Graveyard Keeper has been available on PC and Xbox One for just over a year and in that time, a number of patches have added a tonne of new content and, more importantly, fixed a number of glitches. It’s a shame then that the PS4 version, released last week, doesn’t seem to have seen the benefit of those bug fixes. That’s a massive shame because the actual content within Graveyard Keeper is a morbid and clever take on the farming/life sim genre that’s well designed and orientated.
The game begins in a world like our own. You’re a shop clerk on his way home on a dark and rainy night when you’re hit by a car. You wake up in a colourful, medieval world you don’t recognise and are told you are the new Graveyard Keeper by the village Bishop.
Your new role as Graveyard Keeper initially involves two main objectives. Every day, a talking donkey (yup) brings you a dead body. It’s your job to pick a place to bury them, dig their hole and place them in it. The longer you leave a body, the more it degrades, the bigger negative rating is has on your graveyard. Burying a body rewards you with a certificate that can be exchanged for cash. Your other job is to maintain the graveyard itself. Tombstones and fencing will degrade over time and it’s your job to keep them looking great. Each dig site has its own rating depending on the decorations used from simple hole in the ground that’ll likely have a negative on your graveyard to elaborate marble tributes which really bump up your score.
Almost every action in Graveyard Keeper costs energy and in exchange, you’re awarded with Technology points. These points come in 3 different flavours – physical, knowledge and spiritual – which can be spent to unlock new disciples of crafting and resource gathering. At the start of the game, your Keeper has a hand full of tools and a basic understanding of woodwork but with enough technology points, can learn all kinds of skills in a number of skill trees. There’s a lovingly balanced weave of skill and progression goals in Graveyard Keeper that reward every action in one way or another while stopping you from getting out of your depths until you’re ready.
What I’ve played of Graveyard Keeper eloquently facilitates the game play loop of receiving and burying bodies, gathering resources, crafting items and decorating the yard. Much like its peers, the better you get at maintaining this cycle, the more duties and upgrades become available and even mandated at times. Improve the shoddy graveyard you’re dumped with at the start of the game and you’ll eventually be made a Pastor of the church with the responsibility of running a service once a week. Certain NPC’s will offer you additional quests but can only be met on certain days of the week. There’s quite a number of quests and requirements to take a run at and while many of them feel like busy work or simple fetch quests, there’s some fun little jobs to do for a cast of rich characters.
Then there’s Graveyard Keeper’s unique aspect – y’know, the fact you’re running a Graveyard. Mechanically, this game is very similar to the likes of Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley but thematically, it differentiates itself by being morbid, dark and a tad twisted at times. For example, if you take a body into your morgue and drop it on your preparing table, you can actually slice off a bit of…let’s say…meat that can be cooked and eaten to give you energy. If you can then get your hands on a stamp to label this meat as safe, you can then sell it people too. Yup. Grim. As your progress, you can harvest other items from bodies for a variety of means too. While Graveyard Keeper isn’t gory, it takes some pretty dank themes in its stride as if they were as normal as planting carrots.
It’s a crying shame then that Graveyard Keeper is so very broken on the PS4 at present. Entering the dungeon location, somewhere that sounds very interesting, freezes the game completely and forces a reset. The frame rate dances around like my nan after she has drank 6 cans of Skol Super and the Pogues come on the radio, as in to say, very badly. It’s entirely possible to get trapped between certain world items like a tree and a cliff and if you do so without enough energy to cut yourself free (has happened twice) or without the adequate research to fell that type of tree (happened once), you’re forced to quit out of the game and lose any unsaved progress. The worst bug in the game right now is to do with saving. Each and every time you go to sleep in your bed, the most effective way of replenishing your energy, the game auto saves. Unfortunately, 1 in every 3 times you go to sleep, the game blue screen crashes, losing any unsaved progress as it does so. Booting up the game to see you’ve lost a few days of progress is entirely disheartening. What was worse is when the game crashed in this exact same scenario and the PS4 then reported a corrupted save game. Thank you to whichever god was looking over me that day for PS+ cloud saves.
What’s most egregious is that these are issues that existed and have apparently been fixed in the other versions of the game. With the PS4 version however, much of the good work that tinyBuild and Lazy Bear games have put in to the other versions appears to have been undone.
I’ve made it a point of pride to complete every game that I review (or at least play enough of it to make a verdict for those games that don’t technically have an ending). With Graveyard Keeper however, I admit defeat. Despite their being a morbidly entertaining personality to this game which shows all the hallmarks and potential of a well designed treat, it’s too broken to play in its current state. I’ve enjoyed what I have been able to play of Graveyard Keeper but until it’s patched, this game is a tough one to recommend to anyone who isn’t a PS4 error screen enthusiast.
Graveyard Keeper is available now on PS4 (reviewed on base console), XBox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Developers: Lazy Bears
In order to complete this review, we received a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy please go here.
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