His motto- pray, preach, and look like you won the lottery.
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Graveyard Keeper is the new cemetery management game from Lazy Bear Games. This game appeared on my radar a couple months back when I saw Cohh Carnage playing it on his Twitch channel. It was still in alpha then, but it looked like the bones of the game were solid, and I was intrigued by the premise. At release, the game appeared to be in a beta state. It has been patched eight times in a week and a half. Each patch has made the game better and the developers seem to have their fingers on the pulse of the game.
Car Crash and a Donkey
The game starts with a modern world cutscene, where your character is rushing home to his love. He is struck by a car and stuck in a sort of middle-verse, in medieval times as a graveyard keeper. You meet Gerry, a talking skull with amnesia, and a talking communist Donkey. You are quickly immersed in the world as the new graveyard keeper, and everyone accepts you in your role. There are a few beginning quests and a lot of menial labor that gets you acquainted with how the game works.
Sometimes the story bits are few and far between. There is so much to do, and it is easy to lose hours doing nothing but farming or graveyard maintenance. There was also an issue with the Astrologer/Key quest being bugged, but that has since been fixed. I did not realize this, and I do not care to mention how many hours I played trying to figure out why I could not go on to the next part of the story. The story started to really move once I had downloaded the patch and it made a huge difference to gameplay and story progression.
While story progression can be done rapid-fire, there is no pressure on the player to get things done in a timely manner. You chose which quest/task you want to do, when you want to do it. The higher-level recipes, materials, and blueprints become available the more tasks and quests you complete. This allows you to make more money and be more efficient with your energy expenditure.
Can You Dig It?
Tending to the graveyard is a unique experience. There isn’t a right or wrong way to build your cemetery, you only need to get the space to hit certain “point” levels. This is done by getting fence and gravestone upgrades, as well as curating the corpses you put into the graveyard. Negative skulls bring down the value of a corpse and diminish its value in the cemetery. There is a character in game whose purpose is to caution which corpses you put into the undead community.
Alchemy is learned as you level up, which allows you to embalm the corpses that Donkey brings you. This allows you to manipulate the red and white skulls that appear on each body. Red skulls are negative, and white skulls are positive. A bad corpse can become a gem, if you know how to embalm properly. Alchemy recipes are learned through experimentation, or you can look up the recipes on the games wiki if you do not want to waste materials. Once you have discovered a recipe, you can queue it automatically.
Graveyard Keeper is not a finished game. There have been eight patches to the game since it’s release on August 15th. Each patch has improved the game. There is a screen hitch issue that I have noticed when I play on PC, and it seems to affect everyone who plays on PC. This does not seem to be an issue for Xbox players. There are numerous typos in the dialogue boxes, but meaning is still conveyed.
There are some endgame skills that can be learned way to early and left me feeling annoyed that I could not use the skill or build the thing I had just learned to do. The skill tree is otherwise in depth and well done. Spiritual (Blue) points are scarce, especially in the beginning. Make books, study body parts and cemetery fixtures to earn them in bulk. At times I wasn’t sure what to do next story wise, but that issue seems to have been fixed with one of the more recent patches. The game is in a much better state than when it first released.
The Town (Spoiler)
The Town is not currently in the game. It is a mythological place that all the NPC’s talk about. There is some debate as to why it is not in game. Some think that the game was rushed out, and the developers did not include it. Others think it is by design, and there is so much to do in the game already. Another area to visit might be overwhelming. With these thoughts in mind, I would love to visit The Town if it makes sense to the story and game progression. I have enjoyed playing the game and exploring each corner of it.
The Polished Marble Statue
I am pushing towards 60 hours played of this game, and I cannot wait to get back in. There were and are bugs, but nothing game breaking. The humor in the game is dark and irreverent. There is an undertone of disdain for religion and a love for alcohol. Whomever oversaw the rating of this game at the ESRB messed up (E10+). This is not a game for kids.
The story is well done, and I am eager to discover how it all ends. I have a couple of theories, but I’ll keep those to myself. Lazy Bear Games has created a sandbox to play in that allows players to go at their own pace. They have created characters to like, to love, and to want to punch in the face. The story is engaging, it’s intriguing, but it’s also simple. Things fall into place as you progress through the story. That sounds obvious, but how many games released recently have a story that is coherent and sensible progression?
If you started playing Graveyard Keeper right at launch, chances are you ran into some bugs. If you’re waiting to see if it gets better, it does. Patches are coming through to PC quickly and efficiently, and Xbox does not seem to have as many issues. The game is not perfect, but it plays well. This game would be perfect on the Nintendo Switch.
The skill tree is deep and there are perks worth chasing. Players can play at their own pace and do what they like when they like. The story is simple and intriguing. There is a dungeon space that reminds me of The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past. It is a lot of fun to fight through. The thing that works for this game is that everything has a place and a purpose. There is a reason for everything you do in the game. There isn’t any excess stuff. While the game may not be perfect, it has all the pieces.
I have not finished the game, and if it warrants it, I will update this review after I complete it. In its current state, it’s a 7.5/10 and worth a play through.
The game is available on Steam and Xbox for $20 or free if you have Microsoft GamePass. Developed by Lazy Bear Games and published by TinyBuild.
I finished the game and I have some thoughts to add. The conversation between characters has never been edited. There are quite a few errors that a once over on the script would have caught. It’s bad. The end of the game sees you waiting three weeks of game time to reach the final quest, and if you played the game like I did, there wasn’t anything to do but swing your sword bedside, sleep, and repeat to make time progress faster. The end of the story made no sense with the rest of the game. The entire premise of the story is to get back to your love; to build the portal, to get home. *Spoiler* That is not what happens. You build the laser to open the portal, surrounded by all of the NPC’s. You give away the house and farm to the merchant and priest. You are leaving. Then Gerry says that the portal also grants you your biggest wish.
The laser opens the portal, and instead of going home, your love pops through, yells, “Sweetheart!”, you kiss, and the game ends. The ending has no connection to the rest of the plot line. The ending of the story, and the amount of time a player has to waste in order to get to the ending, sours the rest of a pretty solid game. I had a lot of fun playing this game, but the ending left me feeling like I missed something. There is even a little cutscene at the end of the game with Gerry and Donkey, where they make fun of the story ending and how the developers will probably add The Town and other missing things as DLC. The Donkey says, “because they are greedy capitalist pigs.” The developers knew the game wasn’t finished. They made a cutscene telling us they knew. That is unacceptable. They are making light of the fact that they sold you an unfinished product. There is no promise of things to come later. This is bad game development. The rest of the game is really well done, game play is fun, skill tree is deep. The ending ruins that. 5.5/10 and worth a play through when the developers finish the game.