October 26, 2021

Xbox One X

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Graveyard Keeper review – a management sim hampered by its own complexities

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Management simulations have been one of the most enduring video game genres. Whether you like to manage cities, zoos, hospitals or sports teams, there are plenty of riffs on the concept. With the current renaissance of the farming sim however, it’s enough to loudly say “Stardew Valley” three times to summon interest – mine included. Graveyard Keeper, then, sounded like the kind of game I didn’t know I wanted, something that combines the cute style of a game made in RPG Maker with a truly interesting management idea. It’s graveyards. You manage graveyards.

The fun tone is presented as Graveyard Keeper’s biggest draw. The game is neither sad nor drab, even though it has you handling dead bodies. Instead, it’s likely going for that slightly tongue-in-cheek tone of a Tropico or Dungeon Keeper, asking you to suspend your disbelief and explore all the ways in which you can adapt familiar management mechanics to the theme. In Dungeon Keeper, you build S&M parlours to keep your populace happy, in Graveyard Keeper you…turn dead people into lunchmeat.

To get to that point however, a lot of other things need to happen first. The story is an afterthought: your character gets hit by a car one day and wakes in a different world to a sentient skull pronouncing him the keeper of the local graveyard. Your task is to find a way home, but also to mostly just roll with it. A talking donkey comes by and drops a corpse at your porch, the local bishop tells you to clean up the graveyard, and so you roll up your sleeves and get to it.

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