The intro to Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles hits familiar beats. You’ve seen them before, in games like The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, where our hero has been swept away at sea to an unfamiliar land. There is a well of inspiration that I found during my playthrough of Yonder and each one left a mark on the final product, which while not original, is very personal, a product filled with love and wonder.
It’s hard not to love Yonder, a small indie title that is bright and colorful, and gorgeous to look at. There is this innocence that you find in this title that is hard to find in so many games available today. Knowing that every time I got to sit down and play Yonder, I didn’t need to worry about levels, weapons, and money was euphoric, the stress of making sure I was well equipped to handle an enemy was replaced by the serene feeling of discovering what lies ahead.
Yonder begins with a simple character creator, after that you’re left to explore Gemea, the land you’ve been shipwrecked upon. The only item of worry is Murk, an evil mist that is taking over the land. The only way to counteract the effects of Murk is to collect sprites, which are adorable by the way, and banish the mist. To complete the story, expect anywhere between five-seven hours, which seems short but the way Prideful Sloth developed the game, there is a ton you can do even after completing the story.
The land of Gemea is split into eight environments, and each area has its own distinction. Each area allows you to establish a farm and take advantage of the land by breeding animals, growing crops and trading with villagers. Tending to your animals yield items to trade; it’s all very reminiscent of Harvest Moon.
Yonder features a full day/night cycle that while welcome, I found that days were far too short, and many times I would be caught exploring at night with my lamp getting me through the night, and while not every night was the same; I often came upon neat surprises during my travels. Near the start, you are given a geocache, a key item you can put items into and leave them around the world where other players can discover and obtain the contents of your cache. As you get through the tutorials, the geocache is unlocked, I would often put in odd items and leave it around Gemea. Coming up on other characters boxed can sometimes yield valuable items for you.
Speaking with villagers is little more than to get quests done, few provide any real conversation and often are catalysts to more quests, however, some do provide comedic relief during your interactions with them. I noticed many were pleasant and never negative when approaching them, a sign that everything in Gemea is well adjusted and happy, given the situation.
Out of the three pillars of exploration, quests, and world building, I found myself simply walking around looking for more land to uncover, finding secrets and collecting valuables. The downside here is the map has some issues labeling everything of interest. Questing often should reward you for completing a task in-game, with Yonder you will a notification explain that you’ve cleared the Murk.
With combat being out of the picture, you’re left to wonder and gather resources, often coming from someone who wants to trade items with you. As time goes on the requests get more complex, and you’ll need to thoroughly explore each biome of Gemea to gather what you need.
Yonder is a visual treat, packed with charm and a solid foundation. While lacking original ideas, the ones Yonder does borrow are tweaked just enough to keep me invested. To remove combat, even a leveling system, is a bold design choice but the brevity of doing it works in favor for Yonder.