Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles review: ‘Wander over Yonder’

If I were to tell you about my dream game, I would tell you this: “I want a game that lets me explore a world, farm, meet people and walk around and relax.” Games like Harvest Moon are some of my favorite of all time because of that simple gameplay design. So naturally when I heard about Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles I was immediately attracted to the project and was anticipating it with bated breath. There aren’t many games out that fill this niche and do it on such a level of that originator, Harvest Moon. I expected Yonder to fulfill my hunger, but if anything, the game barely satiated my palette.

While on paper Yonder meets all of the aspects of my dream game, in execution it misses on almost every level. What really disappoints me is that I feel like it could truly have met my expectations with a little more tweaking and a cleaner presentation overall.

Yonder is an easy game to explain: you’re a guy who becomes stranded on an island and you’re tasked with getting rid of a murk around the whole of it. This involves you are walking around and helping the inhabitants of the island, exploring, crafting and trading. The ecosystem of Yonder is unique in that you trade in goods, not with money. So, if you find a merchant, you have to sell him items and he will give you an approximation of how much it costs, and then you use that to buy whatever goods he has.

And naturally this idea of trading transfers to inhabitants that specialize in certain skills. Around the island of Yonder you can find many people to learn crafting skills from, Guilds, or special workers who can make an item for you. For example, there’s a logger who can make refined wood if you bring him the appropriate materials.

By exploring the island and completing tasks you’ll sometimes acquire sprites, which are like fairies that are used to get rid of the murk. As the purple murk settles on the land a number that pops up indicates how many sprites you need to get rid of the icky cloud. So, much of the progress in the game is blocked behind finding these sprites so you can clear the murk and unlock whatever building, person or area it’s blocking. The idea of having to find a certain amount of them to unlock buildings, farms, people, towns, caves, etc, sets up a weird dynamic. It sets up a weird mental check list where it makes us think, “oh, I can’t sit here and enjoy this area, I have to get these other things to open up more of the game,” and it’s not that fun.

Yonder also feels super lopsided in its ideas. There are some systems that are ironed out and work well and that I enjoy, like the economy system and the general super cute town design, but the others, like crafting and farming, are quite off. The crafting is cluttered and overall very confusing to use. There are obvious ways to get certain items at the beginning, like wood or vines, etc., but if you want glue or mortar to build an area to grow seeds, you have to find items with no idea where they could be located. Eventually, though, I personally found them through breaking crates. There’s a lot of back and forth you have to do with the specialized workers, like crafting a lumberjack box before you can craft anything else. It’s a huge amount of steps for the system and it feels cumbersome.

Farming isn’t as confusing but it’s just as disappointing to me. After you craft an area for farming or growing a tree, the game takes over and that’s it. You can just leave it and come back later, and the harvesting is already done and placed in a box for you. The same happens with animal products; there are only eight animals in the entire game and each produce a certain product you can sell for trading or a quest. That’s all there is to it, you craft and make a farm just to make products to sell or complete quests. The way all of the systems work together feels very one sided and ultimately disappointing. There’s no reason to work hard at your farm, craft or meet people besides ticking off a box to meet your end goal.

Honestly a game like Yonder isn’t all that offensive to me. I had some fun when I was exploring and trying to figure out the game for my review. I could see myself chipping away hours at it when I need to relax or want something to do while I listen to a podcast. Yonder has systems that I think many people might enjoy if they don’t have extensive experience with other simulation/farming games like Harvest Moon, Factorio, Rune Factory, Stardew Valley and Minecraft.

But, there are many differences between Yonder and these other titles. Its biggest sin isn’t the clunky systems or the bloom effect being turned up to 100%, it’s the way the game feels. Your character’s movement feels sluggish and the camera positioning is very abhorrent. The view swings so wide and shows so much ahead of you, but if you want to look behind the space is so small and restrictive that it feels claustrophobic. Additionally, your character feels like they are constantly walking on ice and sliding around, and turning a full 180 is a slow and meandering experience. Honestly, I think I could just write off Yonder as an okay experience and add it to my list of “games to play when I wanna chill,” but the way the game feels is just THAT bad. It was a huge let down when I first got control of the character because my expectations were so high, and then repeatedly thereafter the game kept knocking my enthusiasm down a peg, moment after moment. It’s a shame, but maybe with time Yonder can blossom into something more. But as the game stands it fumbles way before the finish line.

This review is based on a Steam retail code for the game sent to SideQuesting by the publisher.

Author: Zach Quest

I'm so boring I sat here and tried to think of a bio for a few minutes. Just follow my twitter: https://twitter.com/okayquest

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