As part of a group of explorers, you come across an ancient artefact that begins to glow as you touch it, promptly trapping you underground. This. Sounds. Horrifying. Doesn’t it? Well, actually, this is the premise of Core Keeper and anyone that has read my first impressions post on it (and other demos) may know that I frankly fell in love with this game. So much, that I immediately wishlisted it and later, I was actually gifted this game by a friend, which is both very sweet and very vicious of them. It’s a great game after all, which is what we’ll mainly get into… but it’s also an incredibly time-sink that left most of my chores, jobs, and family members neglected, resulting in me turning into a hermit, living alone in a cave… a digital cave. Soon, I’d be joined by a friend of mine and in theory, plenty more could join me in my endeavours of looting and levelling… but frankly, my biggest enemy has been time itself, as time itself has put a halt to my plans to beat the Early Access, resulting in a premature end until the next time my friend Dave has time for me and our Core Keeper world. No, seriously, timezones are your biggest enemy.
Developer: Pugstorm Publisher: Fireshine Games Genre: Co-Op, 2D, Survival, Sandbox, Early Access, RPG, Indie Release Date: March 8th, 2022 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC Copy was provided by a friend.
Despite the somewhat horrifying premise, Core Keeper is probably the cosiest co-op survival sandbox game that I’ve played in a while. Deep underground, you set up your base, craft your torches and expand your domain through the dirt and sand and stone, all in an attempt to find a way back home. Each world is different. Each world is procedurally generated, resulting in a unique experience with unique characters that you can bring from one world to another, similar to Valheim and Terraria. In fact, the similarities don’t stop there as Core Keeper is practically a mix of Terraria and Valheim, in the best possible way. Your progress is locked behind exploration and the defeat of bosses that are scattered throughout your world. Bouncy slimes, man-eating maggots, and scary-looking cave dwellers call this world their home and as such, you have to fight for survival and kill everything that comes for your life. Enemies drop items. Items can be used for crafting. Doing tasks plenty of times results in level-ups and after every five level-ups, you can invest a skill point into your skill tree, creating a more or less powerful character. Most of your strength will come from your equipment, though, as you work your way through the copper to the tin to the iron tier and beyond. Different weapons offer different stats and at times, you may even get a rare drop from enemies or find a unique item in a chest, giving you an extra boost to your strength.
As previously mentioned, you’ll need to find, prepare for, and defeat three different bosses to be able to progress beyond the early game and unlock new stages. To do so, you may just blindly explore the world, digging yourself through walls and caves, OR you craft specific items that guide you in your search for the three beasts awaiting you but beware that fighting isn’t easy, but it is incredibly rewarding. From the carcass of your first victim, a bearded man arises and with him a chest full of goodies. Placing his beard oil into a room, makes this guy move in, allowing you to trade items and get easier access to fibre and other materials. Other bosses also advance your technology somewhat or may grant you another trader.
Now, while all of this sounds fun and good, the best feature of Core Keeper is its exploration. The world is beautiful and cosy and it feels alive. While I usually dread dark areas in games, Core Keeper’s dynamic and beautiful lighting made it feel incredibly homely and fun to explore. With my lantern in hand and a backpack full of goodies, it would often feel incredibly hard to just go home and not chase after that other shiny thingy you saw over there. “One quick dive into the caves” often turns into a big heist for lots of ore, loot, and enemies. This is further incentivized by the game due to its procedural generation, creating beautiful areas but also incredibly interesting structures. You may encounter ruins, a workshop, rooms, or other interesting areas on your journey. Similarly, there are plenty of biomes, and there are plans for plenty more, as time goes on. I frankly found the way the world just wraps you around its finger wonderful. It’s immersive and hard to let go and log off. Core Keeper got me in its grasp and it’s not letting go – and frankly, I’m perfectly fine with that at the moment but I’m also wondering what features the devs could potentially add to make me want to spend even more time in this game.
Frankly, I don’t know but the Early Access’ Launch Update actually added so many things… I couldn’t believe it. The developers seem dedicated, the game is incredibly popular, and servers run incredibly well (unless of course, your internet is as bad as mine… that’s a “me” problem btw). You can invite friends to play with you with a simple code that you share with others or you join your friends through Steam, which also works incredibly well. Creating new characters or new worlds is incredibly fun as every world can offer you something else entirely in terms of structures and generation. Similarly, I would have loved fishing in this game and this update from the demo to the Early Access version added fishing to the game. I would have loved automation and frankly, it was added into the game. When I complained to my friend Dave that there’s no “cartographer table” that would allow me to share my map exploration progress with him, Dave called me home and surprised me with the cartographer table that is actually in the game. That was hilarious at the time. Frankly, you can get into railroads, automation, drills, magic, alchemy, cooking, farming, and lots of other things with this game and it’s a lot of fun and… this is just the beginning.
Yes, we shouldn’t get too hyped at the moment. After all, it’s still just in Early Access, but the game runs incredibly smooth and I haven’t encountered too many bugs yet. At the same time, it’s so polished and lovely (and it has a 16-bit colour mode), so it’s almost hard to dislike this game. It’s fun and engaging and incredibly addicting. Core Keeper takes the best things from a bunch of games I like and combines them into something that is more than the sum of its parts, and that’s glorious. I frankly can’t wait for the future updates for this game and I can’t recommend this game enough to every lover of a good adventure or sandbox game.