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Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (PS4)

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (PS4) - Review

by Chinh Tran , posted on 31 July 2017 / 5,885 Views

Sometimes games don’t need to have a deep story or require a strong challenge to be enjoyable.  Indeed, often the most enjoyable games are the ones where you just turn on and relax after a full day of work.  Enter Prideful Sloth’s premiere game, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles.  Even though it may be simplistic and straightforward, Yonder provides an experience that is thoroughly enjoyable thanks to its beautiful presentation and relaxing gameplay.

In Yonder you play a nameless protagonist, shipwrecked on the island of Gemea, a place which you undeniably have history with.  You soon discover you are the Sprite Seer.  From there the story unfolds as you try to discover the secrets of the island and your relation to them as the Sprite Seer.  At the same time, a darkness called murk has spread across the island, blanketing the land and its inhabitants in an omnipresent, oppressive haze.

Through your journey, you will visit several locales and meet various characters.  These characters have minor quips and foils but generally act as quest givers and merchants without being memorable.  The story is basic and predictable but told effectively without taking itself too seriously.

Indeed, Yonder is about as far away from a serious game as you can get.  This is highlighted most by the fact that there is no combat.  The gameplay consists of elements like farming, crafting, trading, and fishing but the main objective is to clear Gemea’s various biomes of murk.  You do this by finding cute sprites hidden around the island that only you, as the Sprite Seer, can see.  The more sprites you find, the higher level murk you can remove.  As you remove more murk, you gain access to different areas to continue your quest.

The main quest will likely take you about 6-8 hours to complete but doing only that will rob you of Yonder’s best offerings.  There is a ton of content to enjoy at your own pace if you choose to do so; each providing its own level of relaxation.  You can master one of the available crafts, establish farms across Gemea, catch all of the available fish species, or even collect every missing cat hidden around the island.  The open world nature of the gameplay enables a high degree of player agency and allows you to enjoy Lazy Sloth’s offering at your own pace, resulting in a relaxing experience.

However, because there is little pressure in the gameplay, veteran gamers may find Yonder too simplistic and repetitive with little challenge.  For instance, you can't actually die in the game.  Nor are there harsh penalties for running your farm poorly.  Resources are also generally easily found or traded for.  As a result, Yonder is best played by those looking for a game where you can relax, explore, and enjoy the scenery while working away at whatever tasks you choose, rather than someone looking for a deep story or challenging gameplay.

Fortunately, Prideful Sloth has created a beautiful game that really makes you want to explore.  Although it isn't a technical showpiece, the artstyle and vibrant colours combine to create a pleasing and welcoming world that echoes the very best of the Legend of Zelda games.  Character models are simplistic cartoons yet effective, but what really stand out are the stunning environments combined with the dynamic lighting and weather effects.  There are minor framerate drops when effects really ramp up but they are just small blips.  No matter when and where you explore Gemea, the Unity Engine is masterfully utilized by Prideful Sloth to help bring Yonder to life.

Another powerful element that engages you with the island of Gemea effectively is the stellar sound design.  Prideful Sloth clearly went to great lengths to ensure this often overlooked element enhances the title and reinforces a relaxing gaming experience.  Sound effects change and are consistent with the alternating weather and seasons.  Wildlife such as birds call out in the background, further bringing the world alive.  Finally, the gentle music consistently conveys an essence of peace that is difficult for most developers to achieve, never mind an indie one.  Overall, the various biomes of Gemea, from its silent mountains to its gently rolling hills, are constantly beautiful and moving thanks to Prideful Sloth’s artistic and technical ability.

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles has a lot to offer but key strengths are hampered by several shortcomings and seasoned gamers may find the experience too simplistic and repetitive.  However, if you're looking for a relaxing game with little pressure and one you can easily get lost in, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a strong candidate.

This review is based on a digital copy of Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles for the PS4, provided by the publisher.

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Errorist76 (on 31 July 2017)

I think if one takes the game for what it is one can have a lot of fun with this game. It's beautiful and relaxing.

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