Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles delivers an artistic world fuelled by beauty and peace. But, how does it fare in a market saturated with open-world adventure titles as far as the eye can see?
Firstly, let’s get the obvious out of the way. This isn’t The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing! Whilst it appears that the developers have taken inspiration from our Hyrule Warrior, the game delivers a completely different experience in terms of both gameplay and narrative.
The title opens with our protagonist seemingly stuck in the eye of a vicious storm, off-course and completely merciless to the punishing waves of an unforgiving ocean. Fast forward five-minutes and the situation isn’t much better. Shipwrecked and lost, our young adventurer has stumbled upon the island of Gemea. On first approach the island provides a seemingly near-perfect representation of paradise. Yet, upon deeper inspection it appears that not everything is quite so. A dark smog, known as murk plagues the area.
It’s at this point that two things should be noted. Firstly, that Yonder provides a completely pacifist approach to it’s gameplay. At no point throughout the game can you be harmed, there is no health bar in-play and nor can you kill, injure or maim any enemies. Instead your primary objective is to explore the vast open landscape, discover it’s secrets and just live within its bounds. It’s slightly puzzling therefore that the developers have chosen to include an enemy within the game.
The villainous murk, of course, is subject to the same peaceful laws that govern everything else in the land. At no point will the murk harm you, nor will it seemingly kill the environment or prey upon an NPC. All it really does is get in the way and corner off certain areas of the game. What’s strange though, is that the game finds other ways to achieve the same effect. For example, our unfortunate hero (despite having lived previously to all our knowledge on a boat) cannot swim. If you enter water, much in the same vein as cult-classic Spider-Man 2, our young boy will simply be teleported back to land. There’s an area within the game where this situation arises. To traverse the body of water, game prompts you to find materials and build a bridge, which in turn will allow you safe passage.
Across the game there are a handful of situations which are similar to this. It’s assumed therefore that the murk is primarily there as a narrative device and to act as an opposition to our hero. There’s just something not so menacing about a mass-less forcefield that shows up from time to remind you that it’s there. It’s a bit like the evil equivalent of a messy bedroom. It ruins the scene slightly and gets in the way a bit, but its never going to be more than a nuisance.
It’s a bit like the evil equivalent of a messy bedroom. It ruins the scene slightly and gets in the way a bit, but its never going to be more than a nuisance.
I did find a certain sense of accomplishment every time I managed to dissipate some of the murk and banish it from existence. But, this is probably more for the same reasons that running a hoover over a dirty patch of carpet gives me pleasure, there’s something oddly satisfying about cleanliness. Just as a sidenote, you get rid of a patch of murk by using the powers of sprites, whom you find along your travels. It’s a very wholesome moment whenever they come together to drown out a patch of murk and warms my heart each time.
It’s a very wholesome moment whenever they come together to drown out a patch of murk and warms my heart each time.
The title really shines when it comes to world design. Damn is it pretty! The open-world design is filled with hidden gems and secrets throughout. One of my absolute favourites being a collection of cats scattered across the island. Occasionally, upon your travels you’ll hear the faint cry of a feline friend waiting for help. Amongst the games other lootable items are chests – which often contain items to spruce up your hair or make changes to your general appearance. Having started out as nothing more than a browned haired scallywag with a scruffy hairline it wasn’t long before I’d gone for a change of style and ended up resembling something akin to a Dragonball Z character.
The game also utilises a fantastic day and night cycle, within which your character will take out a lantern at sundown and his or her travels may continue by candle light. Probably my favourite aspect of the game is its lighting. Whether it’s the warm yellow glowing sun shining down at the height of noon or the orange glow of a lantern reflecting back off the ripples of a stream, the game’s lighting helps to add a level of depth and immersion to an already breathtaking scene.
Whether it’s the warm yellow glowing sun shining down at the height of noon or the orange glow of a lantern reflecting back off the ripples of a stream, the game’s lighting helps to add a level of depth and immersion to an already breathtaking scene.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles occasionally stumbles over it’s use of the day and night cycle. One mission in particular had me run around the island collecting flowers for the best part of twenty-minutes, only to return and find out I had to wait two in-game days before I could complete the quest. Now, don’t get me wrong. Understandably, the tone of the title requires its pacing to be fairly peaceful and slow. In addition, waiting two in-game days arguably encourages you to go and explore the islands many changing climates. However, it felt unnecessary. Having already ran around for the best part of half an hour collecting items across the far corners of the island, I’d done my fair share of exploring for one day, and some progress in terms of narrative felt long overdue.
The game’s audio is perfectly in tune with it’s tone and gameplay. Light enchanting tunes follow our protagonist around and a range of well thought out sound effects find their place in perfect harmony. When you cut down a tree, the wood feels chunky as it falls and lands on the ground with a deep thud. Whilst the music creates a real sense of newfound freedom as you traverse Gemea’s unknown lands in the hope to discover it’s next mesmerising view. The only issue here is that occasionally when travelling a song will stop playing. From time to time it seems a little abrupt and drags you away from the immersive land you’ve set foot in.
Their is an air of Animal Crossing that sneaks into the title at times also. Upon your travels the game prompts you to build farms, through which you can raise animals that grant you access to special items. The range of animals available is fairly impressive. From common cow type creatures to that of pigs, foxes and polar bears. The list would go on, but you get the gist. There are also a range of animals that whilst offer nothing in terms of interaction, do somewhat add to the huge amount of detail that the developers have put into making a world that you can truly fall in love with.
Yonder is also packed out with quests, people to help and traders to interact with. At times, many of the jobs on hand involve simply gathering materials and bringing them to some lazy villager who couldn’t be bother to walk a few hundred feet. That being said, there is plenty to keep you busy whilst you continue on with the main story.
In summary, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles boasts an impressive colour scheme to compliment a vibrant and diverse world. Filled from end to end with gorgeous views adorable creatures and a plethora of hidden secrets, it’s certainly got it’s moments. A lack of diversity within quests and a fairly average narrative are the title’s only real downfalls. Overall, Yonder creates a childlike playground in which to explore and have fun in without the threat of death or mutilation.
This copy of Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles was provided by Stride PR on behalf of developers, Prideful Sloth. Jared Moore spent 6 hours island hopping as he hoped to wipe away the murky mess that plagued Gemea!