Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is the lovechild of Zelda and Stardew Valley, and ergo – it’s bound to be many gamers’ new addiction. There’s no combat here at all, so fans of ARPGs where you just bust heads might feel deterred. But don’t be – if you crack into Yonder and let it whisk you away on its mythical journey, you’re going to find a deep crafting, farming, and adventure RPG where combat is not necessary because there are plenty of other ways to explore and experience the world Prideful Sloth has created. This is the kind of Indie game that makes a studio into a household name, and I can only hope you all find as much magic and joy in Yonder as I have. This is our Yonder review.
A World of Wonder and Intrigue
Believe it or not, the makers of Yonder, Prideful Sloth, are full of former Rocksteady developers. Yes, the folks behind this combat free adventure are the same folks who let you crunch bones and break faces in the Arkham Batman games. Gone is the caped crusader, but what remains is the kind of rare and ingenious adventure that just makes the kid in me come to the surface. My wife would come by as I sat at my desk playing Yonder, and ask why I’m smiling. I didn’t have an answer – Yonder just evokes that kind of feeling. It’s a gorgeous world, yet foreboding, and riddled with its own darkness. There are secrets hidden everywhere, and if you’re the type who loves that kind of thing about games like Breath of the Wild for example, you’re going to love Yonder.
Yonder starts with our main character on board a large sea vessel, in search of the island of Gemea, but I’m just going to call it Yonder. It’s a better name, guys. As you draw near, a raging storm forms, lightning strikes, and you’re whisked away by a large mythical being who tells you that your friends are safe but she needs your help to rescue the others from her tribe. Ergo, you’re set upon Yonder (Gemea), and you set off on a quest to retrieve the sprites scattered across the land. You’ll slowly unlock and pull back the dark muck from around the island and repair the ancient technology of the Cloud Catcher.
A Small or Grand Adventure
If you just focus on the main story quests, you could be done with Yonder in 6-8 hours. But the game doesn’t end there, as you can keep playing and uncovering all the world has to offer for hours afterward. I’ve put in about 20 hours so far, and plan to put much more into the game before all is said and done. And lord help me if Prideful Sloth slaps this on the Switch. It’s the ideal adventure for Nintendo’s handheld platform.
There are oodles of side quests, hidden collections, and tons of things to manage. Your own farm needs tending, the different crafting guilds have their own quests that need to be completed, and in general, there’s just a whole lot to do in Yonder. But if you’re not interested, Prideful Sloth lets you focus on the narrative, and that’s brilliant really. Why burden people who couldn’t care less with tons of crafting and collecting quests, if all they want to do is solve the mystery of the island?
Gorgeous, Peaceful, But Sometimes Grindy
Even without combat, Yonder can’t help but fall into the same old RPG cliches. You’ll do a lot of collecting and Fed-Ex questing in the wide open world Prideful Sloth has created. When you’re first exploring new lands, this will be a grand adventure filled with gorgeous vistas and intriguing new places. But eventually, you’ll have seen it all and you’ll just want to quickly get from point A to point B. There are eight shrines you’ll unlock across Yonder, which can be used for quick travel, but I can’t help thinking that number should have been at least doubled. The world isn’t massive, and your character runs fast, but travel can wind up feeling like an artificial game-time extender.
Final Yonder Review Thoughts
There’s no denying that Prideful Sloth has created something special. Labeled an upstart Indie Studio, they’ve gone and created one of my favorite games of 2017 so far. It’s ambitious, breathtakingly beautiful, and a joy to play. There’s something to be said for games that don’t rely on combat of any sort to engage the player. Exploration, narrative, and cultivation are enough to make Yonder a game that’s worth your time. If you’re looking for an escape from the mundane browns that litter many games today – if you’re looking for an escape from the nihilistic nature of big AAA releases – look no further than Yonder: The Cloudcatcher Chronicles. It’s just the stress-free and wondrous adventure I needed, and it might be for you too.
Note: Our Yonder review: The Cloudcatcher Chronicles on PC with a key provided by PR.