Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles Review
A Video Game Vacation
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (Yonder) feels like the equivalent of a vacation. Yes, there’s farming to be done and evil mist to be cleared, but after crash landing on the island, it feels like there’s this intense sense of freedom and relaxation. You could work at the farm, but only if you enjoy it. You could build items, but only if you want to. You’re just given free roam of this colossal, gorgeous, color-soaked land, and in exploring it, get this soothing sense of your troubles melting away as you wander far from the problems of the outside world.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles Steam Page
Developer: Prideful Sloth Publisher: Prideful Sloth Release: July 18, 2017 Price: $24.99 Rig: Intel Core i5-4690K @ 3.50GHz 8192 MB RAM NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970
Yonder demands little of the player, but that’s not from lack of things to do. Players can take some time to gather items for the friendly people of the island, setting out to collect flowers, rocks, sticks, various berries, and dozens upon dozens items left out in the wild. They can craft with those items, building an equally varied amount of handy objects, tools, foods, and other useful things. You can go fishing, spelunking in caves filled with ancient fossils, hunt for sprites, cast lights into the night sky, or coax animals with some delicious food to come to your farm. All of this and more awaits you. Yet, it doesn’t feel like you need to do any of it. Instead, the game pushes the player through a constant sense of wonder, granting them ways and reasons to interact with the world, then giving them a sprawling, beautiful place to want to use those interactions in. What animals lie over that next rise that I can meet? What is the fishing like on the other side of the island? Is there anything interesting within that cave? This works due to the game’s huge, vibrant world. Sun-drenched fields of green stretch out beyond sight in many of the opening areas, giving way to beaches lined with broken stone docks, or rocky areas lined with twisting caves. The game’s colorful art style loans these places an appeal just in wandering through them as well, somehow bright, but also soothing to the eye. It hits this perfect balance between being bright, but without overwhelming the player with sharp color. It’s cartoonish, but still gives that same sense of looking out over green fields at sunset – that sense of scope and peace.
Each of the game’s huge zones features all of these hidden places and beautiful vistas, which encourages the player to just go out and see what’s there. If they have a task they like, be it collecting sprites or farming or whatever, players can do it there, finding different creatures, structures, puzzles, and environments where they can carry out their chosen tasks. If there is an activity they enjoy, there is always someplace new they can do it in, and find some new aspect of it. This creates this wanderlust in the player, piquing their interest with a distant landscape or a new kind of animal or fish. Not that it discourages settling in one place, as there are a lot of nuances to farming (like which animals you have, hiring staff with food, setting up pens, collecting the items that come from the farm, etc.) or other activities that make each task interesting for those who wish to dedicate the time. It always feels like you choose to dedicate that time, though, and if something catches your eye and you wander away, the game doesn’t feel like it punishes you for it. The game’s activities are robust and fun, for those who want that, but players can feel free to leave when they like. Those who do focus on the activities may find some irritations with collecting items. At first, it feels like your character has infinite inventory space, but there are so many things they can collect that they will run out of space, eventually. That being said, this will only happen if the player is hammering at the collecting button as they wander, gathering up anything they can. While this is a good way to ensure you have whatever you need when you take on a quest of start a job, it doesn’t feel like it’s in the spirit of the game, and perhaps this is why players have an extensive, if still limited, inventory.
“Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a video game vacation – an outside place with beautiful sights to savor and calming activities to take on.”
In creating this colorful, peaceful land, it feels like the developers want players to take on tasks as full activities, rather than tasks they can complete on a checklist. If players want to help a given NPC or create a small building or something, then the whole journey is meant to be something to be enjoyed. Part of that means the act of going out into the land, listening to your feet crunch through the grass as you gather flowers or whatever other item you need. It’s less about rapidly clearing NPC tasks, and more about choosing to help a neighbor, taking that relaxing walk to get what they need, and savoring the journey. Limited inventory discourages players from just collecting everything, but rather taking what they need as they meander through the game’s world. This can get irritating for those who want to just clear all of the tasks, MMO-style, but it would go against the feeling of roaming and getting lost in the world it feel the developers intended. Needing a flower on a distant mountaintop could be annoying when you were just there and you didn’t have the inventory space to collect the item, but it encourages the players to maybe take a different route, seeing a sight they never noticed before, while doing that task. It’s frustrating, but only if this is a game you want to clear rather than a place you wish to be lost in. Come to Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles as a vacation – an outside place with beautiful sights to savor, and calming activities to take on, and it provides endless joy. As a series of checklists to tick off and activities to complete, it may frustrate some with its limited inventory, but even in that frustration, there will be moments of awe to be found in wandering its fields and finding some new animal, fishing spot, or hidden cavern. It offers acres of gorgeous lands to see, and enough intricate activities and creatures, to create a delightful escape from the everyday.
[A copy of the game was provided by the developer or publisher for the purpose of this review.]