You might have missed any news about Core Keeper, an upcoming game developed by Pugstorm and published by Fireshine Games, currently in Early Access and slated to fully release near the end of 2022.
I’m a big fan of digging games. It’s been quite a journey, starting from Diamond Caves 3, a lot of Minecraft, Steamworld Dig and now, finally, I found another one to add to the list. Core Keeper has lots more for you to do than just mining, though. Let’s get into that.
The story is pretty slim: You’re part of a group of explorers, you touch an artifact and you’re transported into an underground world filled with walls of dirt, rude slimes and a bunch of ore. Then, for the most part, you’re left to create your own story.
This is a good time to tell you that Core Keeper, in its Early Access state, doesn’t have a tutorial yet. Check the settings to find out your controls!
The first thing you should do is break some roots and craft a bunch of torches – this game is really dark if you don’t have any nearby light source (note how closely together I need to place torches to get some semblance of light). Without spoiling too much, you’ll have to find and defeat three bosses in order to activate the central structure and progress into what is currently the endgame.
The Core Loop
The main progression path you’ll be on is similar to Minecraft: You’ll access higher tiers of gear, pickaxes and machinery by farming different kinds of ore. You start with Copper and then slowly make your way through Tin and Iron until you finally have what it takes to access the zone where you find Scarlet ore.
Similar to how ores work in Minecraft, where you can only find, say, Diamond ore at a certain depth, ores in Core Keeper are relegated to their own biome. You’ll find Copper in your starting biome (the center of the world), while you’ll need to travel further out for Tin and Iron and even further out for Scarlet.
That tiny sliver of ‘map’ you see in the right-hand image is actually an entire railway I built in order to reduce travel time to the endgame biome. At stop speed, it still takes roughly 30 seconds. This game could use teleporters.
I don’t want to spoil the boss encounters and in particular the second boss, as they’re pretty cool but also the ways you can go about defeating them can get pretty creative.
There’s three “initial” bosses that you need to defeat before you may enter the current endgame zone, which contains another three bosses. After you find the first boss (mine spawned really close the the starting area), you’ll be able to purchase boss scanners for the other two, which should make your journey to finding them in this endless maze much quicker.
That’s all I’m going to say about them. For more, explore the game!
The Other Stuff
Core Keeper is not all about mining, fighting and exploring. On character creation, you’ll be asked to choose your ‘background’, which is a fancy way of saying your profession. This will determine what item you spawn with but also give you a head start in perfecting that skill. That’s right, there’s skill trees!
You level up your skills by doing their related activity: Pick vegetables to level Gardening, run to increase Running, defeat enemies to increase Vitality. It should be no surprise the Running is the easiest to level, since you’re doing it all the time. It should be noted, however, that skills cap at level 100 and you get a skill point every 5 levels. That means you’ll get a total of 25 skill points. Each tree has 8 skills which need 5 points each to max, meaning you cannot eventually activate all your skills, so choose wisely!
Aside from the usual things like mining and killing things, there’s four skills that are more domestic in nature.
You level up Crafting by, well, crafting stuff. You can probably cheese it quite a bit by creating a tidal wave of cheap Torches. Crafting in Core Keeper is much more simple than what you might find in Minecraft – there’s no interface where you have to place items in a certain order; it’s more akin to ‘buying’ an item from a workbench. Trade in the materials and voila, you’ve crafted something.
Gardening is the skill that requires you to get your hands dirty. With soil. You level up Gardening by uprooting plants, and that really about it. I set myself up with a 4×10 plot of tilled land and started work on creating an army legumes. It’s probably a good time to mention that Bomb Peppers are both edible and also an ingredient for creating bombs; but at least they’re organic, locally-sourced and non-GMO!
Cooking is a bit more of an idle clicking game. You throw ingredients in the pot and you gain experience when you pick them up. If you pay attention, though, each combination of ingredients created a different meal which gives you different buffs, so a master chef would definitely be aware of which food to use in which situation.
Then there’s Fishing. I’ve not found a way to cheese this one. It seems that you just need to spend hours fishing for ore, kelp, spoons and unruly fish.
On the personal level, there’s two ways to play: Standard or Hardcore, the latter obviously meaning that once you’re dead, you’re dead. I decided to play Hardcore and lost three characters because of it. I would not recommend it until you’re somewhat accustomed to the way combat works, or you may find yourself charged down by an army of larvae with nothing but a slingshot in hand.
It is worth noting however that the only noteworthy thing deleted in Hardcore is your skill progression. The world is not deleted, so you can create a new character and keep playing with the same world generation, loot-filled chests and defeated bosses. You can thankfully even go to the place you previously died, destroy your tombstone and recover your inventory.
The one big critique I have for Core Keeper is that the game feels balanced for co-op. The skill system’s XP curves make me think that ideally, you’d have a player focused on Cooking, Fishing and Gardening, another on Crafting, a couple on Melee/Ranged + Vitality and then one more on Mining.
It would take a lot of time to max out every skill on one character; while the core progression pushes you to spend most of your time outside your base, scavenging for resources, exploring and killing things, half of the available skills require you to spend a lot of time home, grinding out plots and creating complex machinery.
Road to Release
Core Keeper’s next update, Sunken Sea, is set to release today and will include an all-new biome (The Sunken Sea), boats (so you don’t need to craft thousands of bridges), a new tier of ore, gear and weapons, new plants, fish, food combos, base-building items, a new boss and basically everything you can expect to find in a new tier of tech.
We should also expect more seasonal events akin to The Great Egg Hunt they ran for Easter, hiding eggs across the world which, together, would combine into ‘the mysterious Golden Egg’, a permanent collectible.
During Early Access, we can also expect further updates with even more biomes, additional mechanics for Cooking, Fishing and all base-related activities and the second part of the story as well as a proper ending!
Have you played Core Keeper? Are you excited for the Sunken Sea update? Let us know in the comments below!