and Improvements:
Here’s a look at what the Obsidian Devs are aiming to do as they continue to work on Grounded:
- Iterate/improve on current content/gameplay
- Large features on the horizon like flying creatures, Base Building Tier II, and pets (!)
- Continue to build to the first act of the stor
- New areas for Act I with improved Haze, The Sandbox, and more
- Overhaul existing labs to more story content; the team will be doing another pass over the area overall
- Releasing with Xbox Series X/S on November 10th
- Targets: 4k 60fps on Series X, 1080p 60fps on Series S
- Improved draw distance and shadow quality; performance boost on both and PC
- HDR Lighting
- Improved load times
- Built on the GDK from Day 1
While we don’t yet have a solid date for “The Koi Pond” update release, we know that the test server is launching today. Stay tuned, and stay safe!