April 29th, 2019

Graveyard Keeper is a fun game

So I picked it up some time ago, but only started playing it a little more than a month ago. It took a little bit to get used to the controls, but eventually I started to get the hang of it. In a small way it resembles Stardew Valley, which is an excellent game with the same mindset as Harvest Moon, but instead of managing a farm instead you are the local mortuary and have to manage the graveyard next door. There's a nested crafting system, in which you have to build things that let you make materials that let you build other things, and there is in fact some farming you will need to do, though getting access to the garden and then actually using it takes a short time.

Your end goal is to "get home", as apparently you were hit by a car and suddenly ended up in this odd place as the new Graveyard Keeper. You are directed to speak with people and learn what they want and in the end, there are six people you have to fulfill to finish the game. In a lot of ways, this game is high energy and moves quickly, but that only goes so far. The end game is very slow, forcing you to waste a lot of time to get it done as you are only waiting on one or two things that are needed to complete it.

That's one of the few complaints that I have about the game, the end game pacing is atrocious. Under no circumstances should it take as long as it does. The example here is the last person you are likely to need to help has a trigger involving one of the other people getting to the end of their quest line, and once you reach that point, you will be able to move his forward. The problem there is that the next two things he needs are things you likely won't have any time soon and even if you did, you can't give them to him in rapid sequence; you have to wait a week before you can give him the second, and then you have to wait yet another week to finally finish it. It's entirely possible that you got three of the six done before this last sequence, though, so it's a lot of waiting around. A streamer I watched playing this ran into the same problem and used the meditation spot outside of the house to pass time instead of doing anything during that time.

Although I only first started playing this game maybe a month and a half ago, I've completed it twice now. The reason is that there's a mechanic in the game that lets you automate several things, in fact, almost everything. After getting access to the Diary of the previous Graveyard Keeper, you also gain access to a smart zombie that was chained up in the basement of the chapel. This person enlightens you to zombie workers, and points you to where two of them were left behind in a rock slide. These first two zombies are really inefficient, but they server to give you an idea what they are capable of. You also are given three of the item that will let you animate new zombies.

There are advantages and drawbacks to using them, though. While they can perform crafting tasks for you, albeit at a slower speed than you could do, they will not generate any of the colored orbs that count as "experience" that you gather in the game and spend to unlock technologies. Zombies are great for doing the menial tasks that don't give much in the way of experience, though, and they come with several technologies which will make the game much easier than it could otherwise be. There is a quarry fairly far away from the house that you can get chunks of stone and marble from, and a mine that only zombies can enter that supplies chunks of iron and coal. Further, zombies use Porter Stations which allow them to run the chunks and coal from the quarry to home, where they will drop things off if there is room in stockpiles or trunks for their load. This is a godsend, as the closest source of stone and marble are far enough away as to make it untenable to try to use them overmuch.

Now that's all I used the zombies for, and in the end I wasn't actually doing anything with the load that they were sending to me, so I can't say I got all that much use out of them. There are many stations made just for zombie use, though, including the zombie garden, zombie alchemy table, and of course the random text generator, which makes things automatically that I even didn't know you could make! As such, I decided to try again and rush to get access to zombies, then go out of my way to accumulate enough of them to make the game go by faster.

Now this game keeps track of how many days have passed since the game started. It also keeps track of the rating of the church and the graveyard. I just finished the game for a second time tonight, and I finished it 54.4 days faster, with the same church rating and a graveyard that is 2 points higher in quality. I'm convinced that it should be possible to finish it even faster, however that depends on timing some things better, including taking the time to plumb the dungeon as far as you can, as soon as possible. On the other hand, there are ways to shortcut several things, meaning you only have to go to the dungeon for one thing: 5 bloody nails. Everything else you need from there to advance the needs of one of the characters you can either make yourself or purchase from elsewhere. In fact, many things that you would otherwise need to make for a quest you can just buy from people.

I could probably go on at length, but the takeaways should be that the game is a lot of fun to play, but the quests to finish the game require too much time with literally nothing else needed to be done. The pacing is terrible to that end. Definitely play it, just be aware that advancing to the conclusion will likely sap some of your strength.