There’s something borrowed, something new about Aground. At first glance this is a traditional mine’em-up in the vein of Spelunky and Steamworld Dig, tossing you up onto the surface of a game map and then encouraging you to dig-dig-dig down into the ground below. You find treasures while avoiding enemies, then manhandle your haul back up to the surface, where you can purchase improvements that make you better at the digging, hauling or fighting. It’s a tale as old as time, and there’s no reason why it can’t work with Aground. Aground is out now on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5, Switch and PC.
What Whitethorn Digital have done with the formula is take it to the most ridiculous extension, and that’s where the ‘new’ comes in. You keep coming across surprise after surprise in the mine’s below your hub, from fantasy-themed areas that uncover dragons to defeat and then tame, or Avatar-like bioluminescent alien colonies that will open up new opportunities to trade. There are demonic doors, Lovecraftian creatures, and sci-fi enclaves.
The same genre-splicing can be found in the town you build. You start with a stone-age looking hut, as you’ve crash-landed on an alien planet and only have rudimentary materials with which to survive. But then you start moving through the ages, like you’re playing a Sid Meier classic, gaining enough materials to tame beasts, build factories, manufacture drilling engines, and – eventually – build spaceports to other planets.
The promises that Whitethorn Digital are making about Aground are nearing No Man’s Sky levels. We are told that you can ‘craft absolutely everything’, and that you can ‘explore a vast universe’. From the micro to the macro, that’s a lot to promise.
Regardless, there’s real ambition and breadth to how this simple Spelunky clone suddenly opens up to embrace other planets, and we can’t wait to see if it spreads itself too thin, or there’s enough to keep you moving through the various ages of Aground. Check out our review when it arrives soon.
Aground is out now on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S and starts at £12.49 from the Xbox Store. It’s also out on PS4, PS5, Switch and PC through Steam where it’s been in place for a good few months already.
Survival is only the beginning. The only way for humanity to have a future is to return to the stars and confront them. But, it will require a lot of ingenuity and help to recover everything that was lost, and even that might not be enough… Aground is a Mining/Crafting RPG, where there is an overarching goal, story and reason to craft and build. As you progress, you will meet new NPCs, unlock new technology, and maybe magic too. Will you be able to raise dragons? Launch into space? The sky is literally not the limit. Beneath its simple exterior, Aground hides a lot of depth and surprises that will keep you wondering “what’s next?”