By Dalton McClain / February 1st, 2019
|Developer||Lazy Bear Games|
|Release Date||August 15th, 2018|
|Platform||PC, Xbox One|
|Age Rating||T for Teen|
Honestly, where do I even begin with this game? Usually I don’t have a problem talking about certain aspects of a video game, but this one seems so frantic that I found it hard to focus on one thing for too long. So join me as I try to piece together why I enjoyed this frantic, beautifully broken game.
Graveyard Keeper is a 2D game that seems like a farming simulator, but instead of growing your farm to progress, you have to raise your church and graveyard in order to return from the medieval time period you’re stuck in back to your modern-day world. It sounds simple enough, but there are so many things that you have to do. Let’s start with the basics. Whenever a body is brought by a mule, you have to take it to the autopsy table. There you can see how many skulls it has. The more white skulls, the better the body. You can get rid of the red skulls and maybe even turn them white by removing various objects like blood, fat, and organs. Be careful what you remove though, because one slip up could mean that the body now has more red skulls, or sins of the corpse, and you may just need to throw it into the river to start over. Once a body is good enough, you can go bury it in your graveyard. You’ll bury it and give it both a headstone and grave fence to further increase the rating of your graveyard. Once the rating is high enough, you’ll gain access to the church, and thus gain access to the study table and prayers. You can hold a sermon every Pride day to get the benefits of that particular prayer. The study table, on the other hand, lets you study various objects that you’ve found. It doesn’t have too much of a purpose aside from getting you blue tech points. Over the course of the game you’ll get various tech points: red, green, and blue. Red tech points come from your crafting ability, green come from nature, and blue come from spiritual knowledge. You spend the points to learn new crafting items to further improve your graveyard, as well as your quality of life. There’s also a dungeon you can go through and fish you can catch, but to be honest I didn’t really have much of an interest in either of those fields. I tried them briefly but they never could hold my interest long enough.
As I stated earlier, this game does have crafting, and a lot of it at that. I normally love crafting in games, but Graveyard Keeper seems to take it to some ridiculous standards sometimes. You’ll need to spend days, weeks even, just gathering materials, only for them to be gone in almost an instant. That wouldn’t be so bad if certain items, like iron, didn’t take so long to make. It’s certainly not made any easier by the fact that some things, like the iron mine, are far from your base and you have no choice but to just walk there. Then, if you made the mistake of having a low durability pickaxe or no inventory room, you’d have to walk all the way to your house, and all the way back to the mines. It got really tedious and time consuming after a while. If there was some sort of transport system available later on I wouldn’t feel so bad, but sadly there isn’t. You have no choice but to briskly walk everywhere, then briskly walk back. It’s exhausting. Even just walking to town takes almost a minute and a half. Which considering that there’s only 7 minutes of day time is a lot of time.
But getting back home won’t just take crafting and studying, it’ll also take some other people. There are plenty of residents, but only a few that really matter. Those being Episcop, Ms. Charm, the Merchant, Snake, the Inquisitor, and the Astrologer. Oh, and of course my favorite character, Gerry the talking alcoholic skull. All of the above characters (minus Gerry, sadly) all relate to the days of the week. Those being Pride, Lust, Gluttony, Envy, Wrath, and Sloth respectively. Each of those sins reflects the character in some way. For example, the Inquisitor is a wrathful holy man who wants to burn witches, while the Astrologer is a laid back man who sleeps a lot. This is a really cool storytelling technique, but a really detrimental gaming one. See, the characters are only available to talk to on those days, meaning if you have something done or want to follow a specific quest, you have to wait a whole week. So you basically have no choice but to focus on more than one at a time. Even that wouldn’t be so bad if some of the quests didn’t rely on other quests to get done. It’s all way more time consuming than it should be.
Now that I have all the mechanics out of the way, or most of them at least, I can finally get to the art and music. The soundtrack is very dark, but also bubbly at the same time. It perfectly mirrors what the tone of the game is. The visuals only further enhance it by having these bright, vibrant colors being covered by thick, hazy mist. This creates a dark, but happy and hopeful tone that really makes you feel like you’re in a sort of wacky medieval town. It managed to draw me in almost immediately.
So that about sums up my thoughts on Graveyard Keeper. It’s a really fun game whenever it’s not being tedious. If the game had some sort of faster travelling system or even just a run button, it would make traversing the map a ton more fun. As it sits right now I love this game, but looking at it critically it may not be for everyone. Because as much as I love the premise, the execution is a little lacking. You do get a lot of bang for your buck, seeing as how I clocked in at a little over 50 hours for about $20 on Steam, which is a lot of play time. But when most of it is tedious grinding, it doesn’t really help the game’s case.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Graveyard KeeperLazy Bear GamestinyBuild Games