Independent and Australian-based developer Prideful Sloth have planted their ambitious open-world farming adventure Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles into the Nintendo Switch’s garden of games. This charming game is a light take on a few popular role-playing series, but deeply rewards players who gear up for the adventure it holds. Yonder alleviates many of the pressures commonly found in open-world role-playing games such as crazy level requirements, dying and even battling in general; the focus is more on exploration and collecting. The payoff is a relaxing one that everybody can play.
There’s a calling for the protagonist of Yonder. Enshrouding the land of Gemea, murk has consumed many portions and paths putting a pause on nearby settlements to go about their daily routes. Yonder opens up with the main character chosen to seek out Gemea’s mysteries and to return it back to its uninterrupted, clean and peaceful state it once was in. There’s no real sense of danger, but rather discovery. 8 different regions are connected in one beautiful seamless world where you’re invited to explore all that it has. Granted, the main story that when followed can be completed in much less time than what the rest of the game has to offer, but narrative is there for the player to search for themselves through their travels, completing quests, learning skills and building relationships. Doing so put my playtime already at the 30 hour mark with some left to do. As used the phrase is, it’s more about the journey. It doesn’t ‘end’ when you only hit the main quest bits.
Once you’re off to roam about, you will be hinted to waypoints of interest. Speaking with nearby villagers who are in need of help will offer you essential items you’ll be using for the entirety of your journey. Often these quests are simple in nature and not compelling, but they are there to drive exploration and gather resources along the way. Occasionally a unique quest will come your way with additional layers and give you a nice reward. Chances are if you’re a deep explorer who easily gets distracted moving towards whatever catches your eye you may have already obtained that very item, lessening the excitement for it once you’ve gotten it. Since everyone plays differently, Yonder finds a way to balance the value of items in your inventory and their function. The various locations of Gemea all play off each other and gives the player incentives to explore.
Within Gemea contains 8 interconnected biomes to explore, each with their own climate, flora & fauna. Shared across all regions is a day/night cycle which takes place as well as all 4 seasons. Kept track of is the day and even years passed. The game is beautiful with many scenic moments and changing weather effects such as rain and thunderstorms, warm bloom lighting from the sun and more. Pastures during the summer will be vibrant with green, but will change in hue such as winter looking colder with less saturated grass and frosty winds. While the non-snowy regions don’t actually collect snow, the atmosphere certainly feels the part. Capturing moments with the view you had an eye for is possible with the included Photo Mode being able to change zoom, focus blur, angle tilts & exposure to get it just how you envisioned. It is also possible to adjust the amount of bloom of normal gameplay in the options.
Yonder doesn’t hold your hand in any way, but it does easily reward you for seeing through objectives. The best rewards you can go after are by joining guilds and completing guild quests themselves. Guilds aren’t made out to be a grand experience with schools and intense lessons. In fact, they all involve specializing in that particular craft. Crafting plays a large role in Yonder. By starting out as a novice in a guild you will be given a few items and a recipe to craft something for your instructor. Once the task has been completed, you’ll earn a Novice ranking and will be awarded a badge which you can then place on your backpack resembling the idea of boy/girl scouts. The next rank to obtain is Master and once you’ve crafted 1000 in value of that particular skill, you will be awarded a badge for that as well. It is possible to craft new backpacks if you’ve joined the Tailors Guild, but it’s also not all.
Say you’ve become a master in tailoring and learned many new recipes for crafting unique clothes and accessories, you’ve also earned a discount at a trader who deals with tailored goods. Likewise, any related items you have will be less in value for that particular settlement. Each town has their own guild with new recipes and crafting skills for you to learn. Since each town are spread out and residents refuse to go on their trading route, they all look for particular items. So that new backpack you’ve just stitched together might be high in value in a town that is particularly looking for clothes. Guilds aren’t difficult to join, but crafting the necessities requires resources and it’s your job as the player to seek them out. Players can tailor, cook, tinker, brew, among other skills. They also overlap in smart ways. You may be able to create of piece of clothing using a particular dye you found, but dyes can also be created if you’re proficient in brewery.
Every resource you collect or harvest have multiple uses and purpose. None of them are useless enough to be discarded, although you may find yourself dropping stacks of a particular item if you’re a hoarder who needs to make room in their backpack. Every rock you collect and flower you harvest has various uses on your adventure and often overlap in different area of skills as well. What they are used for also makes sense within the world. No matter which direction you are headed in, there’s enough resources for the player to collect should they choose to do so. However, if you’re asking why an open-world game with quests & guilds has no enemies, it’s because Yonder aims to be a mish-mash of a few different games and succeeds at having its own flavor. It’s extremely chill and a go-at-your-own-pace experience. As such, this might not be for everyone who’s looking for the next open-world adventure. Still, there’s enough to see and collect that the formula is fun for all ages. Worry-free exploration is Yonder’s strong suit and it wears charm on its sleeves.
When you start to visit the right people, you will obtain all the tools you need. A mallet, pickax, wedge ax & fishing rod will net you valuable resources. It’s a repetitious endeavor that’s addicting. Players can jump by pressing B, although don’t expect to walk up or down certain slopes. Although in one case, if you manage to do so, you might find an easter egg. In fact, movement in general can take a moment to get used to. Making sudden turns while running will have the character pause briefly to shift in a new direction. This may feel a little clumsy at first, well and you may not even like it the whole time, but it also felt natural to me and ended up as being a non-factor. Talking to people and even actions in the world is done by pressing Y. Picking up stones and collecting vines, piles of clay, flowers are quick & simple actions. Using your set of tools where it’s needed will earn you multiple resources. And it’s satisfying. Slamming your mallet against a boulder and watching it crack with each swing until it bursts into stones feels nice. Using your pickax for mineral deposits provides a nice clink (the shimmering reflections also invite you to take a swing). Chopping trees is the same, hearing piles of wood hit the ground and then collecting materials. Chopping a tree down will leave a stump, but destroying that as well earns you even more. It also leaves a soil mound for you to plant a new tree, something that’s kept track of for each region. So take what you need and give back to the earth!
Regions also hold vacant spots for you to start your own farm. Provided you have enough of the required materials, you can build one right away. And it’s good to do so. There are two chests at each farm. One chest is linked to all the others and serves are your main storage for when your backpack holds too much and you want to safely place items to retrieve later. The other is the resources created exclusively at that particular farm. Not only do you obtain resources which can be more difficult to come by, but how you manage your farm also gives you various items which are high in value and once they start to stack up, you’ll be able to obtain expensive items from traders more easily. In fact, the bartering system relies only on trading goods. With the exception of harder-to-come-by Old Kingdom coins used in rare occasions, inventory swapping between you and another takes place. You must trade of at least equal value of the items you are asking for. In some instances it’s okay to overshoot and “rip yourself off” essentially since the income produced at your multiple farms will be plenty.
You can opt to purchase what you need for your farm or craft them yourself. Being skilled in particular crafting will also open up new recipes for enhanced and different constructions. Every animal you see in the world will run from you if you do not have an item in your inventory that they want. Should you happen to have what they like, they will stick around and you can offer them goodies to bond with them. They will follow you around for a short time, although if you keep repeating the process they will continue to follow you. It’s a good idea to take your new friend back to your farm. However, you’ll need a pen of the proper size to keep them sheltered or you won’t take ownership at all. The fauna are cute and many are twists of at least two different animals. They also produce different resources. If you come across a silk fox, you might expect what to gain from it. Other animals aren’t so clear until you hear about it from someone or try it for yourself. If you’ve managed to help someone, feeding them will convince them to take care of your farm while you’re gone, which is essential for maximizing animal care, happiness and overall income. Don’t forget the food and water! At any time, you can release animals you’ve cared for.
You start the game encountering your first Sprite. These are pixie beings who inhabit the land and help you clear the murk spread throughout Gemea. You will need to find more of them during your travels to clear up more of the murk you come across, but thankfully they aren’t difficult to come by. Sometimes they are in hiding spots that have obvious glowing and other times they are found by doing certain quests. They all have their own personality which reflects either their name or the situation which revealed them and often spit out puns when you first meet them, but they go into hiding in your backpack the entire time.
Likewise, and optionally, a certain cat lady will request for you to find all of her cats. You can hear their meows from a distance and their comforting purrs when you collect them.
There’s a lot to find and craft in Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles. From different hair styles, to hats, to facial hair, to glasses, to tops, to bottoms. Smart changes happen in the world such as additional constellations showing up in the sky and marking your progress. During the Fall, a town hosts a Halloween event for rare goodies and mysterious occurrences. The soundtrack isn’t overplayed, but it’s actually quite cheerful when it’s on. The sound itself is nice. From the effects of tools and the nature itself. Headphone users take caution: bird chirping is loud. The sound of bugs and the environment around you is all very convincing. It’s a marvelous time, but also one that’s not entirely optimized properly.
For starters, the d-pad is entirely a laggy experience when navigating menus. It behaves like it’s a train gaining momentum and can move on its own if you’ve pressed it a few times in succession. Multiple times I went to access the ‘Photo Mode’ in the menu and it skipped to ‘Quit to Title Screen’, which it did; which it also doesn’t ask a most needed “Are you sure?”. As using the d-pad as my primary way of navigating through menus, this was an issue. It wasn’t until I tried the left analog stick where I encountered none of those issues. Your mileage may vary.
Framerate seems to vary as well. For the most part, it runs pretty decent. Around 30fps although it can dip below that in some areas. There’s only one area in particular where it’s very noticeable. For as pretty as the game is, it runs alright. In fact, some areas where much less is on screen looks like it goes above 30fps, but that’s a seldom encounter.
The default camera setting is set to “smoothed”. Despite being able to adjust camera sensitivity, this was dreadfully slow. Changing it to “raw” provided a much snappier and precise control over camera movement. This isn’t a flaw of the game itself, but something worth noting.
Fishing is one way to obtain food to give to people who you want attending your farm. As mentioned earlier, resources have multiple uses. Fish can be used for food, in cooking dishes, a means of currency for trading, and even crafting items. Fishing works by casting out into pretty much any body of water that’s nearby and in some cases just a puddle. Different locations and spots of interest may highlight a good fishing spot. At first, a shadow of 1 fish will appear. Then another, and will continue to do so until about 5 or 6 appear all at once. Some fish may move slower than another while others will go after your hook repeatedly. This can be a bit of a trail game at times when you want a certain fish to bite your line while others are going for it instead. It’s a nice way to break the pace instead of just waiting for any fish to bite. However, certain gameplay designs create some tedium.
It doesn’t need to be fish, but when you decide to feed NPC’s, the goal is to feed them to 100% happiness. The value of the food item also depicts how much happiness is gained. This also means you might be feeding them a lot. There’s no way to give NPC’s a bulk of one food item. This can be a bit of a process. Another pacing issue is that there’s no way to fast travel to any discovered location via map. There are alternate means which probably encourage exploration, but sometimes you want to get from point A to point B. There are Sage Stones in each region which allow you to travel between them with ease if you’ve done the task the Sage Stone(s) asked of you. This is a nice feature to access each individual region, but requires you to make the travel to them in the first place. Another mean of fast travel is creating devices which allows you to teleport to any of the farms you own. These deplete upon consumption, but can be used at any time. It’s the better way of getting around faster by first transporting to a farm and working your way from there.