Every so often a unique video game comes along that you simply know is going to be divisive amongst anyone who plays it; there’ll be those who love it and those who simply cannot get on with it. Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is one such game, with it’s omission of any form of combat and extended focus on exploration and resource gathering providing quite the unique experience. Whilst it shares similarities with the many crafting video games that have come before it though, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles actually feels like so much more. There’s a hidden depth to the world that’s aching to be discovered and there’s always something that demands your attention. The question remains though: is being a part of this expansive world fun for the long term, or will the lack of excitement leave you bored after a few hours?
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles begins with you creating your own character and then seeing them end up shipwrecked in a cave on a mysterious Island. Whilst luscious to look at, this Island happens to be plagued with a strange purple fog known as ‘Murk’. It’s up to you to help vanquish this Murk to restore the Island to its former, glorious state. How do you do this? By uncovering all the strange little Sprites that only your character can see, of course.
So it’s not the most intricate of plotlines, but it at least adds a bit of a back story to your adventure on the Island. You’ll be able to see the plot through to its end in around six hours though, so don’t expect to see the narrative sticking with you for too long. However, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles doesn’t pride itself on giving you a story-driven adventure, but rather one that encourages exploration; you know, finding each and every collectible, looking after your own farms, completing side quests for people, and discovering what hidden secrets are on the Island.
Admittedly, a lot of the game’s side quests were unsatisfying; they mainly consisted of fetch quests, leaving very little for the player to really work for. Whilst this is often passable in other games based around crafting, the game’s lack of combat or puzzle solving left me feeling a little underwhelmed with them. Don’t get me wrong, those who love crafting or gathering resources will feel right at home, but I’d have hoped the developers might have been a bit more imaginative with how they utilised the game world.
At least the crafting goes into a bit more depth, with the game featuring an emphasis on learning new professions that enhance your crafting capabilities. Whilst it’s certainly the most intricate element of the game, it’s nowhere near complicated; the route to all materials is never a treacherous one, whilst the crafting menus themselves are incredibly accessible and easy to follow. It made it a pleasure to indulge in crafting, which is pretty convenient seeing as progression through the game depends heavily upon it. It also adds a bit more incentive to completing the often menial side quests, with the reward of extra crafting tools or resources providing you with some of the most valuable commodities in the game.
There are plenty of other creative things to indulge yourself into within the world too – Harvest Moon fans will be particularly excited about the farming elements that Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles offers. There’s a focus on bringing new animals to your farm from the wild rather than just buying them though, with you able to lure wildlife back by treating them to their favourite snacks… how cute is that? It’s nowhere near as intricate as the farming systems found in the likes of Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley, yet it’s a neat endeavour that I found myself spending hours taking part in. Don’t like farming? Don’t worry, there are plenty of other activities to partake in including everyone’s favourite video game mini-game: fishing.
I’ve always been a fan of the cel-shaded graphic style, so naturally I was in awe of Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles’ colourful visuals. It reminded me a lot of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, or even, at a push, Breath of the Wild. There’s so much variety to the world, with each sublime vista you come across and the dynamic weather system really bringing it all to life. There’s a beauty on offer that makes you want to simply stay in the world; whilst some side quests might feel menial, the fact they all take place across a luscious landscape actually motivates you to stick at them and see where they may take you.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is all about relaxation, with the experience becoming a bit of an ‘anti-game’ in a way. It’s not always about completing objectives or making your way to the ending, but rather enjoying the experience and the world around you. I’ve often found it difficult to get fully engrossed in aimless titles like this, yet the tranquillity I felt whilst playing kept me hooked in for hours on end. It’s a nice break from the first-person shooters, RPGs, or action-adventure titles that I usually find myself playing.
I’ve already mentioned in this review that Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles won’t be for everyone and it’s something that I think is worth reiterating once more. Its focus on offering a tranquil experience that encourages relaxation and trudging along at your own pace won’t be exciting enough for all gamers, whilst the lack of combat and emphasis on crafting will leave some bored after just a couple of hours. There’s simply no hiding from the fact that it’s a very unique, divisive title.
Those who enjoy the simplicities that the game offers will love it though, with Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles offering a sense of depth that always remains accessible from start to end. I loved discovering all the beautiful sights of the world, taking on different professions to craft all-new items, fishing and farming, and simply taking in everything that the game had to offer. It’s a wholly refreshing experience that might not be exhilarating, but will certainly warm your heart whilst playing. Its simple yet enjoyable nature won’t be for everyone, but it most certainly was for me.
Developer: Prideful Sloth
Publisher: Prideful Sloth
Release Date: 18/07/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), PC