Open world games are more and more ambitious in the modern gaming world. Games like Breath of the Wild are overflowing with things to do, see, and explore. While this is great and all, sometimes a scaled down version of this is a bit easier to experience in short bursts, making the experience less overwhelming and more easily approachable. That’s where Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles comes to play. This title is all about discovery and exploration, featuring no violence or combat, and instead putting an emphasis on creation, helping others, and traveling. Yonder turned out to be a wonderful surprise, one that I found to be more enjoyable with each additional session I spent with it. After exploring nearly every corner of Gemea and restoring it back to its former glory, I can honestly say it’s one of the most approachable and easily enjoyable titles I have played this year.
Now initially, the game may not seem as simple as it truly is. Like other adventure titles, it throws a lot in your face very quickly. From the story, to quests, to the games mechanics and more, you are truly thrown into the mix very quickly. It all balances out really swiftly though, with an easy to learn gameplay style that is just as easy to enjoy. In addition to exploring, players will spend a lot of time gathering resources needed to build items, trade, or turn in for quests. While you can stay the main path and run through the story, there are plenty of side quests to partake in as well as personally owned farms to tend to. It all plays into your personal economy and how you like to spend your time, but the point is, there is lots to do.
Story wise, your character is shipwrecked with his crew and abruptly arrives in Gemea, the peaceful but burdened land that is troubled by the appearance of “Murk”, a dark and cloudy substance that pushes life away wherever it goes. You must get to the bottom of it, and sprites can help. These “sprites” are spiritual creatures that only you can see, and gathering them at your side can help you clear the murk and further your quest to fully rid it from Gemea. There are all sorts of patches of murk scattered across the fairly large map. Some need to be cleared to progress the story, while many hide chests and side objectives behind their darkness. Finding the helpful sprites is all part of the fun.
Side-quests are all about learning new skills and helping others. There is a lot to do in the world of Gemea. You can run farms where you adopt animals, grow crops, and hire farm hands to tend to it all in the name of resource gathering. The world has a day, night, and season cycle, so your farms will reward you with crops and material over in-game time. Stop back a few days after exploring, and you will be delighted to see that your inbox will have materials ready for you to pick up. This is massively important, because there is no basic currency to gather in Yonder. Instead, everything is trade based, and the value of your items will vary from trader to trader. Some of your items you grow/farm can also be used in crafting other materials. There are lots of items to craft too, and you can learn how from a variety of masters in their respective fields. From cooking to carpentry, to sewing and stonemason work, there is a lot to learn, and the skills you pick up will help you finish quests and better Gemea. Its great how easily you can move from one objective to the other, and in-between your travels gathering the necessary materials is an enjoyable breeze.
With a variety of landscapes, raw materials are vast and plenty. Boulders, trees, tall grass, fish, ore, vines, you name it, and they are all salvageable and valuable to have in your inventory. Fishing is always a fun inclusion to almost any title, so it was a welcome site to see here. There are a variety of fish that can be found, and your biggest catch of each one is kept for recorded keeping. That is not all there is to see when it comes to the wildlife present. As I mentioned, you can run a farm, and with that comes collect animals to have on your farm. Yak, foxes, deer, dog-like bears, and more cute creatures can be adopted and held at your farm, and all will produce material and goods for you to trade or craft with. Many other materials can be found along the main and beaten paths. Trees can be chopped, boulders can be smashed, animals can be trapped, grass can be cut, and ore can be mined. Your back pack is rather large, so running out of space only becomes in issue later in the game, but doing quests typically will lead to clearing out some of the inventory.
While the character sprites look and sound a little odd, I found the world of Gemea to extremely charming. The game has a very clean and soft look about it, with cute creatures and colorful landscapes further pushing the inquisitive nature of it. Things run smoothly too, for the most part. I was actually impressed by how great the frames looked, and with seemingly no load times when traveling openly (there are very slight load times between fast travels). The only time I ran into issues was upon continuing my adventure after my Switch had been in sleep mode for an extended period of time. This would often create a noticeable lag. Sometimes it faded quickly, while other times it lasted until I closed the game out and booted it back up. Outside of that, it’s a great looking and running game, impressively so in Handheld mode.
I had a great time with Yonder, more so than I anticipated. It’s not that I thought the game looked dissatisfying or otherwise, but more just about how much more enjoyable I found it as I progressed. Its simplistic structure or lax narrative may not please everyone, but I found it to be quite the refreshing adventure. While its core gameplay does not break any boundaries, it’s weaving of concepts like crafting, passing of time, and quest management make it an impressive and fun adventure that a wide range of folks can and should enjoy. If you ponder whether or not you should wander in Yonder, I for one say yes.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of this review.
Final Score: 7.5/10
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