Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles attempts to mix classic gaming genres together. Taking inspiration from The Legend of Zelda series as well as games like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing, you’ll find yourself farming, crafting and trekking across a beautiful world. Developers Prideful Sloth have successfully created an experience filled with adventure and joy to be found.
Your adventure with Yonder takes place on the continent of Gemea, a land covered by pockets of poisonous mirk, and the ruins of a once flourishing country. You set off, scouring the many different environments for clues of your past, trying to help restore the country to its former glory. The main story will have you joining multiple guilds, befriending experts and repairing the ancient Cloud Catcher in an attempt to do so. But the majority of your time will be spent searching for hidden items, building up multiple farms and taking on quests to help the villagers of the towns you pass by.
The game is chock full of quests and hidden items. At almost every turn there is something new to collect. Whether that be adorable cats hidden across the lands, sprites that can help clear pockets of mirk, chests filled with tons of cosmetic items, or villagers in need of a new chair; there is always a reason to explore the world. And there is actual incentive to do so too, as by doing all of these various things, you can raise the quality of that area. Every time the quality level rises, you get different rewards, ranging from harvest bonuses to an increase in farm production speed, with Yonder making sure to reward you for going out of your way to help those around you.
The quests range in complexity, but often are simple enough that their detour from the main quest line never gets too intrusive. A majority of them are fulfilled by using the crafting system to make various items that the townsfolk need, whether that be parts to build a bridge or planks of wood for a chair. There are the occasional quests that change things up a bit, requiring you to help track down lost pets or help fix mechanical boxes throughout the town, and it is these slight change ups that help keep the quests from becoming too tedious. This is important since this will be all that you do throughout your time in Yonder. There is no combat whatsoever, so you spend all of your time exploring, helping and crafting.
The crafting system is an integral part to the overall game. You start out only able to craft the basics like twine, bundles of sticks and some simple food. Gradually, as you progress, you encounter up to seven different guilds, each of which unlock new crafting recipes. In order to unlock all of the guild recipes and become a fully fledged member, you need to craft up to 1,000 gold worth of items. A majority of these Guild quests can be completed easily since you will find yourself crafting items for quests, or simply because you want to equip them for cosmetic purposes. For most guilds, items can easily be found through your journey by mining, fishing, cutting down trees or picking flowers. If you ever find yourself lacking one item in particular, it can easily be bartered for at the many different shops throughout Gemea.
Bartering is the only way to shop in Gemea. Every item, whether crafted or found, has a base gold value ascribed to it. Each area you travel to however has their own value, often inflating the value of certain items due to whatever guild calls that area its home. This will mean that you’ll often be found crafting new items to find the most bang for your buck when trading. This helps differentiate the towns and villages you come across on your journey, and allows for you to smartly play around when you want to buy some extra resources.
The only guild in which progression is more complicated is the Chef’s Guild. In order to easily complete this quest line, you need to build up multiple farms through Gemea. In these farms, you can adopt animals, plant vegetables, berries and trees, all of which will regularly provide items for you to craft with. This is where Yonder can slow down a bit however, as to get hold of a lot of the ingredients you need to craft higher level items; something which can be hard early on.
And the process of adopting animals is tedious to say the least. The easy part is crafting the actual homes in which these animals will live in, and there are different sizes for the various beasts, all of which are fairly easy to craft. The trouble comes from actually getting the animals to the farm. See, in order to do this, you have to give them their favorite item and then walk them back to your farm. This can be an issue though since these animals are incredibly slow, and if you get to far away from them, they will stop moving and in some cases run back to their spawn. This gets increasingly frustrating, especially as you try to lure in animals from further away. Instead, I found myself saved from the frustration of dealing with this by focusing on planting vegetables, which has an incredibly profitable bartering value, however this in turn makes completing the Chef’s Guild questline harder since the majority of the items needed to craft involve the resources the animals give.
But once your farm gets off the ground and starts providing materials and ingredients, it must be said that you will enjoy the overall experience. Each farm has a rating that takes into account the animal care, the profitability and the cleanliness of the farm itself, and while the animal care gets taken care of by providing adequate water and food for them, the cleanliness involves picking up their droppings periodically. This can all be done quicker with the help of farm hands, which do the work for you so you don’t have to make your way back to base as often. These farm hands are various guild masters who can be persuaded to come back home with you and do the dirty work – at least once you complete their quest line.
The main quest of Yonder will take you across the eight different biomes of the world. Gemea is bursting with color and charm, with each of the world’s environments looking visually distinct and lively. The game has a heavy use of bloom, which sometimes can make it difficult to see the landscape because it is washed out by the sun, it often adds a special beauty to the world. Running through the grasslands while the sun sets creates a bright and vibrant sky that is so relaxing that I found myself waiting in excitement for the night to end and the day to start again.
That’s not to say that the night time world of Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles on Xbox One is ugly, far from it. The beautiful glow and shadows created from your lantern while out exploring during the night or the bloom of village lights and fireflies add a sense of calm and serenity to this world; something which I haven’t experienced in a long time. The only issue is that during the night, even with your lantern equipped, it can get incredibly dark making it hard to see your surroundings. I found myself bumping up the gamma for this reason, though that does take away from some of the beauty during the day due to it being more washed out.
Yonder also features multiple seasons and weather events, and so during the winter you’ll find everything covered in a light grey, with you occasionally treated to a truly peaceful snowfall. Other times you’ll be traversing mountain sides through loud thunderstorms. These slight changes are welcome and all are enjoyable in their own way, never lasting too long.
Your enjoyment of the world is only helped by the fantastic score composed by Stephan Schütze. Each track helps add to the sense of wonder you feel while exploring the lands. It’s such a shame that there aren’t more tracks though. Later in the game, some of the more common musical tracks may get a bit annoying just because they play slightly too often, but then, when the music isn’t playing, you just hear the world around you. The ambient sounds in this game almost never get obnoxious and I always found myself relaxing more when I heard them. The only time the squeaks or moos from the animals will become too much is when you are attempting to get said animal back to your farm. When doing this they will almost constantly be making sounds, which can easily get on your nerves.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles has provided an experience that I haven’t found in gaming for a long time. Each and every time I have booted it up, I have been filled with a sense of glee, excited to get back into this beautiful world. While not all of the systems work as well as the developers may have hoped, I have found myself loving almost every minute of my time spent in Gemea and the world of Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles.