Overview – developed by Lazy Bear Games and published by tinyBuild, Graveyard Keeper is a graveyard management simulator with RPG style advancement systems. Along with the base game, several DLC expansions have been developed and published since initial release with titles and elements that reference popular media. This title (and some expansion content) is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Steam. Links to each version of the game will be available at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I want to thank tinyBuild who provided the copy of Graveyard Keeper and the Game of Crone DLC that was used for this article. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own. Please note I will be discussing both the Game and DLC content in the gameplay section.
Content Warning: this game features content and themes that may be inappropriate for some audiences, with depictions of religion, violence and other mature themes. Please use discretion when choosing to proceed with reading this review or checking out the game.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, I will be skipping the story segment as I feel the narrative should be experienced firsthand.
Gameplay – Graveyard Keeper is a management sim with a unique twist. Rather than managing a city or farm like other titles in the genre, this release has the player take care of the operations of a cemetery, church and mortuary. After a series of unfortunate events in the present day, the player has been transported to a medieval village, being put in the position of the keeper of the graveyard. With the aid of a talking skull named Gerry, the player solves various tasks to find a way to get home.
BASE GAME – During the course of the game, the player will collect bodies from the Donkey, a disgruntled worker who drops the bodies at the morgue ready for collection. When a body is collected, the player can perform an autopsy to harvest parts from the body which includes flesh, blood, fat and bones which become resources (and food in some situations). After completing an autopsy, the player is tasked with laying the remains to rest, burying the body in the graveyard with a marker and fence (if desired).
Along with the responsibility of burying the dead, the player will also be given quests to improve the condition of the graveyard by the Bishop, who wants the church to reopen so that more donations can be collected. As well as the graveyard improvement objectives, the player can also get tasks from residents of the village, a small residential area with an Inn, Blacksmith, Potter and other useful NPCs.
When communicating with NPC characters, completing quests will give reputation points with the specific entity. As more points are earned, additional requests and features will be unlocked in the questline for that entity. At preset times during the game, characters will appear before the player initiating dialogue that will alter the way that the narrative progresses. These special events will change the story and introduce new mechanics into the current playthrough.
There is an important thing to note about interactions with characters. Some of the NPCs encountered will only appear or interact with the player on specific days, or when conditions are met. This means that resources and materials are not the only important thing to manage, but time itself. The day and night cycle is shown by a clock in the top left of the screen, showing the current day via a dedicated symbol, with time passing quicker when the player sleeps.
The grave markers, fences and other equipment/supplies are crafted by collecting resources. Each time a resource such as wood, stone and iron is collected technology points are accrued, allowing the player to unlock new recipes for tools and equipment for crafting. The points are separated into three categories with different ones used to purchase upgrades, improve the quality of items and the complexity of each new item that is unlocked.
The different progression trees include smithing for turning metals into tools, building for processing wood and stone, cookery for food items and theology for the church. Additional trees will are unlocked as the game progresses and special trees are given from interactions with other characters. There is also a system called study, allowing players to examine items and document what they can be used in the alchemy system.
In order to create the grave decorations, lay bodies to rest and collect various other resources, the player will use energy for each action. The amount of energy consumed will vary depending on the task, with more demanding actions taking more energy. When the energy meter has been depleted, there are two ways to refill it, the first is by sleeping (this is also how the game is saved) and by consuming food/drink which is either crafted by the player or bought from merchants.
Be careful, when energy has run out, no actions can be initiated without sleeping or consuming recovery items, putting the player at risk of injury or even death if encountered by a hostile force. Management of energy and supplies can be very important if collecting resources far from home. Be sure to craft or purchase essential supplies where needed to be able to survive while out in the wilderness, as running out of energy mid task can be a significant setback.
The last part of the base game that I want to discuss is the dungeon system. Here the player is able to explore a multi-level dungeon, battling monsters, collect loot and complete quests relating to the dungeons. Each floor contains a set of monsters that must be defeated before progressing, as well as loot items that can be collected. Caution is advised, as running out of energy can result in death so tread lightly in the dungeons or you may get eaten alive.
EXPANSIONS – Alongside the standard questlines and story of the Graveyard Keeper base game, there is a selection of additional expansions in the form of DLC. I have been fortunate to be able to try out the Game of Crone expansion. There is also a free update for PC players called Breaking Dead (this expansion requires purchase on consoles).
The Breaking Dead expansion introduces necromancy, allowing the Keeper to resurrect the dead, creating an army of zombies that can be deployed in different roles. The undead can be used as miners, graveyard attendents and even as merchants. Use resources to modify and upgrade the zombie army, making them more efficient and consistent at their jobs around the graveyard.
The Game of Crone is a full story expansion, which provides additional narrative content for the player to experience, along with new quests and crafting recipes to make. New to this expansion is the introduction of refugee camps, a new settlement system that allows the Keeper to become a mayor of sorts. Assist the residents of the camp as they try to become prosperous and escape the dangers that caused them to flee.
Provide the residents of the camp with tents, wells, beds and more as the population starts to grow. Take care of the residents by helping to improve the conditions of the camp, provide what they need and protect them from those who seek to destroy them. This expansion aims to deliver an additional 6 – 10 hours of content, updates to existing systems and increasing the overall value of this expansion for both old and new players.
Now with the gameplay covered, I will be moving onto the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.
Controls – Graveyard Keeper has full controller support as well as mouse and keyboard controls. I used the latter for my time playing and I can say that the controls are comfortable to use. The interface is easy to navigate, with the mouse being the best way to move between objects on while in the menus. The keyboard mapping works effectively with all relevant buttons, using a handful of keys on one part of the keyboard for actions and movement.
Presentation – this title uses 2D pixel styled sprites, giving the game a style aesthetic similar to Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon. The character designs have a quirky charm and the darkly comic atmosphere of the games world add to the experience. There are moments that may make the player uncomfortable, including religious overtones such as inquisitors, cultists and even public executions via witch burning.
The sound design has a very medieval feel to it, with the use of flutes, harps and drums for the compositions featured. There is an absence of voice acting in this title, with simple noises for speech that fulfill their intended purpose. The overall performance of this title was satisfying, even though my hardware wasn’t the strongest I was able to play the game at a stable frame rate with a high resolution.
Final Thoughts – I enjoyed my time playing Graveyard Keeper, the narrative was both engaging and entertaining. The dark humor present when interacting with the bodies of the recently deceased, alongside the more creepy moments really brings this historically inaccurate world to life. The controls are comfortable when playing with the default setup and the performance of the game may work well with a range of hardware setups.
I can recommend this release to fans of sim style games and RPG titles. The abundance of content on offer in the base game and expansions provide enough depth to keep the player engaged for a long time. The only issue I found was that there some of the objectives can be cryptic during play, but this isn’t a significant downside. I sank a lot of time into this release during the writing of this review, I have a lot of praise for the team at Lazy Bear Games and an entertaining addition to the tinyBuild catalogue.
In the end, I give Graveyard Keeper a final Score of 4/5. Graveyard Keeper is a fun and entertaining experience, mixing farming sim style gameplay with a darkly comedic setting that doesn’t take itself seriously, offering a wealth of content in both the base game and expansions. If you want to check this game out for yourself, links to each version of the game will be available below.
Link to Steam version (HERE)
Link to G.O.G version (HERE)
Link to Xbox One version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation 4 version (HERE)
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)