Ever since Harvest Moon, everyone wants to create a farming/town/time management game. We saw a high surge of these games with Stardew Valley leading the pack with a very successful release. Graveyard Keeper is a macabre, dark take on this successful formula. In Graveyard Keeper, you play as a man who gets taken from this world, both literally and figuratively. Don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler as it happens right in the beginning of the game. The main character gets taken out by a car on his way home to the love of this life. The point of Graveyard Keeper is to find your way back to your world and reunite with the love of your life. Apparently you do this by running your own church, tending to your graveyard and crafting a whole bunch of shit. Graveyard Keeper throws a lot at you and expects you to make the right decisions, right away and still manages to deliver a fun experience.
Graveyard Keeper seems to match the aesthetic of it’s genre brethren, a pixelated game with a somber soundtrack over it. The music is there enough to keep your attention to the game and the sound effects for everything you do really stand out. The graphics are nice to look at but isn’t anything that hasn’t been done before. I happen to enjoy games like this, the lax graphics and chill music allow me to slip into the flow-state that games aim to achieve. I could easily lose a few hours without even realizing it by playing Graveyard Keeper, based on the aesthetic and graphics alone. Story-wise, it is pretty entertaining that one of your closest friends is a floating skull that loves alcohol.
I have played many games in this genre before, so I had a little bit of an idea of what to expect going in. What I wasn’t expecting, was exactly how much Graveyard Keeper throws at you at once. I will admit, it was a little overwhelming during the first few hours with the game. Slowly you are introduced to the games NPC’s that you will communicate with during your time in Graveyard Keeper. Some of these NPC’s you can only talk to on certain days, which you need to keep track of as you complete quests for them. After getting shown around town, it is your job to start filling and fixing up your graveyard. Fixing your graveyard is the first thing you have to do so you can open your church and start directing sermons. If you thought that was it, then you are sorely mistaken, there is a whole crafting system in Graveyard Keeper. Like other games in the genre, you will be cutting down trees, mining stone & ore, and fighting varying creatures in the swamps and dungeons. To accomplish this, you will build your skills up in a pretty extensive skill tree.
The way that you fill out this skill tree is pretty creative. You gain three different types of points which are red, green, and blue. They are each earned by doing different things in the world like crafting, cutting down trees, reading books, performing autopsies and more. The unique hook to Graveyard Keeper is that you can take parts from dead bodies that are delivered to you everyday. You can eventually take the meat that is gained this way and sell it as usable meat. You can use different body parts for different things as well. As you perform autopsies the quality of the body can go down or improve, depending on what you do. For example, taking out blood and fat is always a good way to start out an autopsy. Higher quality bodies that you bury will give your graveyard more points, which is a good thing.
Graveyard Keeper does a lot of things right, but at the same time there were a number of things I found negative about this title. First off, I got this on the Xbox One and experienced a number of different performance issues from long load times to choppy gameplay. There almost seems to be a, ‘right way,’ to do things in the beginning of the game instead of figuring it out yourself. Unfortunately I didn’t follow this route, which they don’t directly explain, and was left with little to no money and low progression. Speaking of progression, Graveyard Keeper seems to be solely focused on progression. The grind in this game is real, you will spend a lot of time grinding out your points to earn more skills to get the next set of skills. The biggest problem with this is the abhorrent energy and inventory system. As for right now, I have found now way to either increase my inventory size or my max energy size. Everything you do costs energy from crafting a new piece of equipment to even swinging your sword, which I understand. The only way, that I know of, to get more energy is to either go to sleep or use a potion. The potions aren’t that easy to come by, unless you gain the skills to craft them. This grind is what takes up most of the time in Graveyard Keeper, which doesn’t really promote a good experience.
There were a couple other things like apparently there are missing assets in the game that were never actually planned to be in the game(?). Regardless of that, I think that Graveyard Keeper is a very, in-the-middle kind of game. There are a lot of fun aspects about the game, especially if you like grindy/survival-crafting games. If you are looking for a more difficult version of games like Stardew Valley with a macabre twist and dark humor, than Graveyard Keeper is the game for you!
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Review statement: This game was supplied by the developer on the Xbox One for the sake of this review.