Stardew Valley is all well and good, but y’know what the farming life-sim genre really needs? Witch-burnings, inquisitions and a general sense of dread. At least, that’s what I’m assuming was going through the heads of Punch Club developers Lazy Bear, as they set to work on their latest game, Graveyard Keeper. Set in a dark fantasy world, you get to stomp around in the well-worn boots of a graveyard keeper, trying to make ends meet in an ethically messy world, selling human organs to local butchers and palling around with talking skulls. It’s out today.
While it’s hard not to draw comparisons to other recent farm em’ups, Graveyard Keeper looks to take a somewhat more gritty, pragmatic approach to self-sustaining living. While you can do a little bit of fishing and dungeon delving, you’ll also have to do most of your building for yourself. You can’t just ask someone to throw you together a shack, but instead have to chop trees, saw them down into logs, and use those. There’s also a massive technology tree for unlocking new tools required to harvest and process new resources. Gravekeeping seems a dead tiring racket.
While you’ll have to work a little harder than in other farming games, there are some intriguing hooks here. There’s talking animals, floating skulls, friendly undead and a story arc to follow as you build your one-man empire of the deceased. There’s quests and ethical dilemmas to wrangle through as well, including having to contend with the Lord Inquisitor, who might object to you cavorting around with the living dead or dabbling in alchemy. According to publisher TinyBuild, it’s “also a love story”. Makes sense, really – you can’t spell ‘necromancer’ without ‘romance’.