I bought Terraria on day one, not knowing how big it would become. I’ve seen it grow over the years, only to become better and better. Now here we are in 2022 and I believe I am seeing that again with Core Keeper.

Now I will admit, I went in a bit skeptical. My friend kept asking me to pick it up and give it a shot and I was like “ehhhhh”. I mean, we get quite a few of these games nowadays, but rarely do they pan out to be something better than just… average. So imagine my surprise when I hopped into this one and found this lively game world, tons of crafting mechanics, a solid sense of progression, and yes, a full slate of bosses.

That is Core Keeper and it has just launched into Early Access only a couple months ago. If you have played games like Terraria, this gameplay should be very familiar to you. You’re thrown into this world with just the bare minimum to get started and have to mine, build, craft, and kill your way to victory. The twist here is that the game is set entirely underground and is played with a top-down perspective, so a lot of what you will be mining is various types of stone, dirt, and ore.

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It’s a bit gloomy, but the game does a good job incorporating biomes to shake things up. You got your usual stone cave biomes, but also a jungle-like biome and a hive-like biome infested with creepy crawlies. The map is a limited size, but it is also quite massive and even now that I have cleared all of the content on offer at this time – I still had large portions of the map left unexplored. Exploring leads to uncovering new monsters, treasure, ore, and all that – so it’s always a good idea to do.

In fact, one of my favorite moments was the time when my friends and I discovered a massive tunnel. Not only did we find out that this tunnel circled the entire map, but one of the bosses – a giant bug-worm looking thing – circled this tunnel at a fixed interval and would run you over if you were in the way. At the time we discovered this, we were nowhere near in good enough shape to take it out (I mean, it’s kinda hard to do so with how fast it moves), but it gave us a goal to work towards and that’s basically what kept the Core Keeper experience alive.

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You find or discover something cool – figure out what to do with it or, in the case of a boss, figure out how to defeat it – and follow the progression until you can do so. This in turn allows you to progress even further by unlocking new areas of the map, new tools to craft, new NPCs to talk to – all of that. It is still nowhere near as developed as Terraria, but for just launching in Early Access, it took my two friends and I around ten hours to clear all of the content currently there and it was a blast to do so.

Even without a mountain of content – the base that is there is pretty good as is. Combat, mining, movement, and all of that just works. It’s not finicky and the only complaint I have there is that placing things can be a bit weird sometimes trying to line up where you actually want to place a block. Really, it just feels like a top-down Terraria – at least in the way it plays and I can’t really say that that’s a negative.

Visually, it also does fine. Great sprites, nice use of color and lighting, and an overall dark aesthetic to reinforce the underground setting. The audio does this too, but I’d also be lying if I said that I didn’t wish for a more distinct soundtrack – something beyond light ambience.

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But regardless, I’d recommend Core Keeper. For being in Early Access, it’s already got a lot going on and now it’s just a matter of waiting for more and more to be added. Hopefully it gets the Terraria treatment in this regard, but we’ll have to wait and see. I didn’t want to write out a full review given that it is in Early Access and all, but figured I’d throw together some quick thoughts and my recommendation.

Core Keeper retails for $13 USD on Steam, but you can get an official Steam key for 10% off using my Gamesplanet partner link.

I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.