Title: Graveyard Keeper
Developer: Lazy Bear Games
Publisher: tinyBuild Games
Genre: Simulation, Management, RPG
Available On: Windows PC, Xbox One, Linux
Version Tested: Windows PC
Official Site: https://www.graveyardkeeper.com/
Release Date: August 15, 2018
Where to Buy it: Steam, GOG, Microsoft Store
You know you’re in for a bit of a weird journey when the talking donkey who drops corpses off for you thinks your best friend, an alcoholic skull (who can also talk, of course) named Gerry, is the weird one. Such is life in Graveyard Keeper, a Stardew Valley-like put together by the same developers who brought us the also delightfully weird Punch Club. It’s got big graves to fill – is Graveyard Keeper up to the task? Grab your flashlight and we can take a look.
When the game begins, your character is hit by a car and seemingly killed. Strangely, you wake up in a medieval cemetery and are tasked with running the show – digging graves, burying corpses, and making friends around town. It will feel right at home to anyone who has played farming simulators like Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley, but with a delightfully dark twist. As the plot reveals itself, you will discover that events and people near your new home are hiding a lot of secrets, and your already massive to-do list will continue to grow.
This huge list is simultaneously the best and worst feature of Graveyard Keeper. On the plus side, you are never at a loss for things to do. You always have things to build, trees to chop, bodies to bury, errands to run, potions to brew, and people to meet. The always moving clock opens certain timed events (a specific portion of the map will only be open on certain days of the week, for example) and there is an excellent mix between “story” events and “relaxing” events.
At the same time, it can be overwhelming. Graveyard Keeper doesn’t offer a lot in the way of “Here’s how and when to do things;” after a brief tutorial that shows you the basics, you’re essentially on your own. At first, I found myself completely out of my depth – OK, I want to take on this task. Well, after trying at it, I realized I needed this certain machine in my workshop. In order to build that, I needed a different machine. In order to build that, I needed to unlock a different portion of the tech tree. Let’s give up on that one.
It can be tough when you’re presented with so many options and no real direction, but you’ll eventually find a groove. As far as I could tell, there isn’t a lot of “failure” in Graveyard Keeper – you can lose some time and have to do a bit of busy work, but everything will circle back around (for the most part). And there is always stuff to do; it just may not be what you want to do at that moment. Beautify your graveyard a bit while you’re waiting for the next witch execution. If you can handle the leisurely pace of games like this, you’ll find plenty to occupy your time here.
Graveyard Keeper definitely looks the part – it’s like a very pretty Super Nintendo game, sort of akin to something like Chrono Trigger. The pixelated characters show a lot of emotion, and it is easy to identify individuals based on their color scheme and clothing after just a few hours of playing. Making relationships isn’t quite as in-depth here as it is in something like Stardew Valley – it seems more like it was just a detail that got thrown in – but it’s there. Identifying characters is more important to obtain the materials you need for quests.
Another charming aspect of Graveyard Keeper are the sound effects. Characters talk through speech bubbles, but nearly every significant character has some sound effect associated with their dialogue. I couldn’t help but laugh every time the donkey spoke to me – his sound effect was perfectly suited. Little touches like this add a great deal of personality to a game that needs the little things in order to stand out.
At times, the game’s reliance on cutesy humor is a bit much – Graveyard Keeper practically dares you not to take it seriously at all. Meta humor is all the rage, but a lot of meme-based humor on display here is already a bit dated. It’s charming, it’s chuckle-funny, but when it swings for the fences on some of the jokes, it usually winds up striking out.
That said, Graveyard Keeper makes for a pretty darn good time. It hits that “one more turn” addictive quality that many of the best simulation and strategy games seek to tap, and its seemingly unending “to-do” list will keep you busy for a long time.
Verdict: Those who want a bit of a twist on the farming sim formula will love what Graveyard Keeper has to offer. However, it’s lack of direct goals and fail states could drive away those who need more concrete objectives in their games.
- Never ending list of things to do
- Pretty retro graphics
- Lack of direction and urgency