There are times as a gamer where you might want to do something other than engross yourself in nonstop action and just play something relaxing. Some do this through certain puzzle games, others might like to kick back with an easygoing visual novel. While Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles may be an open-world RPG, it does lend itself to an easygoing playstyle. This focus permeates throughout the game, but with mixed results. Developed and published by Prideful Sloth, Yonder was released on July 18, 2017 at a price point of $19.99 on PS4 and Steam. The Steam (PC) version was played for this review.
Your customized character begins washing ashore as you’re shipwrecked on an unknown island, later known as Gemea. You’re tasked with locating your lost shipmates as well as assisting the island’s inhabitants with their own issues, collecting resources along the way. You’re the only one who can take care of all of this, of course. Initially, you will be limited to a couple areas. But finding sprites along the way as you complete quests will help you clear out a mysterious substance called Murk, which is the closest thing to an antagonist that this game has. Sometimes you’ll be removing the odd substance from structures, and other times you’ll be removing it from larger areas as you progress.
You’ll also find tools that will help you accumulate resources for structures, among other things. Because of this, Yonder offers a relatively robust crafting system. Naturally, you’ll have to get the required resources by yourself or bartering with townsfolk in the villages on the island’s eight areas. This focus is enhanced when you take the complete omission of combat into consideration. While that may be a detractor for some, I found myself not missing it all that much. The exploration element, along with the pleasing visuals and charming NPC citizens, accents the intent of keeping things chill.
The game’s setup is not unlike something you’d find in an MMORPG, with many tasks having a tendency to boil down to “fetch a set amount of material,” “craft something specific,” or “track down (admittedly adorable) creatures.” Being able to switch quests at will is rather nice, and the provided mini-map and Celestial Compass will help guide you. It doesn’t really hold your hand, but backtracking will come down on you from time to time even with these tools at your disposal. While you’re motivated to complete quests that relate to the story, you don’t have to put any focus on leveling or anything like that.
In fact, the closest thing to it would be through the materials-gathering tools you obtain as you progress. Nothing about these tools are anything special, and have been done in other games before. But it does give off quite a cute vibe as you chop trees, mine minerals, fish, take down tall grass, and so on. However, some of these quests feel somewhat shallow in nature. Perhaps that may be an accessibility decision, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. The farming aspect is not particularly strong either, but it does make sense within Yonder’s structure. Once you have access to a specific plot of farmland, you’ll be building structures with the required materials, luring animals to care for, and planting seeds for crops. You can plant seeds elsewhere on the island at your leisure, though.
One thing that I took away from Yonder‘s presentation is how pleasant and cute the art style is. Much of it looks like something that came from a modern computer-animated show that you might find on Nickelodeon, only with a decent amount of focus pointing right on how vast the environment is. Insofar as the environment itself is concerned, it fits the bill for an open world. Flora and fauna look appropriately vast, rock formations look like…rocks, and other environments actually look like some effort was put into this.
Prideful Sloth took quite a bit of effort in letting the cartoony, yet approachable character models blend in with the rest of the environment. While cutesy art styles are nothing new to fans of RPGs, Yonder’s visuals are unique enough that it’s one of the things that help it stand out. Music is your typical whimsical fare that isn’t particularly memorable, even with it being orchestral in nature. There are times that it can get a bit repetitive, but not to the point of annoyance. It gets the job done, but it’s not something I would purchase a soundtrack for.
Starting To Grow
Yonder really does have a lot going for it. It’s one of the more charming games that I’ve played this year, and the very relaxed vibe really works to its advantage. I will concede that some aspects of the game may feel a little undercooked, and it may not twist some of the borrowed elements into something that’s gives those aspects their own identities very well. It may not have the sharp writing that we’ve become accustomed to in gaming these days, but at the end of the day, it’s perfectly playable. Sometimes that’s all you need to have an enjoyable time. This one’s worth kicking back to.
~ Final Score: 7/10 ~
Review copy provided by Prideful Sloth. Screenshots taken by reviewer.