Okay, I'm new to this forum, as well as Grounded...but I believe I have a great deal to offer the development of this already spectacular game. I've been a serious gamer for well over 3 decades; I've actually been a QA/tester for a major video game company for over 3 years (back in the day, though); I have played hundreds of games for fun, averaging 20+ different titles each year; and I've spent over 20 years working in the I.T. field doing technical support, regression testing and systems administration. Sooooooo, after all that wind-up, let me get to the gist of my suggestions after playing Grounded solo and with friends over the past 2 weeks or so:
I'm roughly 75 hours in to playing Grounded, and I went in with only trailers and a few YT streamers' vids of it for expectations. I didn't research much on how to play the best way, tutorials or such, and instead just started figuring things out. To begin with, I actually think the beginning of the game is the strongest. Which is great, because it hooks players right out the gate. However, things like running in to a wolf spooder within the first 2 game days is pure crap. Maybe don't have big baddies spawn yet until a certain progression point is hit, like a recipe unlock or science mark. The first thing I, personally, want to do with a new open-world game, is explore!! This is extremely difficult and disheartening when you run in to spooders, larva, mosquitoes and other medium to large baddies that 1-shot you.
The progression pace is pretty good, although a FEW more hints here and there for what to do next would be nice. My friends and I spent a TON of time just gathering resources and not knowing what to do next. Which wasn't bad in the long run, but we were aimless for a bit.
There NEEDS to be better balancing for the co-op, ESPECIALLY when it comes to the faction raids mechanic! Killing bugs to build and upgrade and repair (I'll get to that one in a minute) as a solo player compared to 4 of you, for example, is exponentially different. We didn't even know about the raid mechanics added in before we slaughtered 100 red ants and had our base demolished by a raid waaaaaay too early in the game. The numbers of killed bugs to piss off a faction for multi-player need to be pumped up a bit. Not necessarily a direct 1-to-1 ratio for each player (since it is, arguably easier to fend off raids with more players), but still should be a higher bar. We are now getting raided by orb weavers, just because we killed a bunch of spooderlings while finding and getting to the Hedge Lab! I played solo and figured out a trick to beat the wave solo, but I also got very lucky. The raids also can be tweaked for numbers of bugs, depending on number of players. Even with 4 of us, the first orb weaver raid was stupid. This can make players rage quit and never play again, because their base they spent 50 hours building gets demolished. One suggestion of mine? Give us some type of a progress bar in the bug database to tell us how close we are to getting a faction to hate us. That way we can CHOOSE to keep farming that resource, or find something else. Long story short: co-op vs solo balance is needed badly, in nearly all aspects.
This brings me to another gripe, but one I feel is a HUGE deal to not make players hate certain mechanics: Gear breaks WAAAAAY too quickly and easily! Especially during big battles, raids, and even just general wandering and fighting. If you are fending off a raid and dying over and over, your gear (including the weapons/armor you respawn with), your stuff breaks so fast and you're even more screwed than before. It nearly makes it impossible to come back and win a tough fight. For example - my friend and I were playing with just the 2 of us after our other friends logged off. We went exploring, because DUH! We found the Haze area. We equipped gas masks. Then proceeded to fall in the ravine where there are a dozen infected larva and exploding spuds AND a roaming wolfie. Coming as ZERO shock to anyone, we died. Horribly. Then spent over a hour trying to get back and get our backpacks and escape the canyon. We had to make 2 new gas masks eventually, after dying several times. Then we ran out of resources. (Yes, we could have sent our backpacks back to the starting point, but that shouldn't be the trump card to mitigate gameplay balance.) We both almost quit playing for good after that. FINALLY I got uber-lucky and got my bag and then helped her by aggro'ng all the larvae away from her bag. Gear needs to hold up better. Even using a tier 2 axe on tier 1 grass breaks it down too fast. Higher-tier weapons and armor, that need very specialized resources to build and maintain, shouldn't break so damned fast. Battling big baddies (which is the POINT of getting better gear) shatters our stuff insanely fast. And we're playing on MEDIUM DIFFICULTY.
Many people have already mentioned it, but the upgrading system is a smidgen too costly. It takes far too many resources to upgrade your stuff. Then multiply that exponentially with more players, and the grind is ridiculous. I don't mind grinding to an extent. I am a Borderlands FREAK, so I get it. But there simply isn't enough resources that respawn fast enough for multiple players. I've gotten to the point, FINALLY, where I have antlion armor and tier 3 weapons, while another player that doesn't like to explore out and fight bugs as much only has ladybug armor because it was my old stuff. After having 2 factions already pissed at us, we're all a bit skittish to go farm for more resources to build gear! I love the upgrade system concept, and would even LOVE more individual customizations prior to level 6 (and especially for armor), but it's just too costly. If/when all 4 of us get to the endgame time-frame, upgrading 4 players' stuff (multiple weapons and armor and tools PER person), the amount of quartzite we'll need it just plain ludicrous. Ease it back a bit Obsidian! It should NOT cost the same amount of quartzite to upgrade a tier 2 sword as it does a tier 3 one to similar levels. Yes, we could have never upgraded any of our lower-tier items at all, but that makes the grind even worse throughout the game. Not to mention, a trick I learned due to the REPAIR cost/resources needed, I upgrade my stuff a few times if only to repair it! Both the upgrade and repair costs feed off of each other and currently it's simply too high overall. Especially for more then just 1 person playing.
Make travel faster somehow, prior to endgame zip lines. Mounts would be AWESOME! Some type of taming of wild critters. Then, as you progress, give more options like bees, etc. Pets are great and all, but not all that helpful in the grand scheme. Mounts of some type would be sweet.
Some new items would sure be nice, and may already be in the works. If so, I apologize for my naiveté, as I've not read too many others' suggestions or dev reactions. How about bee wings to get a tier 2 glider? How about way more shields? How about a bigger backpack upgrade??? Yes, the milk molars help with the slot quantity, but that only does very little when I have to walk around the world with 2-3 different sets of armor, all my tools and weapons, plus food, etc. All of those being 1-per-slot items. For 90% of my time in Grounded, my backpack has been 75% full even before gathering resources. Mix that with the quantity needed for upgrades/repairs/building, and the tedium of venturing out for rare resources is palpable.
I have a plethora more suggestions, tweaks, bugs (the technical kind!) and such but I'll stop for now. I have no idea if the devs even read these, but I felt I needed to get them out of mah brain meats. Overall, I LOVE this game. It's easily some of the most fun I've had in the last couple years of new releases....and it's not even released yet! A few mechanics tweaks with the progression and grind factors, and it will be even more amazing. Pace the story line more, but don't make it more difficult. Just make it more involved and intricate. Going here to get a chip, then there to get a chip, then back to BURG.L over and over gets stale. Give players more reasons to wander and explore and build, and the game could be a mainstay in many of our libraries for years upon years of playing. My friends and I just started moving our basic main base to a more secure location, and a MAJOR mushroom castle upgrade! The more cool **** we can add to it and grind for (within reason), the better!
Thanx for reading (if you made it this far), and feel free to add to my points, disagree with them, debate the topics, whatevs. Constructive criticism and discussion is how things get better for the community.