I've been playing Grounded for the last couple of weeks, now. I haven't advanced particularly far as I've been busy getting my base in order before doing too much exploring but I've been playing enough to be able to put down some thoughts. So here they are. Most are just my opinions and I've tried to avoid talking about technical stuff as the game isn't finished yet so there's plenty of time for things to change.
This game has massive potential. Even if you didn't grow up watching Honey I Shrunk the Kids, at some point in your life you probably imagined what it would be like to be the size of a bug. Now you can know! And it's as scary as you imagined. I think if the devs can give players enough fun stuff to do (which is often an issue with survival style games), they'll have a real hit. Since this will be on Gamepass forever, there will hopefully always be a load of players looking to try it out, leading to it being supported for a long time. I can imagine a second garden being added with a junk pile or wrecked car. Or the inside of the house! The sky is the limit with this, it really is.
The devs have chosen wisely with their theme. The world of creepy crawlies has some of the most weird and wonderful creatures on earth and they'll be able to add things for years to come without the well running dry. We already have a fantastic cast of creatures and have yet to see a snail, wasp, scorpion, caterpillar or centipede. That list could be pages long, in fact. I'm sure when things get added, the new creatures will only improve the experience.
Immediately, my mind was full of ideas about scorpions the size of Coke cans, prowling the garden (maybe once every 100 days to make it a big event) that kills everything in its path. It would be either impossible to kill or incredibly difficult so that you have to hide from it or maybe lure it into a trap to finally kill. Maybe it would only appear during a thunderstorm, to really ramp up the tension.
I'd love to see more abilities when it comes to getting about. If Youtubers are correct, at some point we'll be able to skate across water and glide better but I'd love to see something like Moon Shoes. You'd bounce as you ran (halfway between jumping and the bounce pad). I like that idea especially because the characters are kids and you know they'd be trying to have fun while surviving. A grapple hook would also be great. Infact, some more verticality in general would be quite welcome. More stuff to climb up (ie the tree).
For a more controversial opinion: I don't find the sci-fi stuff interesting. It's not that it's bad or that I want rid of it (I realise that it's there to explain why you are small and Burg.L is fun, I suppose) but it's not why I'm playing the game. I think if you gave someone a quick description of the game, the odds of them replying, "Ooh, I hope there are robots to fight and secret labs" would be pretty slim. Seeing and exploring normal every day stuff from a completely different perspective and battling tiny giant creatures with improvised gear is more what attracts people to Grounded. Personally, finding discarded juice boxes, rakes and toys is infinitely more interesting than finding a miniature lab. So (noting that I don't know just how large a role the sci-fi will play in the final release), I would caution the devs against leaning too heavy on stuff that's neither here nor there to the reason that people download the game in the first place.
The big attraction are the creatures and that's what I think the devs should be leaning into. That's what people talk about when you give them a description of the game. I would like to see more insect like behaviour from insects, though. I know the devs have said it would be very difficult to have the creatures scale vertical surfaces but that's what (I think) it would take to make this game an all timer. Look at Zelda: BotW. The climbing aspect completely changed the way players looked at a map. Yet, all your enemies stay firmly on the ground. You want to fight something? Well, you have to stop doing the cool thing you like and fight them like it's 1997. Can you imagine scaling the oak tree and looking behind you to see that you were being stalked by a spider? Will you make it to the branch where you can turn and fight or will you have to bail out and glide away? I'm not sure that a vertical game like that even exists. Imagine if Grounded was the first. I won't hold it against Obsidian for not going down this route but I do hope that they took a good look at it.
Pheromones would be a cool addition to the game. I think it would be great if we could use pheromones to influence creature behaviour. We have tiny glimpses of this with the lure arrow but wouldn't it be great if we could toss a concoction into a group of spiders that made them all attack everything in sight, including each other? Time it right and you could have Wolf Spiders vs Orb Weavers vs Bombardier Beetles vs Soldier Ants. You can't tell me that that wouldn't be some of the most fun you could have in the game. Or you could smear yourself in something that would temporarily make Orb Weavers think that you were one of them and leave you alone. Or have a bunch or soldier ants follow you as their leader and fight anything that attacked you. It would be a more natural way to getting the pets that people want, than just training them or whatever, IMO.
Lastly. a point that will definitely age this post. A recent change was to make spike traps very vulnerable to damage. I'm hoping that this gets reverted fairly quickly but what I'd like to say about that kind of balancing in general (which is something that unfortunately happens in countless games) is to not worry about how the players approach a problem. Don't make them play 'your way'. These are miniaturized kids in a garden. Of course they are going to find ways to make things easy. Kids do that when it comes to homework and chores. They'll definitely do it when the alternative is fighting a spider the size of an elephant with a baseball bat made of grass. Don't fight that kind of gameplay. Encourage it. Let players find workarounds that means they don't have to directly take on the giant beasts. That's how you'd have to do it in real life, too. You'd be relying on the fact that spiders don't have a lot of brains to foil your elaborate set up.
Anyway, I think that's enough for now. I want to take the opportunity to thank the team for their work on this as the game has really grabbed me and I can see myself playing it for years, should all go to plan.
Good luck, everyone.