Graveyard Keeper: Last Journey begins with your nameless character being hit and killed by a car. You wake up and find that you’ve arrived at a much simpler time in life. Gone are the electronics and the central air, hello are talking donkeys that spout political ideologies and bring you dead bodies to take care of. You’ve become the town's new graveyard keeper. You’ve also become the new gopher for the town, and they are a needy bunch of people. Graveyard Keeper doesn’t shy away from dark humor. I can see how some may need thicker than average skin to withstand some of the jokes, as death is a constant talking point.
I’m typically all in on any farming simulator. I initially got into the genre when I was in grade school and have played most of the popular ones since. One of the typical elements in most farm sims involves learning about the town’s residents and the ropes around your working areas. Graveyard Keeper doesn't hold your hand in this regard; it shows you the bare minimum of what to do and leaves you to discover everything else. Learning how to care for newly arrived dead bodies was simple. It was everything else that annoyed me. For example, I need to speak to a certain NPC, but they only happen to be available one day a week. I’m three days away from that specific day, so now I need to find something to do until then, but I don’t know enough to make a choice. If a new corpse shows up, I can deal with it; run an autopsy, take a pound of flesh, dig a grave, bury him. But that took all of four minutes and I still have an entire day ahead of me. Graveyard Keeper won’t let me get too far without talking to the NPC I need, so I wait and do small chores that take up my character’s energy.
My first hour or so with Graveyard Keeper was uninviting. I didn’t know what to do, or how to do much of anything. The way time works in Graveyard Keeper didn’t help. Instead of seven days there are six, and they have a color and a symbol, but no actual name. Some of the colors and symbols look similar enough that I would show up at the right location on the wrong day because I confused this day’s version of red for the other day's version.
The financial situation of this town also needs to be questioned. By taking care of the town’s ever-growing body population, I earn burial certificates. These certificates can be sold to the local bartender for other goods and services. Very early on, I had no problem with this. Then the bodies became fewer and fewer. The other townspeople would buy food I made, but that didn’t help much. The early hours of Graveyard Keeper are more famine than feast. I struggled to get going and to find a regular rotation of money-making jobs.
There’s also a lot thrown at you, and you need to pay attention or you will get lost. I learned early on to read everything piece of dialogue or I would miss important details, like where I needed to go, what day I needed to be there. With the exception of a few items, I was left alone to do what I wanted. My biggest issue was that I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Nothing is expressly told to me. At first, I hated that. I wanted some direction other than to wait a few days and then visit a man at a lighthouse. Later on, once I had my footing with Graveyard Keeper, I was fine, but it took time. Another annoyance I found was with the leveling currency. Everything you do in the world will give you a leveling currency, colored red, green, or blue. You need each color to help unlock items in your tech tree, to help further additional leveling. Eventually, you get new pseudo-currencies, like science and faith. It feels like just another item to keep track of.
I found a lot of little nit-picky irritants that make Graveyard Keeper feel like a job at times. The energy gauge is terrible. It becomes depleted too quickly. Not enough time to do anything, even walking from one side of the town to the other takes up a lot of the day. Eventually, unlocking underground shortcuts helps, but it’s not enough. Eating food helps to restore the gauge, but you can only eat so much, and if you stay up too late the game will penalize you and drain your energy unless you sleep. I also found that I needed to sell my food early on while playing; it was one of the few items I could make money off of in the early days of playing.
I couldn’t contain all the little things that bothered me into one paragraph; I needed two. Map issues. Seeing where I’m at on the map in relation to the actual, larger map feels off. The size of the game’s map doesn’t feel right in proportion to the distance I travel with my character. I feel like I travel farther than I actually do. Some of that is because I don’t see my location when I go to the map page. The tech trees are a mess. There are simple developments like building and crafting, but they become more complex and intricate as you get further in, dealing with theology, for example. The leveling currencies that are required feel like too much to keep track of. The amount of steps I need to take in order just to make nails is beyond frustrating. Once I have the nails made I don’t even remember what I needed them for because that felt like it was hours ago.
I did like that a lot of time is spent with each side character’s requests. These are not requests that can be done in an afternoon, and often require a big time commitment to see out. Part of that is due to the fact you can only see certain people on certain days of the week. Graveyard Keeper has a unique day system as well. Instead of having names we have symbols and colors. This world also only has six days of the week, so things can feel confusing when trying to get tasks done by certain time periods. I found that I had to wait an extra week, sometimes two in order to get tasks done because I was wrong about which day I needed to get the task done by.
Sadly the graveyard upkeep part of Graveyard Keeper feels like a side task, especially once you can automate most of the work. There’s farming, preaching, witch burning, and eventually running your own tavern becomes something you can jump into. Graveyard keeper has a lot a gameplay elements that aren’t shared until a few hours into the game. What really got me was the amount of time needed to search for resources, to build new tools, and to get new resources, all for other aspects of the game that have little to nothing with graveyard upkeep. I don’t mind side tasks, but Graveyard Keeper feels like it is all side tasks more often than the main campaign.
One thing I can say is that Graveyard Keeper: Last Journey is heavy on content. I’m here reviewing a game that initially came out in 2018 because of the large amount of post-release content. Each DLC adds as little as four and as much as and twelve hours of additional content. Some have new areas like a refugee camp or big quality of life changes like automation of daily chores. I’m playing for the first time with all four of the DLCs unlocked, and from what I can tell, they all fit together nicely. Each one adds something unique, like being able to build and run your own tavern. Something like that would be fun to try once I’ve finished the initial focus of Graveyard Keeper. It also makes it hard to see how well the original release faired, but with all this DLC Graveyard Keeper could keep me just as busy, if not longer than some of the other, big named farm simulation games like Stardew Valley or Story of Seasons.
I enjoyed the heck out of the dark humor. Graveyard Keeper is not afraid to make fun of anything when it comes to the topic of death. If I do a horrible job while preparing a body for burial, I can simply throw that corpse into the river, and no one is wiser. Graveyard Keeper isn’t afraid to be its own grotesque thing. Making armor out of the skin of a dead body is just another example of the dark nature of the game.
My overall feeling with Graveyard Keeper is that of struggle. Most tasks feel like chores. I mean, I get that I’m actually doing chores, like chopping wood or digging a grave. But it’s not a fun simulation, it’s work. I eventually found enjoyment when I was able to create my own path forward, work on what I wanted to work on. I’m sure Graveyard keeper wanted me to do that anyway, but it never helped me understand that. The humor is great, the music fits well too, and once I got into the game there was tons and tons to do. Unfortunately getting to that point was a drag.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I'm pulled towards anything that isn't driving or sports related; having said that, I love a good kart racer. I Can't get enough RPGs, and indies are always worth a look to me. The only other subject I pay any attention to is the NFL (go Colts!).
While writing about games is my favorite hobby, talking is a close second. That's why I podcast with my wife Tessa (it's called Tessa and Elliot Argue).View Profile