Burying corpses has never been so much fun – Graveyard keeper Alpha Impressions

by Sammy Chan
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Tending to corpses, exhuming graves and harvesting organs – probably not anyone’s idea of a fun night in. Yet somehow developer Tiny Build has transformed these seemingly gruesome concepts into the foundation for a relaxing, rewarding and fun-filled graveyard-managing simulator. Yes, you read that right. Graveyard Keeper is an upcoming simulation game and one that isn’t shy to show off its ghoulish nature. The game is currently in an Alpha state and here are some of my Graveyard Keeper Alpha impressions!
Despite being only in Alpha, the game is already offering hours of engaging content. It has successfully set the framework for a relaxing and fun-filled experience with interactivity and exploration. The story revolves around collecting resources, crafting new tools and… dealing with corpses. Yes, dead bodies that you’ll have to collect, cut open and eventually buried. All this in hopes of transforming your graveyard into a reputable place for the dead to rest.

So I see grave digging isn’t on your resume?

On a dark rainy night, our adventure begins following a fatal accident. Taken from life too soon but given a second chance to get back to the ones he’s lost. Our hero is tasked to brave a new set of challenges issued by Death himself. The catch – become the latest, in a long line of graveyard keepers. This is where all the fun begins.
You’ll meet a talking skull that will act as your mentor throughout the game. Once you’ve learned the basics, it’s time to get to work integrating into your new life. First and foremost, that involves cleaning up your graveyard and putting the dead to rest. But, being a successful graveyard keeper is a little harder than one might think.

Dissection is an art

Simulation games often need a little groundwork to get going and Graveyard Keeper is no different. At the start prepare to feel a little overwhelmed under the sheer amount of available skills, unlockable areas, and different characters. Even in the Alpha, there are hours of content and a vast variety of ways to spend your days. But with all the choices one thing does always remain the same; the constant arrival of bodies.
Like it or not these show up quite frequently, and at the start getting a handle on corpse management is a necessary skill. Unfortunately (and to my frustration) the current tutorial doesn’t explain the mechanics behind preparing bodies. Each corpse has a rating determining the potential it will have on your graveyard. Poisoned corpses and botched autopsies can lower this leading to a poor quality grave. For a healthy and respectable graveyard, bodies need to be dissected in a specific order. It’s kind of like a mini-game of sorts. The higher the quality of a body the better grave rating you can get. However, cutting up the corpses and digging graves is only the tip of the iceberg. A successful graveyard means gravestones need to be carved, decorations need to be added and sermons need to be held. Each of these requires you to dive into a deep skill trees system, upgrades, and materials.

So many skills, so many options

Smithing, mining, stone-working, alchemy, and writing – these are just some of the many, many skill trees you can diverge into. And yes it’s okay to feel a little overwhelmed. Thankfully skill progression is simplistic due to integration with an easy to understand UI. Skills are based on your ability to gather experience by interacting with just about anything. Earned points can then be used to upgrade skills in just about any area you choose.

Screengrab via Graveyard Keeper

Some such as wood and stone, allow you to influence your graves directly. Others such as insect management and cooking give you a better sense of control over your character. Each skill starts off simple at first but gradually increases in complexity based on your input of time and attention. Most of the skills also compliment each other, with higher tier crafting requiring materials from a variety of products. Each upgrade becomes another chance to get better items, unlock more available quests and get the tools to venture out into new areas.

 It’s not all about the dead though

At some point, you’re going to have to venture out into a world filled with eerie swamps, dark dungeons, and murderous witch hunters. While the Alpha build doesn’t have many locations unlocked, there are a few places that make the game feel alive. The village next to your cemetery is a bustling hub full of civilians. Here you can trade from the many vendors that specialize in specific trades.

Screengrab via Graveyard Keeper

Much of the story isn’t complete in the Alpha but there are still a few promising characters that really stand out. Quests often involve obtaining some uniquely found or crafted item given to NPCs to increase your reputation and deepen their story. Exploring specific character hints and quests also set the foundation for important story arcs that bring you one step closer to getting home.

Bringing it all together in a verdict

Graveyard Keeper establishes itself as an enjoyable, relaxing simulation experience. The changing day-night cycle, the ever-growing cemetery, the plethora of skills and the explorable open world all mesh together to form a game brimming with content. As this is only the Alpha version, a lot of options remain locked but there are still hours of content here for you to lose yourself in. Especially with such a detailed world that always seems to give you a new objective to look forward to.
Graveyard Keeper is set to be released on August 15, 2018. I will definitely be picking this one up in hopes of exploring a completed story, more developed areas, quests, and characters. From the game’s current state it’s clear that Lazy Bear Games has the workings for a relaxing, fun and ultimately successful simulator. One that I would recommend to any fan of the genre. However, if you’re impatient and want to experience game now, you can purchase the Graveyard Keeper Alpha access here.

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