Aground is a resource and crafting adventure RPG developed by Fancy Fish Games. It is available on Steam, Crytivo, and Itch.io for $9.99. This early access look was conducted with the steam version by Joseph Pugh.
Aground is a game that exceeded my expectations. The sheer amount of content vastly betrays its simplistic retro visuals. In fact, there is a whole lot about the game I don’t wish to spoil in this review as it would ruin some of the surprise. In any case, Aground also has a very generous Demo right on the developer’s website, or you can try the demo on Steam. (I’m not kidding, it has around 8 hours of content and you can transfer your saves.) I would advise every reader to check it out for themselves.
You play as a shipwrecked character who has just been stranded on an unknown island. You find other survivors and work together with them to build a settlement and slowly explore and grow. Eventually, you will surpass your meager beginnings and progress with technology or magic to a place where the sky literally is not the limit. You can customize the appearance of your character at the start of the game. The options are limited, but it’s still a nice feature.
The first thing I need to be clear about is Aground is not actually a survival game, not in the normal sense. It’s far more of an RPG and adventure game. You hunt and grow food, but it’s used to heal your health and stamina, to feed pets and more. You don’t have a hunger meter or anything like that and if you die, you reload a save. It isn’t a roguelike. Its closer to Terraria than say, Don’t Starve.
However, Aground is more story and progression focused. You get quests from your fellow survivors and you look to ever progress forward as opposed to simply surviving. The various characters that join your little settlement have a bit of life to them as well. They aren’t just standing around. They move about the place and contribute resources to your stockpile, give you tasks and have varying amounts of dialogue.
You will be collecting wood, mining ore, and crafting tools. You will also be doing things such as capturing boars and wyrms, raising baby dragons, sailing ships and at some point, you may even become a space-faring hero, hardly resembling the shipwrecked survivor from many hours past. The progressional incline is pretty incredible. They did not do it half-assed, it’s done in a very well balanced and fun manner.
The controls are almost entirely keyboard based. I did find this somewhat clunky so I plugged in a controller and found the controls more to my liking. The visual style is a bit hard on the eyes initially, but once your vision adjusts it’s kind of charming, especially with retro style music to accompany it.
Graphics after all, rarely make the game, some of my all-time favorites have simplistic visuals and you would be foolish to dismiss Aground for it.
Each island is pretty big, and you can only carry so much weight before your stamina begins draining. You will need to build helpful systems such as mine carts and railways to help you mine those deeper ores.
Combat is also a large part of the game, it’s pretty simple and a lot of it is related to statistics. It is still pretty fun and you do have a lot of options at your disposal between ranged and melee, pets, traps, and potions. The longer you play, the more your options are expanded.
The game gives you very little instruction on how to do certain tasks. I honestly recommend that you don’t wiki every problem. The solutions generally make rational sense and solving them is part of the enjoyment.
You also level up as you play and have a wide variety of stats you can increase, from attack and defense, to carry weight, stamina, and bargaining. It’s entirely freeform and it’s up to you how your character grows.
The inventory can be a little bit clunky at times and I did run into a weird stuttering that would cause my game to hiccup for a half a second every 30 seconds or so. It was irritating but not game breaking and I don’t think its a widespread issue. You can always try the demo to see for yourself in any case.
Not only is it fun to play, but you can also feel the progression in ways that similar games fall flat. Starting with nothing and building up to a level that’s nearly a different game is amazing.
Aground is certainly a product of shooting for the stars. The sheer amount of things you can do shocked me for a game of this style, especially for being in early access.. It’s not a survival game either and even though survival games are some of my personal favorites. This makes Aground approachable by nearly anyone, and I think everyone should at least give the demo a shot.
The full game itself is only $10, Yes it’s early access, but Aground is more complete now than many games are at launch. Fancy Fish Games seem to be reliable on adding updates and content to the game, and they have a handy roadmap on Reddit. Future updates will include a multiplayer mode. I’d say it’s definitely worth taking the plunge. I’ll most certainly be returning when the game exits early access.
A key was provided to Gideon’s Gaming by Fancy Fish Games. You read about my review process here.
- Fun crafting and resource gathering
- Magical and technological paths
- Story and progression system gives you a solid direction
- NPCs feel more alive than in similar games, contributing to your resources and being involved in the story.
- A large and varied amount of things to do.
- Has a lot of depth, but is accessible and easy to learn.
- Inventory interface can be clunky
- Visual style takes some getting used too.
- Encountered some strange stuttering.