I have such a love-hate relationship with the whole concept of Early Access Games. I’m not the type of player who tends to play things anywhere close to when I buy them, so most of my less-than-stellar Early Access experiences have been of the type where I buy into something early, put off actually playing it for awhile, then when I actually sit down to play it find that it’s either been left unfinished, or in one notable case, taken completely offline and unplayable.
Mostly, I buy into Early Access games now if I’m willing to take a gamble and support a concept that looks really cool, or if the game is mostly complete and I don’t want to wait. I guess for me Core Keeper fell more into the former category than the latter. What was different this time was that my co-op partner & I picked this one up on our first game night after release and just started playing it, and stuck with it for multiple weeks until we felt like we’ve seen everything it (currently) has to offer.
In just over 20 hours, we’ve managed to kill all the storyline bosses (of which there are only four), one of the two hidden optional bosses, and put together the Rune Song Sword, a legendary weapon that we spent most of an entire play session on. There are at least two more story-content bosses planned before the eventual end of the game, and we have both already agreed that we’ll revisit it down the line.
The best way I can describe Core Keeper is take one part Stardew Valley, one part Terraria, sprinkle in hunger mechanics, and blend until unrecognizable. Expect to spend a lot of time digging for resources and repairing your tools, while also making sure you’re growing or fishing up adequate food. In our first play session, my partner explored while I set up a home base. We decided to settle near the first water source we found, and just kind of dug around it to set up a small farm and crafting area.
What we didn’t realize at the time was that our base was a stone’s throw from the first boss mob, so most of my early food production endeavors were punctuated by the noise of a giant slime hopping around just on the other side of a wall. Thankfully, most of the earliest monsters you encounter aren’t particularly interested in you until you’re just about right on top of them, so we took our time meandering through the crafting tree until we felt like we could reasonably take on the challenge that was banging around literally just outside our door.
While that first boss was pretty straightforward, just about everything we encountered afterwards had a quirk that required more thought than brawn. We were determined to do as much as we could without looking up walkthroughs or other spoilers, but I couldn’t resist poking around after we’d beaten them to see if there was a simpler way we hadn’t thought of. There was. There always is.
With the story still unfinished, this isn’t a true Game Over, and I’ll be back to Core Keeper as soon as there’s something new to see. I have no regrets about picking this one up at full price.