Everyone is a gamer nowadays, and that’s mostly thanks to smartphones and mobile games. Come on, you know it’s true. Mothers play candy crush. Dads play Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja. And my grandma is still where I left her, hopefully. Chained to a radiator, grinding stuff for me in Clash of Clans. I should call her soon.
It’s no small feat, if you think about it. If you remember the tamagotchi or the original brick-style Game Boy you probably remember thinking, unironically no less, that they were pretty damn good. Nowadays, we have smartphones with so much power, they can effortlessly emulate a fat PSX! Some can even pull off something more advanced, like a Nintendo DS or a PSP! If you are reading me through your phone, I salute you, in fact. Also, I and everyone knows that you use it to watch massive quantities of porn. No big deal there. It’s what it’s made for. Portable and easy to operate one-handed. Technology sure knows what it’s doing.
“I sense you’re dancing around the issue a lot, dear Martin/NallyNally. As entertaining as all this prancing about is, could you cut to the chase?” And how perceptive and impatient you are, dear reader! Fine. Ever since Steam decided to open the flood gates, we’ve got all sorts of games there. AAA, indies, big, small, shovelware, terrible Chinese copyright-violating galore turds, and a couple genuine gems that will never receive the attention they deserve. Oh, there is also mobile ports. Usually with the P2W mechanics filed off.
Grave Keeper is a minimalistic game, the only one, in fact, from the slightly sketchy developer Baldur Games. Their name seems tailor-made to avoid being looked up, which doesn’t bode well for much of anything. Ace Detective Nally suspects they might be Chinese. Obviously, the tells are there. A translation deeply rooted in “Blind Idiot” territory. Or perhaps just a google translate-a-thon. A cynical attempt at cashing in on the well known names from some Dota Heroes. “In this game, you are the Bounty Hunter, trying to get the Skeleton King’s treasure!” Subtle. Your “Bounty Hunter” is just your “Knight” most of the time however, so I guess all we need is that SEO optimisation. Excellent!
All set against a chibified background where you fight very obviously the Zombies from Plants vs Deadified Humans with an average loadout. A melee weapon, an automatic crossbow, and a special attack that makes you invulnerable. Graphics scream kid appeal. Grave Keeper features a very pretty woman who talks your ear off in jank spambot English every once in a while. You won’t believe what has happened! You have won the prize! Click here to claim sausage fish head and remove parasites. Kind thanks to you.
Grave Keeper forces… Come to think of it, Gravekeeper is an item in Dota, a hero in long forgotten Heroes of Newerth, a Champion’s title in League of Legends, and an NPC in Heroes of the Storm. I should take a bleach shower. This is slimier than Slime McSlithers, the well known slug mafia boss. As we were saying, Grave Keeper forces a tutorial down your throat. The game is fairly toothless for the first few levels, to hook you in, naturally. In a rather amusing manner, the very tutorial will force you to lose everything you’ve gathered. So if you were holding off on spending your hard earned gold until you found a better weapon to improve, you can fuck off right back to Candy Crush, matey!
I have no love for games that prey on vulnerable targets. Even as it stands, with the Pay To Win features cut from the game, being forced to lose all your progress in a game is pretty much a point of no return. If it’s not a roguelike, it has no business being this way. The timesink factor is absolutely through the roof, and with a little creativity I found a way to test the game’s limits.
It has none. It never stops. You could quite literally grind yourself a hundred million gold, sink it all in one weapon, and not only would it not hit any sort of cap, it wouldn’t even oneshot bosses. It will kill them in three blows, true, but you tell me if a crossbow that’s just got pimped out with TEN MILLION GOLD COINS shouldn’t basically be a weapon capable of destroying the universe in one swift bolt? Aimed at the region of your choosing, of course.
The situation is rather different, with some enemies flat out gaming the system and crawling on the ground to be perfectly safe from your bolts. It’s the third form of not-currency that really rocks the boat. Because for some reason it stacks exponentially, the more you get, the more incredibly busted you become, to the point of being a literal 30 thousand hitpoints behemoth who only takes up to 5 damage per hit.
Presumably, the only currency that requires actual money to buy. I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t able to find this game on play store, but the clear “Touch here” signals make it clear enough that this is a mobile port. A fairly slimy one.
Is it a terrible game, then? The gameplay loop for the first is enjoyable enough. However, it hits that reverse sweet spot, a sour spot, if you will, where it’s interesting only until it ceases to be. Being a god of instakills is amusing for ten minutes, and without a story, and the looming threat of losing all your stuff for a pittance of a reward periodically, it has nothing to offer and no reason to stay.
Ironically the lack of P2W features complicates things. If a clean player attempts to reach godlike status in Grave Keeper, they’ll be giving up quick. With no real progression system and a weaksauce gold upgrade mechanic, sticking to the game really feels like hard work for little pay. You’d be better off finding actual office temp job. The zombies you’ll meet over there will be polite at the very least, and only occasionally punch you in the face.
To sum up, If you absolutely need a timesink for your hyperactive twelve year old, it will easily outperform boiling him alive in tar. Or maybe you could just get him this year’s FIFA. What do I know, I don’t have kids. But I’m sure Grave Keeper is not for them.