Graveyard Keeper (GK) is a cemetery management sim that gives undoubtedly strong vibes of Stardew Valley (SV). Just like SV, there is more to do than what first meets the eye. From, of course, cemetery management to other activities such as foresting, crafting, and cooking, there’s plenty to do.
There’s a progression system in GK, not unlike SV, but this system is quite different in its manifestation. As opposed to doing a particular activity repeatedly and leveling it up, gaining perks along the way, GK employs a tree-style system. By performing specific actions, such as cutting down a tree or mining for ore, you may acquire three different types of points, used to learn a certain technology — from anatomy and alchemy to building. Some technologies you learn by progressing through the story, completing quests. This system allows you to develop your character according to current and near-future needs, while also allowing you to plan out how you allocate your points. You’re given a clearly defined path of how to obtain particular blueprints and perks. Although a good deal of locked technologies show you precisely what you acquire, there are some that don’t reveal this information, adding mystery to what all this game offers.
There isn’t necessarily a “wrong” way of progressing your character, but there are certain technology nodes — particularly, ones that permit you to construct tools and structures — that prove far more helpful. Constructing these and other useful objects, such as nails, becomes a bit of a chore due to interdependent relationships on other structures. A good number of nodes require blue points, which require the church; so, you can’t exactly progress however you want without progressing the story.
IF YOU’RE AT AN IMPASSE
There’s a concern of “deadlocking” the game early on because, not only is it difficult to make money (until you open the church or can use the garden, for instance), but your whetstone (a valuable item used to repair tools) has its own durability. If your whetstone breaks and you don’t have enough money to buy another, or a tool, you’d be in a jam. Materials you can harvest, such as stone, do fetch a decent price, however. So, if you’re stuck, stone could be a viable option for getting unstuck; it’s a resource you can gain easily and have in surplus.
Food items are useful for restoring your stamina, which depletes too quickly when you work. Just how quick this depletes only interrupts your plans. Working on a corpse, extracting a few items from it, then proceeding to bury it takes about half of your bar. Not to mention the work you must invest by collecting materials and constructing markers and fences to the new burial site. The least time-consuming way to replenish your stamina is sleeping. You can sleep whenever, stay up all night if you prefer, wake up whenever, etc.
Furnishing a burial is rather necessary to increase your cemetery rating. A potential issue is that simply burying each corpse you receive results in the cemetery running out of room. To exhume a body, you need to open the church first and then do other things before that becomes an option; you can unlock blueprints to cremate, but not until after you open the church. Luckily, if you push for your cemetery rating, you may unlock the church in no time (in about thirty to forty days before the patch that made days longer). At least then you can put on sermons. Aside from that, due to what more you need to do after opening the church, it never quite feels like an accomplishment. Most things don’t. GK almost always feels like an uphill struggle (I never unlocked something and felt that gameplay became easier), regardless of what you do, nor are you able to focus on what you want to do. The tasks, quests, and unlockables are too interdependent to allow this. For some, these aspects compromise the experience too much to enjoy it.
The devs have introduced various quality of life changes, however, including longer days, the ability to fast travel, and decreased resource requirements for building particular objects. There are still tweaks that GK could use, such as a quick reference guide to who appears on what days and which vendors buy which items, but it’s headed in the right direction. The only issue I encountered was near constant stuttering, but this seems fixed.
The Verdict: Good
For fans of sims that offer a good range of what you can do, this is worth taking a look at, although based on certain features of various progression systems (whether technology nodes or story-wise), you aren’t exactly free to play as you please (at least, compared to Stardew Valley, which many people compare this release to anyway). Graveyard Keeper needs some tweaking, but the devs have already released multiple updates that have improved my experience noticeably. I like the direction Graveyard Keeper is headed and await what other tweaks the devs implement.