I have to say upon starting my review for Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles I knew nothing about the game or its developers Prideful Sloth. I watched a quick YouTube trailer for the game and thought “This could be right up my alley”. Upon starting Yonder, I discovered it bore a striking resemblance to the underrated Legend of Zelda title The Wind Waker from the Gamecube days. The cel-shaded lushness of the open world basked in glorious sunshine as you exit from the first cave gives you the feeling that you are in for something special and for most part you are.
Though I am getting ahead of myself, first off you must choose who you want to play as. Unfortunately the character models are rather on the basic side; your hands look like they are designed for serving soup down your local homeless shelter. The character customisation also lacks depth but it beats what you can find in Destiny. From there you’re put on a ship that’s in the midst of a storm before it crashes on a desert island called Gemea.
There is no combat. It’s much more akin to Animal Crossing in terms of gameplay than Zelda titles.
This is where you will now spend the rest of the game but what an environment to spend it in with 8 different ecosystems to explore such as wide open plains, sandy beaches and snowy mountain ranges. Upon your arrival on the island, the sun is bearing down across the plains but as you’ll discover the game boasts its own weather system and what was once a sun-kissed tropical island is now drenched in the pouring rain day lit with the bright flashes of lightening. Yonder also has seasonal chances as well as a day/night cycle, which if used correctly can unlock secrets for you to discover such as teleport which lead to other areas of the island. Unfortunately the time between cycles is only about five minutes so you have to be super quick to get to those secrets before the cycle changes.
Almost immediately after washing up on Gemea you run across a friendly sprite called Lumia, who joins you on your quest and you realize quite quickly that these sprites are imperative to your progression. You see, quite typically of these games the locals are perturbed (though they are putting on a brave face throughout) as their day to day lives are being interrupted by a fog like entity called Murk which surrounds certain areas or objects. Using your sprites which you find throughout the game you can clear this Murk, of course that is providing you have enough sprites to do so.
it is hard to shake the feeling that the game is sorely lacking a goal for the player to work towards
That’s as much danger as you are going to face throughout this game and that’s the charming beauty about it, there is no combat. It’s much more akin to Animal Crossing in terms of gameplay than Zelda titles. It’s about collecting resources such as wood, stone and other materials to aid the townsfolk and also allows you to create items for you to trade or use for decoration. There are other activities like fishing which can be frustrating but also rewarding, then there’s your farm which you unlock fairly early into the game. Here you will be able to tame wildlife such as sprig pigs, fabbits and groffles (more proof of the game cutesy ways) which all look like big cuddly toys roaming around in the wild. Once you’ve tempted them with food you can lure them back to your farm and look after them so that they can produce goods for you.
You’ll find that the majority of your time on Gemea is spent helping the locals mostly through fetch quests which can get repetitive after a while but thanks to the games charm, you don’t mind as much. It does however start to make you wonder what the end game is when there no progression system to speak of and you aren’t levelling your character or your tools so you naturally ask yourself ‘What am I getting out of this?’. Nonetheless, it’s nice to be able to play a game like this where there is 0% danger involved whatsoever, (hell even if you fall off a cliff side your character pulls out an umbrella which allows you to float gently to the ground) but it is hard to shake the feeling that the game is sorely lacking a goal for the player to work towards.
Yonder is full to the brim with charm in a delightfully eccentric way. It’s just unfortunate that there isn’t a stronger core goal holding the game together. Maybe it’s just down to my gaming history where 99% of the games I play have a narrative or an end goal leaves me wanting more from this game. That being said if you are looking for a game to chill out too whilst whittling away the hours through mindless task such has searching for missing groffles and exploring an island that exudes beauty throughout then I wholly recommend Yonder to you.