Five tips to keep any cemetery alive and kicking.
So, you’ve been teleported to an alternate reality after getting hit by a car on your way home and now a talking skull has thrust the unsavoury news upon you that you’re the new graveyard keeper in town. Filled with fear at the prospect of running your own cemetery you look to the sky in search of answers. Well, worry not traveller, as we’ve got you covered from autopsy to burial – these five tips will keep any would-be grave keeper on the right path to freedom. And, who knows, with a little hard work and patience you might just make it back home. Mild spoilers ahead.
5. Pay attention to the tech trees
Beyond the more common resources you’ll manage in your time as the town’s Graveyard Keeper, the game’s red, green and blue coloured experience points will prove one of the hardest to distribute. The tech trees associated with each skill are a lot more important than the game might first imply, but rest assured, every choice matters and experience points, especially the blue ones, are hard to come by early on. It’s worth taking the time to read through all the various branches of the six tech trees you have access to, as this will give you an idea of what you’ll want to unlock. Your first aim should be to upgrade the graveyard outside the church as fast as possible so select skills with this goal in mind.
You won’t start gaining blue experience points until you have upgraded the graveyard and unlocked the church, as you’ll need to study in the church’s basement to acquire them. You’ll also need a pen and ink which can be bought from the Astrologer, as it can be quite difficult to craft until later in the game.
4. Manage your time efficiently
You’ll soon find that time is a precious commodity in Graveyard Keeper and no matter what time of the day it is you’re always on the clock. Your days will be split into six representative symbols which relate to when certain key characters and activities will be available. With daylight disappearing at an alarming rate you will struggle to adjust to the speed at which the game moves, but that can cost you early on. Pay attention to what characters can be accessed on specific days and plan what you are going to do ahead of time a missing an NPC can mean waiting for a whole cycle again to see them. The Known NPC screen is particularly useful for this as each character has their corresponding symbol by the side of them.
Understanding and mastering Graveyard Keeper’s six-day cycle is a huge part of success in the game – use your time wisely. Don’t backtrack or wait until the late afternoon to speak to characters as many of them disappear as soon as the sun starts to go down. You’ll eventually find shortcuts under your house that help you manage your time in a lot more effective way, but until then remember to plan your days accordingly.
3. Stockpile resources
As Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘In failing to prepare you are preparing to fail’. With that in mind, you’ll want to start using your timber and stone stockpiles as soon as possible as it can drastically cut down travel time – no pun intended. Stone can be gathered in its raw form at specific formations that tend to be situated more in the northern part of the map. You’d need a pickaxe to harvest it. Logs can be found all around you but will require a certain skill that gives you the ability to cut down trees. You’ll also need an axe to do this. Once you’ve got the relevant skills and sourced effective spots to harvest them build up your stocks as best you can.
Bear in mind you can only carry one stone or log at a time, which can mean a lot of back and forth. Your best strategy is to gather a load of resources and then line them up and try and push them back to your yard. This means, if done right, you can move four or five trips worth of resources in one journey.
2. Explore the map
There’s a clear temptation to stay within the radius of the town early on in the game as you don’t necessarily have to venture out any further than the local tavern. The town also includes all the vendors you’ve come to expect, which only further encourages you to walk back and forth from town and never branch out any further. The problem with that is the fact there’s a lot of missions you pick up on the outskirts of town, not to mention some pretty important NPCs. So, as soon as you can have a good look around the map and fix the broken bridges so you have access to all areas.
There are some key skills that you’ll need later on in the game linked to exploration and your interactions with certain NPCs. One easy character to miss is Clotho, a witch that lives in the marsh who gives you the alchemy ability. After fixing the bridge to the East you’ll have to navigate the swamp to find the witch. It’ll take some time but will be worth it as the alchemy ability is crucial later on in the story.
1. Master your profession
You can have a lot going on in Graveyard Keeper at times, which makes it easy to forget your primary role: to prepare and bury the town’s dead. You’re introduced to the autopsy table at the beginning of the game and walked through the burial process. There are some hidden mechanics at work, though, when it comes to preparing corpses and harvesting their useful parts that you will need to know should you want to upgrade the graveyard and progress in the story.
To start, make sure you process a body in a timely fashion once it’s been dropped off by the donkey as decay can set in, lowering the quality of the corpse and the resources you can harvest from it. Next, you’ll want to consider the corpse rating – which is individual to each cadaver. Once on the autopsy table, you will be able to see the maximum value the body can add to your graveyard represented by skulls. The skulls can be three different types – white, red or green. White skulls are the most beneficial and each one represents +1 point you can add to your graveyard once the body is buried. Red skulls are the worst outcome you can have and represent -1 point off the overall score of your graveyard. Green skulls act like a red skull and arise from leaving the body too long to decay.
Each part you remove from the body can have a positive or negative effect, including some that are random. Your goal is to either improve the rating of the corpse or even it out and get the parts you need from the corpse. So, first, the things that improve the rating and turn red skulls into white skulls should always be removed in an autopsy. These are fat and blood. Next, is the skull, one of which you need for a mission, but beyond that add one red skull to the rating, so should generally be avoided. Then there’s skin, which turns a white skull red adding a negative rating to the body. So should only be removed if you need the resources – skin can be turned into paper. The results you get from removing the bones and flesh can be quite random, so it’s best avoided, although there are times when it can remove a red skull, which is handy. Finally, there are the internal organs, which can again produce random results – either removing two red skulls, two white or one of each.
There is also a contingency plan should you make a complete pig’s ear out of a corpse and need to get rid of it. Negatively rated remains can greatly impact the overall score of your graveyard, so it’s best to dispose of the body through other means. To that end you have two options – you can either cremate the body on a funeral pyre or toss it into the river to never be seen again. It is worth noting that you can’t just take the body and leave it in the wilderness to decompose. You won’t receive another body until you’ve properly disposed of the body in a legal or illegal way.
Well, there you have it: there’s our five tips to help you master the mortuary. Hopefully, with our helpful guide to caretaking the undead you’ll soon find your way back home and escape this new morbid profession that has been thrust upon you. If you’re interested in seeing our thoughts on Graveyard Keeper then why not check out our review.
Jon loves the experimental nature of indie games, and has written about them for the likes of Eurogamer, PCGamer and GameReactor. As editor of The Indie Game Website, Jon is responsible for the overall content direction of the website, and enjoys moving things around in our Google Calendar.