A boy, a compass and a mysterious island. It’s how a good adventure starts, with a mystery worth solving and a new land worth exploring, and at its core, that’s what Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is about.
Genre(s): Adventure | Survival | Sandbox
Developer: Prideful Sloth
Publisher: Prideful Sloth
Release Date: July 2017
Played Main Story
Purchase At: Steam
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles wastes little time in putting you into the plot, with the main character on a boat on a stormy night, with nothing but the light from his mysterious compass, a family heirloom, guiding them towards a legendary island, where fate awaits them.
A shipwreck later and our protagonist finds their way to the nearest settlement where the locals tell him of the Murk, the ever-expanding cloud of darkness spreading throughout the land, blocking passages and making life miserable for all those involved. Now, with the help of villagers and the mysterious spirits of the land—and their patron, an entity tied to the compass—the young adventurer must set off to restore the land.
The plot of Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is straightforward and without any big surprises, the simplicity of it balanced out by the expansive secondary cast and the miles of land to uncover in search for the people and items necessary to succeed at the main goal, ridding the land of the mysterious purple murk corrupting it.
The only problem with the way Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles presents its story is that while on the outset the game does its best in giving you the information about the world, including the terrible circumstances the island is in, the focus of the adventure becomes lost early on in favour of endless fetch and crafting quests and even the administration of your own farm.
Yonder has crafting mechanics, robust in terms of the different contraptions you can create and the number of professions you can pursue, while at the same time keeping them extremely simple to understand, with the different recipes needing just the collection or creation of several materials through the menu interface, which is colour coded and tabbed for your comfort and ease of understanding.
During my time with Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles, I was a tailor, a tinkerer, a carpenter and a few other professions as there are guilds throughout the island and they each have quests revolving around joining their organisations and becoming master artisans.
And you know what, even for an adventure purist like myself, someone who stays as far away from survival and crafting games as much as possible, I found myself drawn in and losing my time creating random thingamabobs or building literal bridges, and leaving the adventure and its plot in the background, unimportant.
And only on replaying the start of Yonder did I realise that the game sets things up this way, giving you a powerful reason to pursue the truth behind the murk and then burying it completely under the weight of its crafting and mercantile mechanics. Even the characters living on the island, those who should be concerned about the murk, waste only precious seconds asking or commenting about it before focusing on their chosen profession and asking your opinion.
Hell, two quests into the game you receive the deed to your own farm, without them even knowing you. They just have this plot of land and it’s all yours and it comes with a built-in butler who will tell you what and how to build and take care of your animals for you.
So, if you’re looking for a focused adventure with peril at every corner and challenges overcome, you’re looking at the wrong game, but if you’re open to the idea of losing yourself in big island, finding people to meet, things to build, guilds to join and murk to clear, then this game is definitely for you. The plot almost goes out the window about five minutes into the game, but it doesn’t matter, because there will be literally hundreds of things to do before you have to worry about going to that murk-covered island you see in the distance or even find out what the Cloud Catcher in the title even is.
Having said so, would it have killed them to add some fast travel to this game? I love exploring but when you have to make long treks for materials or quests, it would be nice to instantly travel back.
If I had to describe Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles’ art style in one word, it would be “cute.” It’s not the prettiest game out there, the visuals feel almost dated at times, but the short & stocky characters, the bright and vibrant colours of the environment and lovable and varied designs of the sprite companions—which you collect like Pokemon to clear the Murk, that’s their only role—will win you over. You won’t care that they all look rather blocky, as it will seem a feature instead of a shortcoming. It’s a beautiful place to explore, each new “zone” having its own weather, flora and fauna.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a game that surprised me. I expected an adventuring romp, discovering an ancient mystery. What I got was a giant island to explore while creating countless items and meeting weird people. I usually hate survival or survival-esque games, but Yonder won me through pure charm.
4/5 – Exceptional!