Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles isn’t aiming to take you on an epic journey filled with conflict or drama. It isn’t trying to overhaul its genre with new mechanics or gameplay. Instead, it’s a beautiful, easy going and relaxing experience. One in which you’re free to collect flowers and cats, explore the various gorgeous environments, or run a farm. All at your own leisure.
Following a quick ship wreck and some rushed story scenes explaining a thing called ‘Murk’, which is a strange mist infecting the land, you’re dumped on the islands of Gemea. A deceptively large world, which features diverse environments from deserts to dense forests and snowy mountains. From there on, you’re free to wander and explore to your heart’s content. Which was exactly what I did.
Yonder if anything, is beautiful. I spent the first half an hour just wandering around, taking in the gorgeous artstyle and environments on display. Seriously, just watching a sunrise or sunset is a treat. There are breathtaking landscapes galore, intricate trees and foliage around every corner and areas which just sparkle in the sun and moonlight.
The Australian developer Prideful Sloth’s debut title, coming to PS4 and Steam for the time being, is not just for show though. It features a range of activities for you to fill your time. Fishing, farming, taming cute animals, crafting and learning trades such as being a brewer or carpenter. And a gazillion collectibles, most notably cats. Who will purr loudly when they are nearby.
You’ll be tasked with completing a variety of missions too, from finding out who stole a lamington, to various fetch quests. Which as you could imagine, grew old incredibly fast. Although, where Yonder shines most is when its mechanics are focused around exploration, as its exquisite world steals the show.The Murk, which covers parts of the world and stops you progressing to new areas, forces you to explore the regions you already have access to in order to find ‘Sprites’. Little fairy like beings which allow you to clear the Murk. It is a smart mechanic which led to me exploring the many nooks and corners each region had hidden throughout.
Overall, Yonder aims to be a nice and playful time. The characters and models are simple but cute, like a child’s playset. How characters talk is quite friendly and often silly. Even the font seems somewhat childishly friendly. None of these are negatives, just observations of the developer’s obvious aim of creating an easy going experience. One which will definitely appeal to younger audiences, as well as older ones looking for a calming game to wind down to after a long day.
As if to emphasise this more, the first chance I had to jump off a ledge my customisable character pulled out an umbrella to glide down with. It was only at that point I realized I didn’t have health. In fact, there aren’t any enemies in the game to fight at all.
Yonder avoids conflict wherever possible. If you go too deep into water, you spawn back to safety. Animals you come across, such as buffalo or foxes, actively avoid you, through turning their bums in your direction (unless you have the right food). It is cute and honestly adorable. All and all, it creates a refreshingly pleasant game.
Populating the variety of towns there are plenty of people to talk to. Some pop up continuously throughout your journeys, giving you facts on the land or about cute animals inhabiting the world. Some will be quest givers, many you’ll be able to hire as hands on your farms or be able to trade various items with.
Overall though, the characters I encountered in my journeys felt one dimensional and empty. You can’t develop actual friendships through story lines or dialogue. They often felt more like filler and lacked character. Which is disappointing, considering the world has so much. The small quirks and sometimes silly dialogue of the characters will most likely be enough depth for some. But I felt mostly unattached to my quest givers, who felt just that. More points of contact for quests if I ever became bored of exploring.
Despite these faults the story, gameplay and world comes together in the main objective of the game, which is to repair the Cloud Catcher. You’ll need to traverse the many environments, talk to and collect items from people from all walks of life and complete some of the most unique missions of the game.
Albeit still lacking the finesse and character to make this an incredible game, there were moments which made me feel like I was going on an exciting adventure towards the end. One which required me to have truly explored and understood the world to complete it.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a somber and peaceful game. Its gorgeous visuals, astonishing environments and the fun core mechanics of discovery make for a joyful experience. However, despite the polish and the variety of things to do, the game lacks finesse in its storytelling and personality in its characters. This keeps Yonder from being an incredible game, but it's still a great one.
The PS4 version of this game was played for the purpose of this review.