16/08/2019

⛏️⚰️๐Ÿ’€ Graveyard Keeper - REVIEW "Do you dig graves?" "They're alright, yeah" ⚰️๐Ÿ’€⛏️ #GameDev #IndieGame

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I've been trying to come up with a decent Stardew Valley pun involving graves, cemeteries, corpses, anything, and it's not really working. 

Stardew Cemetery. Stardew Body. Charneldew Valley. Stardew RIP. 

All rubbish.
As you might have gathered, Graveyard Keeper is a bit like Stardew Valley, but instead of concentrating on farming, you have a cemetery to tend. 

The intro shows your titular character being hit by a car on the way home and waking up in a 19th-century(ish) village. 

By way of a tutorial, a talking skull (yes, that's right) informs you that you're the new custodian of the local churchyard and shows you how to bury bodies. The local bishop then pops in to tell you that the graveyard is in a right old state and gives you your first mission: to make it all nice and neat, which you do by burying new bodies, repairing gravestones, cutting weeds and planting flowerbeds. 

It's also possible to dig corpses up and chuck them in the river - certain bodies bring down the rating of your graveyard, so you're better off getting rid. You're pointed towards the local village to meet the standard NPCs: innkeeper, blacksmith, farmer, merchant etc. 
In the early game, you receive burial certificates which you can sell to the innkeeper to get money; later on, you've got a lot more scope for earning the big bucks.

Once you've tarted up your graveyard to the bishop's exacting standards he'll open the church and you're promoted to a cleric, which gives you the ability to hold church services, and it's here that the game really takes off. 

You progress through the skill trees by building up three types of skill points: green, for tasks relating to agriculture, food and drink; red, for building, crafting and resource collection, and blue, for the church- and faith-related activities. 

Different skills require different combinations of colours, some of which are hard to come by early on.

It's only once you open up the church, and the study tables underneath, that you really get an idea of how much depth is in this game. I went into it expecting Stardew Valley-lite, but there's a huge amount of stuff to get on with. 

You discover quite early on that the way home is via a portal on the hill next to your house - where another NPC, the Inquisitor, likes to burn witches and wants you to get involved, which is faintly unpleasant. 
Every NPC has something for you to do, as far as I can tell, and the rewards tend to help you progress in one of the many things you can turn your hand to. You can farm, build, cook, write, fish, perform autopsies, brew, distil and more besides. There is a LOT to do. 

Like Stardew Valley, you find yourself running around like a blue-arsed fly because you've got to get to the lighthouse to meet the astrologer before he leaves, then get back to the other side of the map to bury that new corpse before it gets manky and brings down your graveyard score (although as previously noted, you can just sling it in the nearest body of water and be done with it).

This is a good game. I've mentioned the-other-game-like-this-with-the-initials-SV about 30 times in this review already, but I'll tell you something - I like Graveyard Keeper a bit more at times. It feels like there's more to do, and it also feels a bit more adult, not least because of the whole organ-harvesting thing you can do (and also selling human meat to the innkeeper for, er, onward processing). 

One thing it doesn't have as much of is the rich variety of NPCs, but then again there's less relationship-management hassle - you're not giving presents to people all the time only for them to tell you they don't like them, the ungrateful gits. And the number of different ways to get rich would make Gordon Gekko weep.

The main criticism I can level at it is that it's hard to keep track of what you're doing - a better journal system would be a godsend. As things stand you have to remember where you need to be, the day and time you need to be there and what items you need to have on you, meaning if you step away from the game for a few days then you're likely to be a bit lost when you come back in. 

You shouldn't have to, but it's a decent idea to make notes of where you are in the questlines, as there's nothing more annoying than encountering an NPC leaving an area, remembering you needed to talk to them and having to wait a full week for your next chance.
Summary:
At £17.99 this is a bit steep, but if you sunk months of your life into Stardew Valley then you'll probably get the same value here. 

For everyone else, it's probably worth waiting and picking it up on sale.
๐Ÿ’ง❄️ RATING: MELTING ❄️๐Ÿ’ง

Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

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