Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles opens with mystery. After years of being away from your island home, you are returning. Where you’ve been, what you’ve done, are all non-issues. As you sail near the island, your boat is struck by lightning. And then, a spirit named Aaerie appears…
“WHAT IS THAT!? That’s scary.” – Wyatt, age 8
You are then tasked with removing the Murk, the bad stuff, that has infected the land.
Cast onto the rocks of the island of Gemea, you wake up wet and cold. You venture forward, knowing you must head yonder.
Yonder excels at encouraging the player to keep moving forward. See that mountain over there? Let’s go explore it! The core exploration is fantastic, as the world feels alive and begging for adventure. Wyatt and I found ourselves tromping all over the place. Minutes would span into hours. And in a first for us, Yonder caused us to fight over who was playing. An achievement for developer Prideful Sloth.
We love running around and exploring. But we dislike the Pokémon collecting, lite farm simulator, and generic MMO quest system.
Nothing like Pokémon Collecting
To defeat the Murk, you, the player, need to collect Sprites. Think Pokémon-like creatures who enjoy playing hide-n-seek. Some Sprites are captured by simply finding them. Tag. You’re it! Other Sprites require small quests of appeasement, a “I’ll join your quest if you give me 5 wood”, sort of thing. The Sprites are cute. However, they do not add special powers or unique interactions to the game. I feel like this was a missed opportunity. As they exist, Sprites are content gatekeepers. Want to destroy the Murk in this area? Sorry, you need to collect 5 more Sprites.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch
Early in the game, you come across a farm with broken fences. You are immediately tasked with bringing the old place back to life. Once done, you discover that this is no farm but a ranch. A place to hold animals, who poop, a lot. Yonder allows the building of various animal pens by collecting materials. That’s about it. While I wasn’t expecting a Stardew Valley experience, Yonder left me wanting more.
The Compass is Broken
As Aaerie tasks you with clearing up the Murk, she gives you a Celestial Compass to give you your bearings. The compass shoots a beam of light to the quest giver for whichever quest you are on. The big problem, for Wyatt and I, is that the compass only points at the original quest giver. The compass does not update location based on where the player is in the quest. As it stands, the compass is a broken tool we’d love to see fixed.
Which leads me to talk about the quest system. The quest system comes across as padding or filler. There is nothing meaningful in having to collect x-amount of wood for an individual. Modern quest design has pushed past the “kill ten rats” mindset. Yonder tries to wrap this generic design around meaningful stories. For example, the one quest that sticks out to me is one where we helped a lady grow a beard. This required us to go to a specific pond at night. Collect a certain type of fish (Side Note: The fishing mechanic is spot on). Prepare the correct concoction, etc. A silly but unique quest. I wish more of the game’s quests were as memorable.
- I like running around and exploring.
- I like being friends with the animals.
- It feels like playing a Link game with no monsters or weapons.
- The day and night cycle is too fast (but I think that’s their point).
- I don’t understand the story or what is going on.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles failed to grab Wyatt and I. This is not to say that the game is bad. Yonder is a good game that is perfect for playing with children in the room. For us though, we needed a reason to keep coming back. Depth to either the farming system or to collecting Sprites would have done this. If you are looking for a game to play with your family that encourages exploration, Yonder is the game for you. Prepare for many hours of walking, map reading, and feeding all the animals. As your in-game pockets fill with items collected, perhaps Yonder will grab you more than it did Wyatt and I.
*Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles was reviewed using a code provided by developer Prideful Sloth.