Waking up in an unfamiliar room, only to be welcomed by a talking skull with an insatiable appetite for liquor, you’re probably going to have questions. So who remembers Harvest Moon? The game that sort of started the addictive pixelart farming sim genre? It was a pretty good game for its time… Well, the genre is still going, and recently Graveyard Keeper came to the PS4, a new favourite of mine – Very much reminiscent of Stardew Valley, albeit with smoother graphics.
You start by waking up in a small, rather cosy looking hovel, confused after an accident… Turns out you’ve somehow travelled to a weird medieval town, locked away by mountains, swampland and a desolate coastline. Congratulations! You’re the new church groundskeeper / mortician. As far as I know, that’s the story; I have yet to finish the game, but for what it is it’s horribly addictive.
Primary gameplay revolves around maintaining a crumbling church and neglected graveyard whilst doing all sorts of quests in the search for answers and a way home – You have a certain amount of energy per day to complete your various tasks, whether it be woodwork, stonework, or getting your hands dirty pulling the entrails out of dead people. Every day a new body is dropped off via talking Russian donkey, and it’s up to you to prepare them, bury them and dress up the grave, in turn making the church more appealing to the local patrons.
The point of this gameplay loop is of course the story, however, finding answers as to why you’re here and how to get back home. Of course there’s roadblocks at every turn, whether it be NPC fetch quests, or needing a specific item to access an area. As you’re doing that, you still have your weekly duties to complete, which loops you into the secondary gameplay element… The addictive stuff. I don’t know what it is about the monotony of chopping down trees to make grave decorations that’s so damn addictive, but it is.
So you have your axe and pick to mine and chop, you use the wood and ore to make workstations, which let you make more resources, which you use to fix landslides, broken bridges, and of course, gravestones, crosses, gardens and fencings. As you go, you’ll gather points of three varieties, which let you unlock various skills and professions that let you gather even more resources, etc, etc – Snowball effect in action.
Certain NPC’s only show up in specific areas on certain days, every week you have to give a sermon to gather donations that you use to buy things you can’t craft yourself. You can be a horrible person and sell human flesh to the Tavern, or just dump the body in a river; you can get in bed with the cardinal (Not literally) to do some pretty shady shit such as accusing villagers of witchcraft… You can explore the catacombs under the town, the surrounding swampland, you can fish, farm, build and more; it is the quintessential addictive pixel farm sim.
There’s all sorts of humour in it as well – Aforementioned talking Russian donkey notwithstanding you eventually have to pay him in carrots for every delivery due to his complaints about fair compensation. I got a few chuckles out of that whole situation myself, I do still wonder if you can eventually buy that donkey – There’s even a DLC where you can practice dark magic to raise the dead!
…Only to put them to work doing all your jobs for you.
It’s very much the sort of game you can and will most likely whittle away hours and hours playing, if it’s your thing – That being said, it does have it’s gripes. The limited stamina per day does sometimes get frustrating, and at times you find yourself lost… Actually that happens quite often if you’re not paying attention. Remembering what NPC’s show up on what days becomes a chore, especially once you have a bunch of things to turn in. Above all that, however, it’s a great game to spend your free time with when bored.
Developed by Lazy Bear Games and published by TinyBuild Games, Graveyard Keeper is a pretty decent game; nothing excessively special or fantastic, but a good, fun game nonetheless – Released just last year in 2018, it’s one of my favourite ‘I’m bored’ games… And thusly well deserving of a solid 8/10.