Developed By: Lazy Bear Games
Published By: tinyBuild Games
Category: Adventure-RPG / Grow ‘Em Up
Release Date: 06.27.2019
An indie game phenomenon hit the digital shelves of gaming marketplaces a couple years ago that goes by the name of Stardew Valley. Graveyard Keeper definitely takes inspiration from the rebooted Harvest Moon-like, but with a gruesome twist, you are in charge of the local graveyard and it is your job to prepare and bury the towns dead. Maintain a pristine cemetery, run the local church, care for bees and crops, and more in this deep adventure-RPG that will have you losing time just as quickly as the bodies pile up outside your home.
You are simply on your way home after a long day and as you go to cross the street you look down at your phone to call your beloved wife. A horn blares, tires squeal, and you wake you to your new medieval home. You have been placed here by someone, and the details behind why are hidden from you as you must take your new circumstances in stride. With the help of a talking skull named Gerry you discover there may be a way to get back to the present and to your family, but you will have to work for it in one of the dirtiest jobs Mike Rowe wouldn’t even touch.
The reason we are gathered here today is to tend graves and take care of all of what that entails. With this portion of the game you have bodies delivered to your morgue by a talking donkey who keeps ‘em coming as quickly as you can find a final resting place for them. You are scored based on how well the cemetery is maintained and how well the bodies were prepared prior to the final burial. With all of this you can take your corpses into your morgue and drain the blood and fat, as is customary, in order to improve the body’s state, however, you also have the option to remove all sorts of other parts that you can use in crafting (or cooking) at the loss of the body’s quality. These pesky bodies will only bring the score of your cemetery down, so these we will probably just cremate at your homemade pyres south of your home, or if you don’t have that capability yet you do have a convenient river running just outside the church that you can place these rapscallions into; just to make things easier for you. After you make these important decisions you will bury the good bodies and they make their graves shine. Improving from wood to stone crosses and frames increase scores, as well as adding flowerbeds and the like. All these things increase your placement with the bishop who then opens new areas and abilities for you.
As you progress in the body-tending you can also open the church and begin to hold morning services. The main reason to do this is to allow for donations to start flowing in from the townsfolk, and this will be your main source of cash outside of what you produce. You also collect blue orbs from this process, which is an extremely important means for crafting. Let’s dive into that.
Crafting in this game is the bread and butter of this title. You have a progression tree that allows for more and more complex things you can build and create, and this is solely how to place yourself into the end game. In order to unlock these new areas, you need to gather three type of orbs. Red, green, and blue orbs are gained through completing certain tasks throughout the world. Anything faith-based gives you blue orbs, laborious tasks like cutting down trees or mining stone give red orbs, etc. Grinding for orbs is something you will find yourself doing, just as you would gather various resources in mass, as the far end of the tree consumes a ton of these orbs, but because you also end up with useful materials it never feels like a grind.
Beyond that you will spend most of your day to day collecting resources and trying to progress through what you own and are able to produce. You have a farming mechanic that allows you to grow food and important crafting materials that can help you with money and progression, and you can build things like an apiary in order to collect honey for mead. As a cleric of the church, you obviously spend a major portion of your time with a brewing set-up in your basement and can create various forms of alcohol for sale or consumption. Life is hard out here. These systems aren’t nearly as deep as what you would find in rival grow-em-ups, but sometimes I get overwhelmed with the daily grind of tending to vegetables non-stop. In this title it takes up just enough of your time and doesn’t feel bothersome to grow and create from these mechanics.
Part of why that is is because the game doesn’t hamper the experience with a stressful day-night cycle. It has one along with a unique six-day week, but unlike some of the competition you can work easily through the night just as much as day and the only things holding you back is your energy meter. Consumables can extend this meter, but you aren’t racing the clock for anything. If a body sits a little too long then just toss it in the river, crops and honey wait for you, nothing in this title really is forcing you to rush which I really love in titles like this that just soak up your time. You do have certain events that you have to do on certain days of the week, but if you miss it one week you just have to try to remember for the next week. No big deal at all.
There is a fairly extensive mission structure in this title as well. You have several members of the community that you will meet and each of them may have some random task they would like you to complete. Gathering specific resources for some, achieving certain milestones for other, all these things are fun little add-ons and are just rewarding enough to complete them. You also have the main story line that you are trying to get through with the help of some more eccentric locals. The people of town are unique in their personality and have some funny dialogue. There 4th wall gets broken several times just because of the basis of the story, but you also have some cameos and easter eggs that will make you laugh out loud.
Along with some of these eccentric characters comes some interesting requests. Not just pumpkins or lumber for these guys; it’s going to get weird. And with that you must delve into the local dungeon in order to try to attain some f these items for them and yourself. Battle with sword and armor as you jump in and fight bug and slime-based minions of a few different selections to try to get your various goo’s and wings.
After escaping these dark tunnels of death your character will probably be hungry and out of energy, so you should grab a bite. Luckily, this item also has a deep cooking system in which you can make all matter of items. Gather recipes through purchase or by helping townsfolk and have fun with it.
Expansion is an important part of the game, and as you progress to the end game you will need more space to work in. Beyond just upgrading your current workable areas you can also build into new areas by busting down rockslides or chopping up large tree falls. By doing this you can find cool new areas; like a hunting cabin hidden deep in the woods by a sizable mining operation, or a large vineyard that can be utilized for your grape crop. Lots of things are hidden throughout this game, so exploration will have to be done throughout.
Graveyard Keeper is a fresh take on rebooted game type and man does it do it very well. There are lots of things that it takes its own chances with, but all in all the game is such a unique setting that you just can’t help but love its charm. If you are a fan of Stardew Valley then you will also love this title, maybe even more if you like the more lax structure behind its cycle of labor. This was one of my most anticipated games coming to Switch as it is perfectly at home at home or on the go and is a must own for anyone who loves indies and is on the newly renovated grow-em-up bandwagon. Quirky fun, a great gameplay loop, and tons of game packed into this one. Just buy it and enjoy yourself. You won’t regret it.