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Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles Review

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203208884_Yonderlogo.png.ba8999a7a6ecd743359faf55fcb9da05.pngYonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles distills the normally big-budget studio open-world adventure experience into a more modestly priced indie game. The game's world has all of the item collecting and exploration you'd expect from the genre, as well as plenty of side quests and items to craft, but the one thing it doesn't have is any combat elements. Instead, Yonder is a more friendly, easy-going adventure, one that proves just as compelling even if some of its mechanics make exploration a little more repetitive than it ought to be.
Yonder takes place in the land of Gemea, a vibrant island that is currently plagued by patches of dark energy called Murk. Your customizable character is journeying to Gemea for the first time, but the ship crashes on the island, leaving you alone to explore the scenery and meet the island's inhabitants. You're able to communicate with the fairy-like Sprites of the island so it falls to you to save the land from its current downfall. The overarching story's set-up isn't bad but there isn't much payoff as the plot continues, leading to a fairly abrupt ending. Still, the other characters you encounter are cute and offer plenty of little side stories, even if none of them feel particularly deep. Like the game as a whole, the story and writing in Yonder is more concerned with making a friendly world to explore rather than a complex or challenging experience.
Like a lot of open-world, sandbox games, the basic gameplay principle in Yonder boils down to: explore. You're dropped into the middle of a large environment (with almost no restrictions on where to go) and are free to just wander about, occasionally interacting with things, such as picking up every stone and stick you come across or talking with villagers to help out with whatever side quest they need. There's not a lot of urgency to the main story so Yonder really is a relaxing adventure, one that offers a break from more intense, action-oriented games.
Of course, a completely directionless game would get boring pretty quickly, so in Yonder you can work toward perfecting your crafting skills, building farms, and completing side quests. There are several "schools" of crafting and you can join each one, thereby gaining access to recipes to craft bigger and better items. It's always fun to create things in games, and Yonder gives you plenty of opportunity to seek out materials and craft the items villagers need. There are also several farms in Gemea that you can take over in order to grow crops and raise animals. Thankfully you don't have to watch over farms super carefully—they'll mostly take care of themselves, and you can hire a helper to manage each farm—so it's not like you're constantly cut off from exploring to go home and tend the crops. With eight regions of Gemea to explore there are plenty of villagers to meet, materials to collect, and side quests to tackle—it always feels like there's something to do in Yonder, something to keep you moving forward.
On the other hand though, Yonder's gameplay doesn't always feel super rewarding. Collecting materials gets pretty repetitive, and it happens pretty quickly when many materials are just found on the ground and all you do is walk up to them and pick them up. Even when materials require a bit more work, such as mining ore or fishing, the gameplay still feels a bit basic. You never gain new equipment so these tasks never feel different from the start to the end of the game. The biggest issue, though, is the limited inventory. You can hold a lot of materials but when you pick up everything you find you'll end up running out of space, and running back to one of your farms to store extra items isn't very convenient. Worse yet, you may find that you put away the one item you need for a side quest, which means returning to the farm, grabbing the item, then returning to the quest giver. The inventory cap ends up being pretty inconvenient if you're meticulous about collecting materials and completing quests.
Exploration has its downsides as well. As beautiful as the game's world is it does get old to run from one location to the next. There are a couple of fast travel options but both have their limitations. Option one: you can find and activate sage stones throughout Gemea, which act as portals to each other. There's a simple quest attached to each one but their locations aren't always quite where you'd ideally like them to be. Option two: you can craft a traveler's knot which allows you to instantly travel to any farm you own. It's the same problem here: farms aren't always close to villages, which feels like the obvious choice for a fast travel point. It may sound like a minor point but walking everywhere ends up being a little tedious when you just want to complete a specific task, not wander over yonder.

Yonder's colorful graphics and simple art design is almost aggressively cute. Much like the gameplay there's a nice simplicity to the artwork that makes it accessible to any player, and animals in particular look adorable. At the same time the simplicity of the art can feel a little bland at times, and within each region it would've been nice to see a little more variety, but the towns and special events like the Halloween event look great. And although there are no long loading screens which makes the game world pretty seamless, there are occasional frame rate dips which is a little annoying to see.



Yonder isn't the kind of game you want to rush through, partially because it's a sandbox-esque game but also because that's just not what the game's inherent pacing is all about. Still, if you only focused on story missions you could finish the game in just a few hours—it'll still require a decent amount of exploration though. Beyond the main quest there are plenty of side quests to tackle and small points of interest to explore in Gemea. Granted it's not going to be as much as you might see in other open-world games, the ones that typically come from huge, expensive studios, but if you take the time to just wander about and enjoy Yonder you'll find the adventure lasts a good length of time.
For anyone that wants the freedom and exploration of an open-world game without any of the stress of combat, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles fills the niche nicely. The game's overwhelmingly cute and friendly style, combined with the general low difficulty, makes it ideal for first-time players or anyone looking for a relaxing game. The sense of freedom in collecting items, crafting new ones, and taking on dozens of quests is undercut a bit by some of the game's mechanics which can end up feeling a little repetitive or at least time-consuming, but at its core Yonder provides a charming, simple adventure, perfect for a relaxing afternoon.
Rating: 7 out of 10 Clouds

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