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Hands-on: Xbox One exclusive Grounded unveiled by The Outer Worlds dev Obsidian at X019

Grounded – it’s full of little innovations
GameCentral has already played the latest game from Obsidian and it’s a very different experience to The Outer Worlds.
Microsoft has announced a new Xbox exclusive called Grounded, a co-op survival game where everyone is shrunken down to insect size.
The new first person game will be out spring 2020 and was unveiled at the X019 event in London. Unlike The Outer Worlds, which had a publishing deal in place before Microsoft bought Obsidian, Grounded will be an Xbox exclusive and will become the first Xbox Game Preview title available via Xbox Game Pass.
We got to play a demo of the game at the X019 event earlier in the day, which involved foraging for materials to make a fort capable of surviving a siege of ants and other creepy crawlies.

When you’re only a few centimetres tall the materials in question are bits of grass, that you have to hack down like trees with hand-made axes, and acorn cups that can be fashioned into armour.
Building the fort works a little like Fortnite and the blueprint you create can be filled in by any of the other players collecting resources, so even in a 15 minute demo there was a fun sense of camaraderie.
The gameplay mechanics – the movement and simplistic first person combat – seemed a little flat but there’s time to improve that before next spring, which will effectively only be a beta anyway.
We also had a chance to chat to gameplay programmer Roby Atadero, who revealed that, like The Outer Worlds, Obsidian had started work on the game before they were bought by Microsoft.
‘We’ve been tossing around the idea of doing a survival game at the studio for a while and once Deadfire started to wind down we had a brainstorming session about what we could do if we did a survival game and one of the unique ideas that just kind of popped out was, “What if we did a survival game where you’re shrunk to the size of an ant?”’, said Atadero.
‘And that resonated pretty strongly… so we put together a team of about 14 developers and we just ran away with it.’
Grounded – we asked and riding ants is apparently already on the roadmap of extra features
Although there’s friendly fire and you do have a water and stamina gauge the game is aiming to be more accessible than most survival title, even as it offers higher difficulty levels for more extreme challenges.
‘We want to find ways to lower that friction that a lot of titles in this genre have, so we want to make crafting a little bit easier, we want to make sure there’s a narrative focus that’s always pushing the player to the next objective – so if they want to push the story forward they know exactly what they need to do’, said Atadero.
‘But at the end of the day we just want a really fun game’.
The whole of Grounded can be played in single-player or co-op, depending on your preference, although we didn’t get much of a sense of what the plot actually was – other than it seemed to involve a talking toy robot.
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What interests us as much as the game itself is that Obsidian is purposefully using the fact that it’s a large studio to let small teams of its developers work on more experimental projects, which is something we wish other companies would do as well.
‘Given that we’re a pretty big studio – we have over 150 developers – it does give us that opportunity to have smaller teams and try more unique and creative projects’, said Atadero.
According to Atadero it’s also something they plan to continue to do in the future, which is very encouraging and something they probably wouldn’t have had the financial security to do if they hadn’t been bought by Microsoft.
Grounded – it seems to be a fun little game
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MORE: The Outer Worlds game review – Fallout in space (and without the bugs)
MORE: The Outer Worlds hands-on preview – Firefly meets Fallout
MORE: The Outer Worlds preview and interview – ‘we wanted to be a fun game’

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