As referenced in my recent review for STORY OF SEASONS: A Wonderful Life, farming sims are having a major purple patch. But what if you want something edgier than milking cows and incubating eggs? How does burying dead bodies, selling human meat and joining the hunt for vampires, alongside growing carrots sound? Is that edgy enough for you? Then Graveyard Keeper: Last Journey Edition is the farming sim for you.
Rather than inheriting your farm from a dead relative, you are taken from your happy life without consent to this strange new place. Before you know it, a talking skull called Gerry is your new best friend, letting you know that you are now the new keeper of the graveyard. Your first task is to prepare a dead body for burial. You are also told that you can slice off a piece of meat from this body and then sell it to the local tavern keeper.
Upon trying to sell the meat though, you are informed that you need a stamp with which to mark the meat as safe. Then, returning to the graveyard, the bishop will also tell you that maintaining the quality of the graveyard is of paramount importance.
These are listed as tasks in your Known NPCs section of the menu, and are your main way to progress the story in Graveyard Keeper. Spend time chatting with the NPCs in the village and outer areas and many of them will have similar requests for you to complete. Their tasks may be simple, but the crafting system is vast and in-depth, and it is often hours later before you can complete these tasks.
The opening hours of Graveyard Keeper will likely leave you a bit flummoxed. After you get Gerry a beer – because what all undead skulls need is a drink – the tutorial is essentially over and you are left to your own devices. The graveyard should be your initial focus as you try and figure out just how to return home, but everything ties together somehow so other NPC requests shouldn’t be ignored.
You can complete some of these requests quickly, providing you have the funds necessary to buy items. But money can be hard to come by in the opening hours, so your best bet is to get accustomed to the tech tree. The majority of actions will reward you with different coloured skill points and it is these that are used to unlock new crafting options. Bear in mind that newly unlocked crafting options may not be instantly accessible; you may need to progress further in order to unlock the correct blueprint table at a certain location.
And here is where the beauty lies in Graveyard Keeper. You may decide to focus on a specific task and work out what needs upgrading in order to complete a task. However, chances are, the road to your objective will be littered with diversions as you need to craft lesser items to get to your goal. And as you progress, something else will have caught your attention and you will now be focussed on that.
This is thanks largely in part to the frankly ridiculous amount of things to do in Graveyard Keeper, many of which are open to you from the beginning. Traditional farming sim activities are still here such as growing crops, fishing, mining, chopping wood and more, but these are mixed in with additional elements too. Don’t be surprised if you bump into a witch burning and are then asked to provide firewood for the next one, or spend all your time getting to a position where you can finally visit the larger town, only to be then struck by lightning. Same too for the autopsies you perform; at first you will just be collecting meat to at some point sell. But you’ll quickly discover that other body parts – skin, fat, organs and more – are essential materials to help you progress even further.
That shouldn’t sound too sinister, because Graveyard Keeper: Last Journey Edition is done with some effective dark humour to alleviate the fact you are taking fat from a dead body to make a candle that will boost the appeal of the church. The irony and the humour is not lost in the game either.
This is the complete edition now for Graveyard Keeper, so in comes more content than the initial release. DLC packs titles Game of Crone, Stranger Sins and Better Save Soul are also included. These aren’t just plays on words of recent TV series, but offer a ton of new content. For those starting out, a couple of these are likely way off into your playtime when you have amassed much more silver. Game of Crone can start early on though as you are only required to sleep overnight to trigger this to start. This will have you saving folks who have been upended from their previous accommodation and trying to find a vampire skulking around the village, amongst other things.
What they all do is add further content to an already excellent and stacked game, sometimes providing an unnecessary distraction from all the other things you are tasked with doing. You can also tell which tasks are related to specific DLCs by them appearing with a different coloured bullet point in the Known NPCs section of the menus.
So, gameplay is excellent, and the content substantial. But how does it look? Well, Graveyard Keeper is a top-down game much like some of the classic farming sims. But, the real winner here is the pixel art, which may well be the best I have ever seen. No detail is spared, with everything from the gravestones to the tavern patrons popping off the screen. It is a shame that the in-game days are so short because I will freely admit to spending a bit too much time pouring over the little details. Pixel art isn’t for everyone, but Graveyard Keeper: Last Journey Edition is a stunning looking game.
Get over the tricky first few hours of Graveyard Keeper: Last Journey Edition and it becomes something special. The base game is a few years old now and lacking an Xbox Series X|S update, but that really shouldn’t matter. The gameplay is addictive and you will quickly find yourself getting further and further away from what you initially set out to do, never worried, knowing it will all be worthwhile in the long-term as you try to return home.
That is, if you can tear yourself away from staring at the gorgeous pixel art for longer than a few moments.