Graveyard Keeper Alpha v0.678 Hands-On Impressions

Graveyard Keeper is the in-progress graveyard management sim by Lazy Bear, the genius team behind the hit boxing club management simulator Punch Club. After spending the last few weeks checking out the alpha build, I’ve since fallen in love with the game and here’s some reasons why.

From a gameplay perspective, Graveyard Keeper is fairly simple yet complex at the same time. In my spotlight article of the game, I compared it to Stardew Valley, which is unfair to say as it is more than just a farming sim, it’s a true adventure. When you start the game for the first time, you are given tutorials on how to do the basic task that the game entails- taking care of the graveyard. It isn’t as simple as just digging holes and putting corpses in it though. The game works on a skill building tree where your actions lead to pickups of one of three coloured orbs; either red, blue, or green. The player spends these orbs to unlock skills to progress in the game such as the ability to extract blood and fat from a body, the ability to create tools such as shovels or crafting tombstones, fences, and other graveyard decorations (and that’s just some of the starter level unlocks).

The game never forces you to follow a set schedule and instead allows you to progress how you choose to. For example, I am purely focused on learning how to craft everything so I can make money faster later. While the game itself starts off slow, it becomes very easy to get engaged in the medieval setting of the world, not just because of the graveyard itself but also the people living around it.

The world you are put into is fantastic yet also very dreary. Along with the graveyard itself, you are thrust into this world with a swamp full of evil monsters, dungeons to explore, a farm to sow your oats (and other plants), and a town full of unique characters for you to build relationships with through completing tasks and just having general conversations.

Every character has a personality and will offer you ways to further your relationships with them such as the bartender offering missions and hints on how to make money in exchange for assistance or the corrupt bishop who asks for your friendship in exchange for attending a witch burning, just as a few examples. There is a ton of charm in the writing, with a couple fourth wall breaks along the way to make you smile.

At its core, the game is beautifully designed with a 16-bit retro aesthetic as well as hand-drawn characters and environments with a lot of colour but also just enough of a gritty medieval feel to make the world stand out.

The music in Graveyard Keeper also contributes to such a great environment with low droning music at night to spook the player or calmer instrumental music during the day when it’s “safer” and with highly detailed sound design. Every swing of your tools, every pained groan of foes, and every environmental noise whether it be loud wind or the dirt crunching under your steps feels real.

Performance-wise, the game plays relatively well especially in an alpha state as I have had very few crashes and experienced very few glitches running the game on a relatively dated system and can say with confidence that even in its alpha state, it has been more stable than some recent AAA releases.

It’s been hard to put the game down the last few days as I love the freedom to go about my business with little to no limitations and have been digging (haha) everything so far and been loving discovering something new every time I play.

Overall, I can highly recommend Graveyard Keeper to anyone who enjoys games like Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon as well as anyone who enjoyed Lazy Bear’s Punch Club as this is another example of a fantastic indie title with a robust variety of play-styles and just oozes charm and passion, with it quickly becoming one of my favorite titles this year. Can’t wait to see what the final product has to show in August.

OFFICIAL TRAILER

AVAILABLE ON STEAM: AUGUST 15, 2018

Preview Copy Info: A digital copy of this work-in-progress game was provided to RGN for free by the publisher for preview purposes.

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