A relaxed and charming experience, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a third-person open-world adventure and exploration game with light simulation and farm-building elements.
Prideful Sloth Games set out to make Yonder a relaxing and fun experience for all and in that regard, they have succeeded. The lovely visuals, the peaceful music, the explorable landscape, lack of combat and free approach to tasks makes for a delightful experience.
Players take on the role of a young person, a fully customisable no-name character, whose boat crashes ashore on the lost island of Gemea. The island is plagued by a dark aura known as murk. Something that covers parts of the island and stops your character from progressing to certain areas and uncovering items. Your goal is to get rid of the murk and find out who you are at the same time, as your identity is linked to Gemea.
Explore, complete tasks for the people of Gemea, build farms, get rid of murk, and find Sprites. The latter being fairy-like creatures that are needed to destroy the murk itself. They are hidden about the land and sometimes a reward for completing a specific task. They are just one of a few different collectibles that feature in Yonder. Alongside different fish (you can go fishing), animals you can adopt on your farms and constellations.
Although, if you don’t want to scour the land completing your task book, you don’t have too. Such is the relaxed nature of Yonder’s gameplay. Do what you wish, when you wish, and you can complete the main story of the game within four to five hours. Longevity comes from all the other tasks and gameplay elements.
Gameplay elements that do inevitably expose some of Yonder’s flaws. Most notably how almost every task given to you by the people of Yonder results in little more than ‘get items, deliver items’. Items that you often have to create yourself through collecting, harvesting and crafting. The latter being one of the more important elements as there are several tabs of different crafting abilities that grow upon completing tasks related to becoming a master crafter.
Yet, strangely, some items you just can’t craft. Such as planks which force you to constantly chop down trees to get wood then take the wood to a specific character who turns it into planks. Considering your character can craft all manner of things, including huts for animals to stay in on your farms, it’s an odd process to go through. It would also be more forgivable too if the fast-travel system wasn’t such a mess.
Done in two ways – you can either craft devices that allow you to travel to one of your farms but only once they have been discovered and built. Or you can unlock shrines and use them to travel between areas of the land. Of the two, the latter is poor. Upon entering the mouth of a shrine, you are transported to a sort of hub that has all the accessible shrines you have unlocked in Gemea in a ring. Choose one, go in and you will appear in that area of the land. The problem? The only way to know which shrine leads to which area is to study the background and match the visual to the area. No signpost or other indication of where it goes.
It’s small things like this that frustrate, which is a shame as Yonder really does deliver relaxing exploration gameplay. There are no game over screens and you certainly can’t die. Even your character ‘drowning’ just puts you back on land exactly where you fell into the water.
Prideful Sloth Games really want you to have a good time here and most will. The world of Gemea is aesthetically pleasing and the freedom they allow you to have within it, is welcome. This is a game ripe for a sequel. One that hopefully improves on some issues. A little more depth to elements like farming and caring for animals, a bit more variety in tasks and a better fast-travel system and we’d be talking about something great here instead of just good.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (Xbox Series X)
The Final Score - 7/10