Farm, Collect, Craft, Explore. Not just in that order.
Sometimes there are games that try to incorporate multiple aspects of genres into a single experience; at a lot of times it feels a bit convoluted, and in a few cases, it works out to benefit the game. It’s a fine balance that needs to be meticulous in its execution. Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles tries to incorporate exploration with questing as well as a crafting system and on top of all that, a farm management simulator. Unfortunately, due to the execution of it all, it ends up being a fun exploration game, but that is about it.
Players take control of a character that has been shipwrecked on a land that has been taken over by a dark presence known as murk that barricades areas off as well as covers many locations. The player is tasked with exploring the land and clearing the murk, while trying to find the truth behind this land. Along the way, they will collect all kinds of things and materials, and even create and manage their own farms.
Price I’d pay: $15
The game is part Harvest Moon, part Breath of the Wild, and part exploration simulator. Many things can be harvested using tools, like crushing a boulder will give the player rocks they can use to craft certain things or using an axe on a tree will give the player lumber. Within the first hour or so of the game, players are then introduced to a small farm they can build and upgrade using materials and blueprints they obtain. Here, they can coax animals to join the farm that can produce for them, as well as hire farm hands to keep up the maintenance and happiness of the overall farm.
Finally, the exploration has players completing both main story and side quests that have them travel to other areas or collect a number of items for villagers and other wanderers. Along the way, players will find these little fairy characters that are needed to clear the murk in some areas. This goes into the main exploration of the game. In order to explore more of the world, players must find certain things first. Luckily, there is a built in tracker for all collectibles that have been found, as well as how many are left in a certain area.
Where the game falls apart is the depth of each of these aspects. The farming simulator felt like a side project that I honestly never felt compelled to do. Sure, every time I came to a new farm, I would set it up and maybe gather a couple of animals for it, but I never relied on it to produce my needed materials for crafting or trading. The quests usually revolved around collecting a number of things that eventually began to feel like busy work just to obtain another items I may or may not use, and the exploration itself, while the most enjoyable part of the game, felt slightly clunky at times due to both camera sluggishness and so choice physics when jumping and platforming.
Even with all the issues of shallowness, I couldn’t help myself when it came to exploring. The pacing is well done, and had enough in it to keep me going through the next quest. The navigation is a thoughtful mechanic as well. The character will hold up their compass, and based on which quest is selected, a bright light will shine in the direction of the objective, much like Shadow of the Colossus.
Visually, the game is rather stunning. The soft cell shading look really pops and gives off a nice Breath of the Wild feel. The lighting is also very impressive when travelling at night or through dark caves. Soundtrack music is charming and fits well with the overall aesthetic. Needless to say, presentation-wise, this is an impressive game. I only wish the gameplay was more fleshed out.
Yonder has some interesting aspects to it, and while they really tried to throw in everything and the kitchen sink into it minus combat, many of them fall flat or shallow. The exploration is the best part of the game by far, and while the other parts of the game may be to shallow for me, others may find enjoyment out of them. Even then, the pacing is well done and players will have a pretty view the entire time. I’d say wait for price drop, but when that happens check it out.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.