Straight off the bat, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is the closest thing you’re going to get to an Animal Crossing/Harvest Moon-like game on Xbox One. It’s a truly gratifying and relaxing experience, and one that never proves to be all that taxing. The game takes place in the lush fantastical world of Gemea, a locale that’s compiled of eight distinct regions, all bringing their own unique properties and opportunities. Though, through all of that beauty and splendor, things aren’t quite as tranquil as expected. That’s exactly where you come in.
Players take on the role of a custom player, with a fairly generous character suite to select from. The game’s premise sees you on-board a ship in the midst of a fierce storm, and before long, things take a turn for worse when you’re seemingly shipwrecked. Soon after, you awaken on the shores of Gemea, a place that mysteriously alludes your memory. The game’s plot has its own quest-line, but in truth, I cant say that I paid that much attention to it. It’s a charming story, for sure, but it doesn’t really have that much weight or traction.
By and large, it’s the gameplay and the game’s many systems that, despite some issues, steals the spotlight here. Nevertheless, if you’re present for the story alone, its quest-line remains distinguished throughout, making it fairly easy to follow. It’s immediately apparent that Gemea has fell victim to some nasty problems, made apparent by the fact that a substance known as Murk has gripped several sections of each region. The only way to clear said Murk? Through the power of Sprites; magical creatures that you’ll collect throughout.
During your adventures, you’ll be forced to track down these deviously hidden Sprites to clear out all of the land’s Murk. You’re introduced to your first Sprite very early on, and as such, you’re able to clear the first Murk with this Sprite alone. That said, Murk arrives in all shapes and sizes, and you’ll need more than just the one Sprite to clear it all up. It’s always made clear to you how many Sprites are needed to clear specific patches of Murk, but finding and enlisting more Sprites is a lot trickier than it sounds. Why? They freakin’ hide.
Sprite hunting is pretty much exactly that, an elaborate game of hide and seek. The game’s map will tell you how many Sprites sit in each region, allowing you to keep track of how many you have per-area. Outside of that, you’re on your own. You’ll be traversing the lush world of Gemea in search of these Sprites, and the only real telltale sign that one is nearby, is through a shiny light that emits from their hiding spot. The kicker, however, is that not all of them will join you outright. Some require puzzle solving and some light tasks first.
Nothing too brain straining, but a nice touch nonetheless. Clearing Murk oftentimes grants you access to hidden areas and extra goodies. So it pays off to properly study your surroundings. That’s just one of the game’s systems, and believe me, there’s many more awaiting your attention. Yonder sports a crafting system, a farming system, countless quests, the ability to barter with the locals, and much more besides. Everything is kept clean, simple, and concise throughout the entirety of play, making for an accessible trek.
First and foremost, each region has its own chart that you can access via the map. This, above all else, relays information about how healthy and happy each region is. Most improvements are made through completing quests, tending to the farms and the environments, seeking out Sprites, and clearing Murk. Quest givers are all over the place, and tend to dish out gofer tasks as though you’ve been their lifelong butler. This is where the game falls short. Many of the tasks are tedious, or so damn simple they’re pointless.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re still fun for the most part, but needing to play fetch every few minutes gets tiresome in the long-run. It would have been nice to see the game’s few puzzle aspects taking a front seat here, or at least see some quests that were more contained. However, as it stands, it can all feel very “to pass-the-time” when you’ve sunk some hours in. Especially when you’re playing for prolonged periods of time. Regardless, it’s hard to get grumpy in Gemea. There’s just so much to see, so much to track down, and so much to do.
Each region typically houses at least one mini village. Here, you’ll find the aforementioned quest givers, traders, guilds, and more. Yonder takes quite a unique approach when it comes to item acquisition. Whilst there’s never a shortage of items and goodies to pick up out in the wild, sometimes you’ll need to barter with a trader to get the wares that you need. Unlike many other games, you don’t buy these wares in Yonder, you trade for them. Traders will only take something that’s equal to the worth of the item that they’re giving.
What this is means is that you’ll select something from their item pool, and will need to ensure that whatever you select from your backpack meets the same cost. There’s a light system in place that alters the worth and value of the game’s items over time and trades, but it’s all effortlessly relayed to you in an easy to understand fashion. Guilds are equally as similar, and there’s plenty of them in Yonder to join. You’re can join them as and when you please, with most of them demanding a trial-like quest before you get in on the exclusivity.
Guilds include the likes of construction, cheffing, brewery, and so forth. Once you’ve joined a guild, you’ll have access to new crafting tools and blueprints, and once you master that guild, you’ll unlock more. The game’s crafting is, once again, very straightforward thanks to the game’s clean UI. You’ll always be told what components an item (or structure) needs in order to be crafted. When you cant find the items that you desire at the traders, common sense will usually direct you to the items in the game’s impressively large open world.
When you have the bits and bobs that you need, you’ll simply hit the crafting tab and make your desired object. Simple, and effective. You’ll bond with this system early on, and then lean on it throughout. I say this because most of the quest givers typically ask for very specific items, which you’ll oftentimes need to explore for their components before you can craft them. The story quest-line does this a lot too, though, once the six(ish) hour story comes to an end, you’re given many more quests to take on to enjoy at your own pace.
Scavenging resources out in the wild is every bit as accessible as you would expect it to be. The game slaps you with all the tools that you need at the beginning of the game; an axe, a mallet, a scythe, and so on. You’ll simply select your tool and have at it. Need some wood? Chop down a tree. Need some stone? Hammer some rocks. These tools also come in handy for seeking out hidden sections on the map. Several times did I find a hidden wall that I could hammer down, to then find a room full of item-stuffed chests. Be vigilant, folks!
When you’re not exploring the game’s world, tending to a quest giver’s every need, or seeking out Sprites and clearing Murk, you’ll likely be enjoying a bit of side content. This comes in the form of farming, fishing, and tracking down constellations. This, again, was a bit hit and miss for me. Whilst I enjoyed the farming, I cant quite say that I enjoyed the fishing. Fishing, despite the numerous amount of unique fish per-body of water is just a bit too bare-bones, consisting of little more than casting your rod and wiggling the thumbstick.
It just felt very tacked on, with some of the game’s quest givers being tied to it to make it feel more necessary than it is. Farming, on the other hand, has some more depth. There are numerous spots that farms can be built and then expanded upon in the game. You’re free to manage and build upon your farm however you see fit, with all the expected tools present to keep you engaged; animal pens, garden plots, and so on. Once you’ve built a farm, you’ll need to earn the trust of an animal by feeding them, and then guide them to your farm.
There’s a range of different animals in the game, and when combined with crop/tree growth, can produce extra resources to help you in your adventures. The ability to edit a farm is present, and each farm comes with its own rating system that’s compiled of cleanliness, value produced, and animal care. The best way to keep these stats upheld is to ensure that your farm is free of poop, and that your animals are well fed and well watered. Later in the game, you can hire local help to keep your farms maintained in the long-run.
Thankfully, each farm also have a large storage chest, which comes in handy for when your backpack becomes full. Furthermore, this storage chest is not exclusive per-farm, meaning that you can access the same storage system at any farm throughout. Naturally, you’ll want to ensure that you’ve mastered some of your guilds to alter the aesthetic of each farm. It’s not a massively deep system, but it’s intuitive and relaxed nonetheless, and feeds into the game quite nicely overall. Constellation hunting, however, is much easier to accomplish.
Much like Sprites, there are numerous constellations hidden around the game’s world. The same can be said about cats. Gemea is chock-full of cats that you can pick up and collect. Nothing groundbreaking, but a nice way to encourage players to enjoy as much of the game’s world as possible. I also quite enjoyed the seasonal content too. You see, Yonder houses a day/night cycle that sits on a calendar cycle. Seasonal events such as Halloween, pop up infrequently with their own unique trader opportunities and gameplay mechanics.
For Halloween, I found myself seeking out candy and knocking door to door to trick or treat. Once I had amassed enough candy, I could go and spend that on some fun looking cosmetics over at the Halloween trader. It’s a decent way, much like Animal Crossing, to keep players coming back for new and exciting reasons. Overall, that’s the general crux of play. You’ll arrive on the island with no shortage of things to do, and can tackle pretty much all of the above in any order that you like with no barriers in place other than that of Sprite and Murk.
The gradual map progression is nicely done, with a smart fast-travel system in place to get you from A to B as and when needed. My only gripe in regards to its world is that its NPCs don’t do a great job of relaying its history or its meaning. It would have been nice to see more effort spared here, if for anything, to make Gemea that more enthralling. Still, one has to appreciate the diversity that’s present in regards to the game’s distinct regions. They all look unique, with wonderful design choices and clever ideas throughout each location.
Talking more specifically about the game’s visuals, Yonder is a treat for the most part. The game has a very cartoon-like vibe to it, with no shortage of vibrant, sharp details from tip to foot. The day and night cycle holds up well too, giving off different vibes per-region, per-time of day. There’s a few framerate issues present, but nothing that really caused much of a hindrance. I’ll also commend the game for its decent audio design, putting forward a wonderful soundtrack that goes on to well and truly set the mood of the game nicely.
Yonder’s world is as endearing as it is captivating, but the Animal Crossing/Harvest Moon-esque content that fills it, although accessible and plentiful, isn’t quite as robust as it appears to be. Whilst most of the game’s fun quests and opportunities have meaning and depth, a large portion of them feel needless and tacked on, merely to bolster longevity. Still, overall, it’s hard not to be allured by the game’s diverse and truly relaxing foundation.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.