Graveyard Keeper by Lazy Bear Games is a graveyard management sim set in medieval times. It’s very easy at first glance to say how much it resembles Stardew Valley, and it does a bit, but this is a review not a comparison so that’s the first and only time we’ll mention Stardew (dammit is that 2 times?!). It’s a 2D side-scroller that looks very easy on the eye. Filled with dark humour and an absolute ton of stuff to do this has the makings of a great game.
There is a very hastily bolted on storyline whereby your character is involved in accident in the modern day and wakes up back in ye olde days not really knowing what is going on. The aim of the game overall is to get back to your own time. During my 15 hours of gameplay so far I honestly don’t know if I got anywhere close to achieving this as there is a lot, A LOT, to keep you busy in this game.
Watch the Graveyard Keeper launch trailer below:
As the title suggests your job in this new time zone is that of a graveyard keeper and your initial task is to spruce up the existing graveyard and church. You are given this task by the local abbot who goes on to give you other stuff to do as you progress. Graveyard keeping isn’t the only profession available here – you can farm, fish, mine, preach at the church, make tools or go dungeon hunting to name just a few other ways of making money in the game. Or you could try one of my favourites which is butchering newly delivered corpses and selling the body parts to the local village. As you can imagine from this last profession the game does have some darker moments but they are all handled in a comedic way, well as comedic as you can make cannibalism.
To progress through the game you must unlock technologies which in turn enable you to craft the next level of stuff. You unlock the points needed for unlocks simply by doing stuff in game. In brief the points are split between practical, nature and intelligence so to get practical points do practical stuff like sawing wood. Nature is from farming etc. and intelligence from doing research. You build up points pretty quickly and are soon unlocking things that are further on in their respective category.
The crafting system is pretty deep and in my opinion a bit too much and lacks any intuition whatsoever. This game makes no apologies for not holding your hand (there is no tutorial to speak of) and that can make it a bit of a slog to make any progress with what ever it is you are trying to craft. I tried to play the game without resorting to searching the web for answers but gave up pretty soon. I used the web less and less as I got to grips with things but this steep learning curve could put off a lot of people.
The game world is big and can take a good few minutes to traverse. This might not sound like a long time but believe me if you forget one item from the town it’s a pain to have to keep walking backwards and forwards. Thankfully in a recent patch they have added a teleport stone to address this. Within the world are lots of NPCs, they don’t really add any depth to the game and appear simply to be there to dole out quests and to trade with.
The quests themselves are standard go there and fetch this or bring me so many of this item. Once again there is no hand holding here and the player is left to figure out how to complete the quest on their own. This can lead to much frustration, especially as some NPCs only appear on certain days when you are ready to hand in, but as the game doesn’t put any time limits on quest completion it’s not a game breaker.
For me the game falls down in 2 key areas, that of the dreaded energy bar and also very limited carrying capacity. Everything you do uses up energy, want to saw some logs? Down goes your energy bar and it’s the same with everything else. The problem here is that the bar goes down so fast you can’t get a lot done before you have to retire to bed to replenish your energy. This gets very tiresome and I found that for every 60 seconds of doing stuff I was then spending 20 in bed. This gets very boring very quickly (thankfully walking around doesn’t use energy). You can offset this with food but at the start of the game you won’t really be able to make much of this and the little energy it replenishes hardly makes it worthwhile. For me the energy reserve either needs to be much bigger or usage reduced.
View some Graveyard Keeper screenshots in our gallery:
Inventory meanwhile is also an area that needs some work. You only have a finite amount of carry space (which I’m fine with) so you really need to plan what you are taking depending on what you want to do, also some items stack and some don’t which I feel needs some consistence. I would like to see some options of expanding this capacity or have the chance to link all of your storage boxes. I very quickly lost track of what I had stashed where and found myself spending far too long traipsing back and forth trying to find the stuff I needed.
To summarize, this is a very deep management sim that given the chance will suck hours out of your day. It is unapologetic in the way it makes the player figure everything out themselves (which although it frustrated me is something I admire) making it all the more rewarding when you do achieve something. Overall the game is pretty fun to play but that goddamn energy bar breaks it in a game changing way, at least for me. Get that bit right and the game would be a lot more enjoyable.
Graveyard Keeper was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the publisher.
Publisher: tinyBuild Games Developer: Lazy Bear Games Release Date: August 15th, 2018 Reviewed On: PC/Steam Also available on: Xbox One, Linux, Mac