Game Review #419: Graveyard Keeper (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Chad M.
Developer: Lazy Bear Games
Category: Adventure, RPG, Simulation
Release Date: 6.27.2019
Buy Graveyard Keeper from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
The Stardew Valley of The Dead
As someone who never played a lot of simulation games growing up—especially the farming ones that tended to be rather popular—I’ve done a 180, where I’ve not only played them through reviewing, but also started enjoying them quite a bit. Most games like Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, and Stardew Valley all have one thing in common: they’re fun and happy games that I’d gladly play with my eight-year-old son.
The new game I am reviewing today is Graveyard Keeper, which takes the farming simulator to an entire new level by making it something that’s rather dark and dreary. The game comes from Punch Club developer, Lazy Bear Games, who are located in Russia. The game was published by tinyBuildGAMES, who have a solid line of games on the Switch that you should check out—but, for now, let’s jump in and see if Graveyard Keeper is worth your dead presidents!
Oh, My Darling! Graves Surround
Headed home from the store to the love of your life, a car comes out of nowhere, striking you and sending you flying. As you awake from what seems a deep slumber, you see that you’re not in Kansas anymore; you are in a totally different world from your own. You’ve awakened in the dark ages as a graveyard keeper to a dilapidated medieval cemetery. As you stand in a fog, speaking to a creepy red-eyed man, he tells you this is your new beginning, and that you should speak to Gerry and everything will become clear.
From here, you find Gerry, and when you do, the game begins to show you its colors, as Gerry is a talking skull with a lot of attitude. Gerry dispenses tutorial tips to you to get things set in motion, and before you know it, bodies start rolling in, and you have to handle not only managing the cemetery, but other aspects, like the morgue and working with the church. All of this is done in an attempt to get back home to your beloved darling.
The Business of Death Can Be Taxing
Graveyard Keeper is a graveyard-keeping simulation game inspired by Stardew Valley and based on Harvest Moon. At the start of the game, the player becomes the recipient of a plot of land that includes a small graveyard once owned by his predecessor, located near a small town. The cemetery plot is initially overrun with boulders, trees, stumps, and weeds, and you must work to clear them in order to restart its operation, tending to graves and even the church, so as to generate revenue and bring donations to church coffers.
Your ultimate goal is to get your character back to his old world. To that end, you need information and help from various NPCs—like talking skulls and talking donkeys—who will provide you with said assistance in exchange for completing quests. These quests usually involve gameplay elements, such as bringing them some crafted or collectable items, like oil, honey, etc., and more gameplay elements and areas slowly unlock throughout the game as you unlock new technologies.
The skill tree in this game is called a Technology Tree, and you unlock new technologies to progress in the game. Beyond the early game, Graveyard Keeper requires you to have three different types of experience points to unlock most of the technologies: red, blue, and green. Other than tending to graves and clearing out environmental elements, the game also has farming, smithing, rudimentary combat, multi-level dungeons, fishing, and an extensive crafting system.
As soon as the introductions are over, the game throws you right into the deep end; and I’m giving fair warning that the game can be rather obtuse, but in saying that, I still enjoyed my time with the game. I personally don’t like hand-holding, but I felt I had to turn to other sources for help, as I kept hitting walls rather than it naturally leading me in the direction needed. Whether I was attending a witch burning, dumping a dead body, or doing minimal tasks, I always enjoyed myself, I just felt lost or questioned why more than I did with the games by which Graveyard Keeper was inspired.
Even More Dead Bodies… For Free!
Included with your eShop purchase is the DLC for Graveyard Keeper, “Breaking Dead”, announced in 2018 and free for owners of the base game. A resurrection table is added to your morgue, and you can reanimate corpses and command them to do your bidding. It can gather stone, wood, and craft items, as well as take care of your garden. It allows players to modify and upgrade your zombies, and to create logistics chains so that your zombies can automate sales of merchandise.
Audio & Video
The soundtrack is well done, with dark and ominous orchestral music that fits rather well over chiptune-type music. All of the game’s sound effects are spot on, and though there isn’t any voiceover work, the audio is top-notch. The visuals are damn close to what you see in Stardew Valley, except the game has been dipped in a dark stew, giving it undertones of The Crucible (film) or Salem (TV show).
It’s A Wrap!
Graveyard Keeper is an interesting game that takes a genre topic and spins it on its head. I don’t see it getting Multiplayer, so this will have to be a solo project, but either way, you’ll have to adjust to the strict learning curve of what to do, and where and how to do it while playing the game. Past that, the game is a hoot, and you can have a lot of fun laughing at the in-game shenanigans with Gerry, or just doing normal things like crafting items. Overall, this is a game I’d recommend, as long as you can swallow the pill of going in knowing there will be a learning curve for some. I’d gladly jump in all over again, and intend to continue playing, as this is a game you can get lost in, in a good way.
Buy Graveyard Keeper from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
Visit the official Graveyard Keeper website here.
Follow Lazy Bear Games
*Review code provided by tinyBuildGAMES