Ever wanted to run your own graveyard? Wait… no? Really? Well, let’s say you have always wanted to run your own graveyard; now, you can! Graveyard Keeper begins on a devastating note, as the ‘hero’ is hit by a car on his way back to his beloved. Transported to a world of purgatory, the hero must run his very own graveyard and meet all of the requirements in order to be reunited with the one whom he misses most.
Graveyard Keeper requires you to mend and maintain the graveyard that you have suddenly been left in charge of. Not only this, but you have a whole other responsibilities on top of that, such as farming, crafting, giving weekly sermons and increasing your relationships with the townsfolk.
The game has certain stats for you to increase, such as Graveyard Quality and Church Appeal for starters. These stats are increased (and decreased) by the level of care that you take into your graveyard, so repairing and maintaining graves is of the utmost importance. The better your rank becomes, the more you are promoted.
As is tradition with this sub-genre of simulation games, crafting is an essential aspect of the experience. To craft new items, you need to unlock the technology and blueprints (in addition to the crafting materials themselves) that allows for it, providing a thorough sense of progression. The skill tree that is used to enhance your abilities, providing you more options and objects to craft, is quite possibly the most important aspect of the entire game. The downside to all this is that the game doesn’t provide enough of a tutorial in order to familiarise the player with the tree and its importance.
Until you begin to get the hang of things, you will often find yourself wandering around aimlessly, not knowing what to do and where to go next. The game’s tutorial is this game’s biggest downfall in that it barely has one. As Graveyard Keeper has been out on PC for some time now, I need to highlight that there is NO SHAME using guides and walkthroughs in order to figure out what to do next. If you don’t, you will most likely get so frustrated to the point where you just won’t have the patience to continue on with it… which is a shame as it’s a great game once you get the hang of things.
Graveyard Keeper also features combat, which appears to be a recurring feature in latest topdown farming simulation games. This combat certainly isn’t this game’s best feature as it feels clunky and often awkward to control. If I had to summarise it in one word, that word would be ‘serviceable’.
Certain quality of life features appear to be missing in Graveyard Keeper. For one, I couldn’t seem to find a thorough objectives section, rather the objectives are listed underneath the individual that’s has given the task to you. This would be fine if you could go into the objective and get more information, but that is not the case.
Lastly, every Nintendo Switch review needs to touch upon HD Rumble and it was disappointing that this port completely lacked any hint of it. The variety in the game’s crafting could have been perfect for the Switch exclusive feature but alas, no hint of it.
The world map may is easy and straight to the point, with a lot to explore and discover. The more you unlock in the technology tree, the more you’ll be able to find, uncovering more variety.
With the game’s deliberately slow pacing, it would have greatly benefited from the ability to run. It’s not much to ask for, even if it used up just a smidge of your daily stamina if you ran for too long. Luckily, the more you progress through the technology tree, the more shortcuts you can unlock.
Graveyard Keeper holds such an interesting premise that it’s amazing that it’s never been done before. It takes the classic farming simulation genre and provides a twist that not only mixes up the gameplay, but also the tone and humour. You can think of Graveyard Keeper as a black comedy that hits the mark whenever a character begins to talk.
The character dialogues are very well written and endearingly charming. Not only do you find yourself speaking to townsfolk, but also a talking skull and a donkey on strike. They capture each character’s unique personality to the point where it will often make you smile or even occasionally laugh out loud.
The downside to all of this is despite the fantastic writing and dialogue, the more you continue through the game, the less you’ll hear from the characters. The game becomes repetitive for 80% of the game where you hardly interact with another NPC. You can even attempt to speak to some NPCs that wander around however there is no option to speak to them, which feels very odd.
Graphics / Art Direction
The graphics are nice and crisp, with a surprising amount of detail. As a dark-themed game with a lot to do about death, the fine touches add a nice level of originality to an otherwise already original game.
Music / Sound Design
The soundtrack for Graveyard Keeper is simple and elegant, whilst not demanding too much a commanding presence. And yet regardless, it still becomes repetitive after a couple dozen hours.
Each character’s dialogue has an inaudible mumbling that is put together by short snippets and randomly spliced back together. If that doesn’t paint a clear enough picture for you, think the character sounds that are made in Banjo-Kazooie and Yooka-Laylee. I personally love this style of character audio, but I can definitely acknowledge that it may not be for everyone.
Final Score: 72%
Graveyard Keeper takes a lot of what makes topdown farming simulator games great and gives it a black comedy edge. With its unique premise, it’s an easy game to get lost and dedicate dozens of hours into, despite a repetitive feeling of not knowing what you need to do.