Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is an open-world Adventure game. It features such elements as changing night and day cycles, weather and seasons, as well as an interestingly complex crafting system coupled with some easy to manage farming.
Developer: Prideful Sloth
Publisher: Prideful Sloth
Release Date: 18 Jul, 2017
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is an attention-grabbing game in the fact that it is both a relatively short game and yet a rather long one as well. While that may be a bit paradoxical, this slightly confusing description should become clearer in a moment. First off, let’s talk about the game as a whole. You arrive on an island where you are set onto the main quest line. If you chose to do nothing but a bare minimum exploration and simply follow this main quest line, you will end the game fairly quickly. Sure, you will get a cursory glance at the various zones the island has to offer as the main quests sends you to various places, but in the end, you barely scratch the surface of the game. This means you will miss a great deal of the fun. Each place you visit usually has an assortment of side-quests available. Tracking down and completing every side quest will likely double the play time for the game and, of course, adds considerably to the intrigue.
Game Impressions and Review
One of the most interesting features the game has to offer is actually easily missed or skipped over, and that would be a shame. The crafting system and the farming system are both underutilized in the game. By simply collecting the various articles you find on your way and trading for the things you need, it is fully possible to make it through the entire game without ever having to use those systems again after you are initially shown them. Even if you do the crafting side quests, the farming system is pretty much completely rendered unnecessary due to how easily found or traded for almost all of the items are. I have to admit, I was pretty far into the game before I even started farming proper. My hired farmhand collected the various things my farm produced and stuffed them into a box for me to eventually collect. The thing is, I never did get around to collecting the items or even setting up a second farm until after the game was over. Part of the reason for it was that what I believe to have been a bug was holding me back from farming properly. I was on both the Tailor skill quest line and on the Message Board quest line, and both had the same NPC to turn the quests in at. The issue was, even though I completed the Tailor starter quest early on (make a basic shirt), I couldn’t turn it in due to the NPC defaulting to saying I had not completed the Message Board quest. The Message Board quest required me to turn in three fish that I just could not find available anywhere for the longest time (eventually I did find where to catch them though). The reason why this prevented me from farming properly is my Tinker (engineering) crafting required me to use Tailor made rivets in my machines and rivets seemed to be a rather rare find at the various NPC stores. I did eventually find some rivets later on, so it would have been possible to go without the Tailor quest completion, but I didn’t find them until I could already make them myself. Basically, as a result, I never could make the cheese, butter, fertilizer, etc. I needed to do my Chef quest properly and had to rely on just buying it from the store, rendering the whole farming concept almost pointless for me! Plus, it took far less time, even with the fast travel Sage Stones, to just collect random junk and trade it for the items I needed rather than traveling all the way to my farm and then back to the NPC. Eventually, I used my various farms to produce at least one of everything. I then waited around for my chests to fill and ended up crafting a ton of things, but at that point, all my mastery quests were completed so I was mostly just doing it for the sake of doing it. I did enjoy it, though. It became quite fun to make various things around my farms and then be able to sell my farm goods to get other materials which I couldn’t find a way to produce on my own. If used properly, the farm will greatly aid you in your adventure, but just taking anything that isn’t nailed down and smashing anything you see will yield far more bounty than you will know what to do with as it is.
Let’s roll it back a moment. The first thing you do when loading up the game is to create your character. The customization is limited to general color preferences for the character’s hair, skin and eyes and the body shape and type you want your character to have. The nice thing is even if you dislike how your character turns out, you are able to customize it further once you are in the game. You are able to use colored shampoos as well as wigs/hairstyles to change your hair type. Additionally, you can also wear various outfits that you earn from doing quests, buying from shops or making yourself with your various craft skills. Even the backpack you use to carry your goods can be changed to suit your tastes. All equipables are cosmetic though, so you don’t need to worry about having to choose between stats or looks, which is always nice. Taking that a step further, there are actually no character stats in this game whatsoever. Your character doesn’t earn experience points, has no displayed stats to improve, your character at the start of the game is identical to your character at the end of the game. It does make sense for this sort of game though as you never get into any fights at all. It’s a peaceful island that you washed up on, full of friendly people and tame animals. The only things in the game that have any kind of progress-able statistics are the various zones and farms. The more work you do on developing your farm, the higher the rating it will get and the more impact it will have for you. Similarly, the more you do for the various zones you visit, the better they will get and more useful they will be for you. For example, wildlife will become more common making it easier for you to stock your farm with creatures.
The day/night diurnal cycle, weather and the seasonal cycle actually impact your game as well. Depending on the time of day or what season it is can really impact what you find. If you look at fishing for example, certain fish will only spawn for you when it is a certain time of day, like the which Ghost fish appears at night. The seasons also have an impact, such as whether or not you will find certain creatures roaming the land as well. I’ve always found it a nice touch when a game bothers to add these systems into them as they really add to the atmosphere. When they go beyond just atmospheric and actually impact game play, that makes it even better. It’s also likely the reason I found it so hard to find the fish I needed to clear that Message Board quest in order to turn in my unrelated Tailor quest. The fish in question likely needed specific conditions for them to show up, and when I had been fishing in the right type of spots for them, it was simply the wrong time of day or season or perhaps even weather conditions to find it. That, or they are just incredibly rare fish that I happened to catch. Almost three in a row for when I eventually did get them on about my seventh circle around the island.
Let’s talk about the gameplay in more detail now. The game could be considered, to a certain degree, a walking simulator. There is no combat at all in the game, and you can’t even die in it. There is no fall damage thanks to your Mary Poppins-esque parachute umbrella that slowly and safely guides you back to the ground if you are so bold as to jump over a cliff. Your character is also unable to swim, so if you happen to land in water that is over your head, you simply respawn again back on solid ground without any consequences. This water respawn system did get annoying at times when I was trying to cross a narrow gap that was slightly too far to just jump across unless you aimed and landed just right on the other side or maybe quickly scurried out of the water onto the island before the cold clutches of respawn nabbed you. It was evident you were supposed to be able to leap across to it after removing the murk surrounding the icy island because there was a chest sitting there for you to open. I tried running and jumping from all different angles including from within the extra shallow water, but the instant my shorts got a bit damp from the deeper but still not over my head deep water, I would get yanked back and tossed on shore again. I even tried climbing a mountain nearby and leapt off of it, but I didn’t float far enough forward to land on the island. The mystery of the contents of that chest haunts me to this day. Perhaps if I visit it in another season it might be reachable, but it would be the only relatively minor thing in the game that was impacted that drastically by the seasonal system ,so I’m not quite certain if that is the trick to it or not!
While walking around, as mentioned before, you are able to collect random articles laying around, such as the contents of the mysterious chest I mentioned in the previous paragraph. It is always obvious what tool you need to use to interact with which ever object you are trying to interact with. An axe icon, for example, will show if you are standing near a tree. You then manually swap to your axe and start chopping. Three chops fells the tree, three more uproots the stump allowing you to plant a new tree in its place if you are so inclined. It would have been quite handy had the system automatically switched you to using the correct tool to interact with each item rather than making you manually select it. Since it is just a matter of pressing one button repeatedly until you have the correct tool out, I have to admit it’s not actually that big of deal. While you are exploring and grabbing things you will find quite a few points of interest scattered around the land. Sage Stones, once you fulfill their initial request, will allow you to quickly move between areas you have interacted with the Sage Stones in before. You will also find bridges that need repairing which will allow you easier access to new areas once you do a little work. There are Sprites (little helper creatures) hidden around for you to find and Murk covered areas that your Sprites can fix up. These Sprites reminded me of The Great Gazoo from the classic Flintstones cartoon due to the fact that only your character is able to see them. There are mysterious journals in various ruined buildings that tell fragments of stories. But most importantly, there are cats to collect everywhere. Live your dream of being a Crazy Cat Lady even if you are a male character! Collect cats from around the land! All different types! Those kids have a cat? Nope, not anymore, it’s my cat now! Oh look at you, so cute rolling around and purring so happily here in your freedom…well its right into my cramped backpack for you! This game won a lot of points with me for having cats as a collectible. That’s way better than silly hidden packages in other games! Hidden packages that don’t even purr! or make those adorable faces! or are so soft and cuddly! or lick your cheek with those tickly little pink tongues! Cats!
Where were we… oh right cat…aloging the Chronicles of this game! The name sake of the game, the Cloud Catcher is a giant windmill like machine that was mysteriously broken. The mystery is revealed at the end of the game so it doesn’t leave you hanging. Fixing the Cloud Catcher so that it may clear the land of Murk is your only real goal for the game. To fix it in traditional fetch quest fashion, you need to collect three rare items scattered around the island. In order to actually get each of the items, you have to collect the raw materials needed to acquire it. Your farm, if you had it running, would likely help you with that to a degree, but it mostly needs you to go somewhere to do something in order to collect the rare material needed. So basically, you need to do additional fetch quests in order to complete your fetch quest. Since fetch quests are the bread and butter of the game, it’s nice that they are interlinked like that to give them some meaning and make the fetch quests seem worthwhile.
Each of the areas you visit has a different appearance which contributes to the feeling that you are moving around a vast island. Each area also has a Sage Stone fast travel system to help you hop around the island more quickly. Unfortunately, some of them are located in rather out of the way places, so I found myself often forgoing the fast travel network and just running around. I could loot more stuff that way too, so it came down to do I want to spend all that time heading for the fast travel network or just run there myself. In the end, most of the time it worked out to be just as quick to simply leg it there and ignore the Sage Stone, except when I wanted to go to a desert area due to the need to take a boat there anyway. I had a secondary reason for that as well. Since the game doesn’t really have need of transition screens, as you move around the island you can travel uninterrupted. Twice when using the Sage Stones, the game experienced a bug when exiting the stone which caused my character to become trapped in the ground with torn/missing textures and unable to move or access any of the menus. Luckily, the auto-save rescued me the first time since it had been quite some time since I had last manually saved. Other than that little glitch, the game ran smoothly. Since the game seems to be getting a fair amount of patches in reasonably quick succession, odds are this issue will be ancient history soon enough.
The lack of combat in any form in the game should make it accessible for players of all ages. The controls are refined enough that they are very simple to use and also do not require you to perform any sort of combos or button mashing in order to make it through the game. I actually believe this to be a good thing as I am not really a fan of quick time events or button mashing because for the former, my reaction time is almost always too slow to maintain a chain for long, and for the latter because it seems awfully hard on my kind of expensive game pad to be mashing its buttons like that. The lack of combat also makes Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles a very relaxing game. If you ever grow tired of questing, the farming aspect is, in fact, a lot of fun giving you the chance to design what you want and where in each of your farms. You choose which style and type of buildings you want for each of your many farms and then decide if you want to carry a theme, mix and match or simply build the style that suits the land around it best. These plans are all based on the blueprints you unlocked by mastering various trade skills. I would have liked the farm to have more of a real purpose in the game, but then again, if it had been a critical factor in the game it may be considered off putting by those just trying to quest their way through.
The visuals in the game are all well done. The people look a little strange in comparison to real humans, but that was a style choice and I actually think it worked well. You can tell each of the creatures had a real-life counterpart used in their design; however, they were each tailored into their own unique creature for the game. The night sky is beautiful to behold. I swear I saw shooting stars overhead from time to time although whenever I would specifically look for them, I could never seem to spot one. The rainy weather effect also suitably makes the area you are in seem dark and gloomy even if it is the middle of the day and gave it a realistic feel. The scenery in each of the zones and the zones themselves were designed quite well. Each one had its own unique feel to it from the icy mountains to the swampy lowlands and the scorching desert, each one was very easy on the eye and enjoyable to explore. The minimap left a little to be desired at times when it would show an apparent path to get to the area you were heading to and, instead, finding it led you to a dead end. Also, in that respect, the compass could have been a little more useful as well, however, I really enjoyed the light effect the compass used as it drew its beam towards its target. The compass, when used, points at the NPC that issued the quest for the most part. The way it is described in the game is that it is supposed to lead you where you need to go; however, I had no need to revisit the NPC that gave me the quest until I had found the items the NPC had tasked me to find. On a positive note, once I did complete a mission, the compass showing me where to turn it in was quite handy.
The music and sound effects in this game are, for the most part, pleasant. From time to time, the jingling of the various buckles on my character’s backpack would become a little irritating, but that was mostly when I was already getting a little frustrated due to being a little lost or unable to find my fish! The cute meows and purrs of the various cats I encountered as I wandered aimlessly really helped to soothe my frustration, though. None of the characters you meet in the game actually talk, they just make a noise and display text on the screen. This works fairly well for the game, as it allowed it to support multiple languages easily without anyone getting that nagging feeling that they are missing something with their inability to understand what the characters are verbally saying.
So, should you get Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles? Well, if you are looking for a relaxing game to help unwind after a stressful day or hard gaming sessions, then Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles has the potential to be that for you. If you are not an avid gamer or have a child and you want a game for them that is both entertaining and not overly challenging, then you will likely enjoy this one. If you are looking for a full-blown farming simulator that requires you to meticulously care for your crops and animals, then you will want to look elsewhere. The farms in this game are mostly just you designing how you want them to be laid out and selecting what the farm will produce. After that, you can just hire someone to take care of the farm and then forget about it until you need something from it. If you enjoy crafting things in games, then this game definitely has that to offer you as the crafting system is quite large and interconnected meaning that you often find yourself having to make the components of the components, of the components you need to make the item you want. The crafting system isn’t utilized that heavily in the game, but that didn’t stop me from trying to make every item in the game I could manage. Overall, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is definitely a game that I will be saving for later.