Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles Review -- Exploration Simulator 101
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a beautiful game to behold, but can aesthetics and music alone make this a worthy open-world adventure?
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles
Review copy provided by the publisher
There are a lot of action-packed/violent video games released every year, but sometimes it’s nice just to sit back and have a nice calming experience. Developer Prideful Sloth, a small team hailing from Australia, is hoping to bring a new type of open-world experience to the masses, focusing on a large world to explore and plenty of things to do. All of this is done sans violence in their exploration based title Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles. It may not seem captivating at first glance, but Yonder did allow me to revel in relaxation — maybe even to a fault.
“It may not seem captivating at first glance, but Yonder did allow me to revel in relaxation — maybe even to a fault.”
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a pacifistic, open-world exploration title, which basically means there is no combat. Your main goal is to explore, talk to citizens, solve a myriad of different quests given to you, and figure out what exactly is happening in the island Gemea that is slowly being engulfed by some type of evil fog.
When you start off all you have is a celestial compass, which basically helps guide you on a variety of quests. You land on this island and as you start to explore you’ll run into towns with many citizens. When you start talking to them they will give you quests, barter for items, or trade certain goods with you to acquire specific gear or equipment you’ll be using throughout your adventure; completing side quests and eventually conquering the dreaded fog which has permeated the land.
If you’re familiar with games based on crafting mechanics, you’ll have a general idea of the core gameplay: cutting down trees, breaking open rocks, and gathering the materials you need to make certain items are paramount. Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a little more story driven than other crafting games and there are not many survival elements; for example, there are no signs of needing to stay hydrated drinking water, eating to stay full, or having to take shelter from impending storms.
“Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a little more story driven than other crafting games and there are not many survival elements”
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicle’s map is actually quite large to explore, separated by different areas broken up by various themes you would expect in an open-world setting: forests, deserts, and snow covered landscapes, to name a few. When trying to complete the main quest, you are always pulled in the right direction of where to find the main hub areas of these locations, though you are able to explore at your own leisure for the most part.
If you want to take a break from the main quest you can take part in the all the side-quests you obtain or work on your farm. A big part of Yonder is going to be building up your farm by putting up buildings and raising various animals. When it comes to building up your farm, or crafting in general, it feels like some gamers would prefer added depth or have more crafting options. But for the most part as someone who usually doesn’t care for crafting games all that much I actually found it quite enjoyable in its simplicity.
One of my favorite aspects of the farming was with the animals; getting them to trust me, bringing the animals back to the farm, and then adopting them to produce various goods. Although, sometimes getting them to come back to the farm would be a chore unto itself because you are pretty much performing an escort mission — the gaming community has come to the consensus that it can be a bit annoying. However, raising the animals, getting them to trust you even more, and gathering items produced from them never seemed tedious. All the animals are surprisingly unique and their designs are adorable, making finding new animals a worthwhile experience.v
“All the animals are surprisingly unique and their designs are adorable, making finding new animals a worthwhile experience.”
What is not worthwhile is how Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles handles the quests given to you. They are for the most part fetch quests involving running to one spot, gathering a couple of items, then heading back to whomever gave you the quest. There’s a few times where they may change up the formula, but for the most part item retrieval is what you will do for the main and side-quests. Luckily, your compass will always point you in the right direction even if it isn’t always apparent; although there seem to be many artificial walls inconveniently blocking your path when you least expect it.
Throughout your journey you will come across these Sprite creatures, which you gather and are the main collectibles for progression. They usually are found in a blue, glowing aura and when you check it out the Sprite will join you. This is important because you need a certain amount to clear out various fog areas to obtain an important item or unlock another path on the island. Yonder uses this to force you into extra exploration, which really slows down the overall progression and becomes tedious over time.
The main quest line in general is relatively short taking upwards of six hours to complete, and most of that was just running around trying to find additional Sprites in order to move the story along. Luckily, there is fast travel by finding certain stone formations and they will take you to different locations. This means you can’t fast travel just from the map which would have been a nice addition and made exploration more tolerable.
“Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a charming and visually pleasing experience that will remind you immediately of 3D Legend of Zelda titles, mainly The Wind Waker”
Among the various side quests there is fishing you can get involved with and there are also 55 cats you can collect throughout the world, similar to finding the Sprites, although this is not mandatory to progression. Technically, Yonder ran rather smoothly with only the occasional hiccups in framerate becoming somewhat noticeable, and there were no glitches I encountered while playing. Also, it deserves to be mentioned that the load times are fast and once you are in the game it’s seamless and you can walk around at your own leisure.
Finally, I would be remiss not to mention how well the music ebbs and flows given the different locations you visit. Each area has its own tune to accompany it depending on the setting and at certain points silence would fall upon where you are providing a calming, zen-like experience under the moonlight. The sound effects work is also exceptionally well done providing each animal with distinct sound, to go along with flora and fauna giving off ethereal chimes and subtle streams splashing against the rocks.
Overall, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a charming and visually pleasing experience that will remind you immediately of 3D Legend of Zelda titles, mainly The Wind Waker, in how the towns, island, and citizens are portrayed. The questing and story progression is okay, but it may become boring and tedious for some looking for more of an action oriented affair. The side activities alone, as well as with the crafting and farm management are what many will have to enjoy to get the most out of Yonder. Otherwise, if you are looking for something deeper, this may be a rather boring expedition.