It’s spring. A time where trees are blossoming everywhere and the world is cheery. Single player games have been all the hype this year, with a lot of great titles like Sekiro and Metro: Exodus coming out. When I saw the store page of Grave-Keeper, I was amused. A single player hack-and-slash game with looter elements? Well, sign me the hell up. Developed by Baldur Games and published by Ultimate Games SA, let’s see if the game’s any good.
Story & Narrative
The story is pretty simple, and can be summed up in one sentence: Kill all enemies to finally beat Skeleton King. That’s it. The story is told to the player by a female character in slightly awkward English. The same character also tells you the path you have to take to complete missions (which are quite simplistic, i.e. Kill 25 enemies, or beat 3 bosses). These missions lead to rewards, which can be slightly better weapons, gems or powerstones.
Now this threw me off, as there’s a “shop” option in the pause menu where you can acquire coins or powerstones through gems. The game seems primed for microtransactions, but as of writing this review, I saw no way to purchase anything with real money. That’s a good thing.
With that paranoia in mind, however, one google search later, I found that the game is a port of a free mobile game, which is an endless hack-and-slash. Yep. Endless. As in, repetitive clicks to kill enemies to progress through rounds, kill a boss, rinse and repeat. I’ll talk about the mechanics in a bit, but that’s all the “narrative” is. The game is extremely repetitive.
After about 10 levels of the difficulty being too easy (so easy that I never used a single health potion), the game becomes mind-numbingly difficult. And the difficulty isn’t because the enemies are tougher. Nope. The enemies still die in one or two hits. The game just spams your screen with enemies that you can’t even move away from. You get hit by arrows from all directions and you get swamped with zombies that you can’t even shoot at because they crawl on the floor. It’s annoying.
Graphics, Sound & Performance
The game has been developed in unreal engine 4, and as expected from a mobile port, the graphics are pretty average. The cartoony look helps the game, however, and it doesn’t look as bad as a stretched up mobile screen. The character models are stiff, and the controls for the character feel a bit off. I’ll elaborate on the controls later on. The enemy movement, however, looks smooth.
The game’s sound effects are pretty passable, but the music is bad. Period. It’s a 5-second piece played on an endless loop. It’s better to just turn it off and play your own music in the background.
As I’ve mentioned a few times, this is a mobile port. The performance on any computer should be good. And it is. It ran flawlessly at 1080p on a Ryzen 5/GTX 1060 machine, but it also ran very well on my 5-year-old laptop with an AMD A10 processor and integrated graphics. Managed to stay at a constant 60 fps on the native 1366×768 display.
Gameplay & Mechanics
Now, then, to the meat of any game: the gameplay. It’s subpar. The controls are easy enough, WASD to move, left mouse button to fire arrows at the cursor location, right click to slash your sword and spacebar to use your special ability attack that can hit multiple enemies at once. How is that subpar you ask? Well, different weapons such as Swords, Maces, and Scythes exist, but are functionally identical. There’s no rhyme or reason to use one over the other. Upgrades to weapons are essentially damage boosts, each upgrade level buffing the damage done by 3-4 points. Again, this is pointless because enemies still take the same number of hits to die.
Another point of contention: Character movement. It’s slightly stiff. It feels like the bounty hunter is sliding through quicksand. Smoother movement would probably have halved the frustration of playing this.
The hit detection is off as well. The arrows sometimes tend not to go to the intended destination, instead, missing it by a few pixels. This causes them to miss the enemy. Thankfully, ammunition is unlimited, so you’re not going to run out of arrows.
Then there are health potions. They’re a rarity. You’re given 5 at the beginning of the game, with no reasonable way to acquire them without completing missions. To complete the mission, you need to beat a boss, as you can’t progress levels without doing so. The boss is overpowered and can one-shot you while you scamper around the tiny map trying to do as much damage as you can with your crossbow before he closes the distance. Awful design decision.
Did I mention that the maps are too small? There’s no room to manoeuvre, and this leads to you taking more damage than you can dish out. A block option would be appreciated in this circumstance.
If the game were free, I would say it’s a good way to pass time while you’re stuck in the metro or waiting for your date. I do NOT recommend it in any other circumstance. It’s repetitive and boring, and your time is better spent staring at a wall. It’s not worth the current price of ₹279. It’s definitely not worth the full price of ₹350. Treat yourself to a nice meal or donate the money to charity. If you want to try the game, download it on your phone for free and play it. Don’t buy it on steam.