Graveyard Keeper is the newest child of Lazy Bear Games, the same studio that has previously brought you Punch Club. Personally, the announcement of Graveyard Keeper came out as quite a surprise for me, especially because I was anticipating Punch Club 2, and not some other game that the developers have mustered their efforts to put together. Still, upon hearing about the game’s premise, and then finally seeing the game in action, I was immediately convinced by this new idea.
If the name didn’t give it away, then I’m pleased to confirm that this game is indeed played from the perspective of a graveyard keeper. However, keeping your graveyard is only a small portion of what you really do in the game, as it shares multiple similarities to the Harvest Moon series and Stardew Valley. This is “the most inaccurate medieval cemetery management sim of all time.”, as the developers claim themselves, and rightfully so, but then again, this idea serves to embolden the game’s setting and mechanics, some of which might make you comically wonder if you are doing the right thing or not.
After being run over by a car, you find yourself in a strange world, where you’ve apparently inherited the title of Graveyard Keeper of the local village. But how did you get there? How is it that people from this alien kingdom pay no attention to the fact that you have seemingly appeared out of thin air? These are all questions that will be on your mind right from the start, and, along your journey, you will find even more intriguing ones that will come to light thanks to new characters, or by developing your relationship with the several inhabitants and visitors of the village where you now reside. The end goal in this strange place is to find a way to go back home, whatever the cost.
While the game might give off the idea that is trying to be something serious, it really is not, well, at least not for the most part. As soon as you arrive at your new home, a talking donkey will deliver your first corpse to you, and along with the help of Gerry, your newfound friend that is a talking skull, you proceed to harvest some meat, at the morgue, of the deceased that has just arrived. Yeah, I know, what a great start! There are various other things that you can harvest from corpses, and while some of them might be worth something, either to sell, cook, or craft, harvesting them will deteriorate the corpse and lower its rating. On the other hand, harvesting the corpse’s fat and blood will improve its condition.
Maintaining a graveyard is no easy task for someone who has no experience in the matter, let me tell you, because besides burying corpses and digging up graves, you also have to manage your graveyard rating, which is affected by the state of the corpses that you bury there. If you have the necessary resources, it should be a pretty easy task, crafting a gravestone and a fence can do a lot in order to counter the effects of a low rating corpse, but, the truth is, you don’t really start with any resources whatsoever, and the ones that are needed to improve your graveyard are also required for a lot of other things.
Graveyard Keeper follows the usual formula of games like this, in the sense that performing most actions in the game, like crafting, fighting, and gathering resources, consumes energy, and this can only be recovered by eating, drinking, or by sleeping. Additionally, the game has a day and night cycle, which, while not really relevant in terms of what you can do all by yourself, it affects both quests and characters or events. Certain characters only visit the village, or other places, on particular days of the week, so time management is of the essence at all times in order to maximize your productivity and get the most out of each day.
Crafting, in one form or another, and all the tasks that are necessary in order to get what you need in order to craft things, is one of the strongest elements of the game, but also one of its biggest downfalls. What I mean is that, if you are not a fan of farming resources, trying to get what you need so that you can craft something better than what you currently have, or grindy games, then you will most likely have a tough time here. In order to craft things, you must first unlock the technology needed to craft the item that you want in the research tree. Everything in this tree is unlocked at the cost of tech points, which come in red, green, and blue. Each of these corresponds to a specific type of activity, and they will drop if you perform the corresponding activity. Red tech points will drop whenever you perform acts of strength, like cutting logs or mining, while green points will drop from harvesting anything related to nature, like foraging bushes or farming. As for the blue ones, these are related to spirituality, and can be obtained by studying specific items at a study table.
Progressing through the research tree, and then crafting and building the things that you unlock, will allow you open new paths in the world, as they are required in order to progress through various quests. There are also food recipes that you can learn, you can learn how to craft better tools, how to build new crafting stations, which in turn will allow you to clear rubble in the dungeon beneath your home and the church, as well as gain access to new resources, and obviously gain access to new and prettier decorations for your church and your graveyard. It’s a pretty standard progression system that is featured in these types of games, so if you tend to play a lot of these titles, then you know what to expect.
Besides crafting, you have fishing, crop farming obviously, mining and smelting, alchemy, dungeon crawling, giving sermons, as well as a social element. You get to know the villagers and other characters, improve your relations with them, and as you do, you’ll gain access to new opportunities, like more items in traders, or unlocking other things. However, most of the characters are not really that interesting, and while the main storyline is somewhat ominous and intriguing, for every interesting moment, you have a lot more dull periods of just extensive resource gathering. Speaking of which, the game’s map is really not that big, but there are only a few areas of interest where you’ll be moving back and forth, mainly the area with your house, the church, and the graveyard, and the village. With that said, one of the biggest downsides of the game is having to walk between different places, as nothing really happens during your trips, but I understand that this is probably done for balancing reasons related to time management.
There is a lot of stuff to do in Graveyard Keeper, and even though the game feels quite repetitive at times, I still find myself enjoying the vast majority of it. If you enjoyed Stardew Valley, which most people did, you’ll most likely have a decent time with this game as well. Will you take advantage of dead people by harvesting their flesh and organs in order to sell them? Or will you give them a proper burial? How will you make money and find your way home? Graveyard Keeper is full of mystery and it has some elements of the occult, all of which are neatly packaged alongside a grindy gameplay experience.
A lot of the game is locked behind progression walls which can only be broken if you endure a pretty hefty amount of grind. Personally, I find that, in this game, this whole process can feel relaxing at times, but doing it over long periods of time is exhausting and really makes me think that, even for fans of the genre, this might be a bit too much to endure. Nonetheless, for what it is trying to be, Graveyard Keeper is a pretty decent game.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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