Honestly, I had not heard of Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles until Hollie Bennett at PlayStation Access streamed it, and I was quite taken with the cute art-style and...well I had never really gotten into any of the exploration/"builder" games (like a DragonQuest Builders or Stardew Valley) but there was just something about Yonder that made me want to give it a try.
Which, after playing piles of Marvel Heroes Omega, and a lot of action/FPS games back-to-back, I thought I would give this indie game a try.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is the flagship title from new, Australian indie game studio (with one of the best names for a game company ever) Prideful Sloth, and is a vibrant, yet chill experience. You take on the role of a "sprite-seer", a highly customizable character who has been called to the mysterious island of Gemea which the player finds (once their ship is wrecked on the island in a storm) is plagued by "Murk", an...evil (?) fog. Thankfully with your ability to see sprites (sort of akin to a faery, but more adorable), you are able to find sprites to help you clear the murk away and fix the Cloud Catcher to bring life back to the island.
Take a look at the PS4 Launch Trailer below:
Frankly, the plot becomes largely just a vessel that you can use to move around the island, but this is not a game where the mainline plot is the reason to play. Yonder is definitely a game which lives more in giving the player agency to do a lot of different, mostly relaxing, things to want to explore and build out the world. I am sure that I could have finished the main story way faster than I did, but I found myself spending my time running around to find materials to build up my farms (farms filled with cuddly creatures), build bridges, getting my badges for being a chef, tailor, brewer, and other trades, or occasionally just finding a good spot to watch the sunrise and fish.
...and I do actually mean "sit and watch the sunrise", because Yonder is beautiful. If feels like you are playing a game within an absolutely beautiful storybook; the character and world design is just gorgeous, the world is bright and feels alive, including a full day/night cycle AND shifting seasons, with animals and local resident NPC's moving around, and offering you strange and wonderful quests. I loved the fact that the times of year changed, and that you got a full sense of a magical world to wander around in. Even though the map is not huge, you get a good variety of biomes, and each region not only looks different, but offers you different materials for building or crafting.
You may have noticed I haven't talked about antagonists/bad guys...well there is no combat in Yonder at all; your antagonist is...if anything, the Murk, and you clear that by finding sprites and having them swoop the fog away to reveal more places to build farms, treasure chests, or, occasionally, lonely cats. If you are not into the idea of spending an hour smacking rocks with a mallet to get enough stone to build a bridge in order to get a cute cat, or working to make a better pen for your groffle (a sort of elk/yak you want to hug) then Yonder is not for you.
I think if there's anything to complain about when it comes to Yonder, it is probably the fact that there is not a lot of quest variety in it--you are going to be doing a metric tonne of fetch quests, and occasionally the requests are going to have specific timings that can really slow you down if you're in a rush (there's a specific type of fish that can only be caught in fresh water around midnight, for example), but I think if that bothers you, it more comes down to the fact that you are not looking at playing Yonder as what it is: a zen, exploration & building game where your building up the world (driven by you, not the game) is what keeps you coming back. The plot itself is also a fairly cliched fantasy trope, but at the same time, in this game, that did not really bother me (because again, you shouldn't be into Yonder for plot.)
Prideful Sloth also kinda addressed the major concerns I would imagine folks would have with Yonder if they went in with different expectations on a little island you can find. I don't want to say more, because you just...if you are going to play Yonder, you need to find on your own.
OH! I almost forgot to mention the music! It's awesome; the orchestral score, and the way it shifts through moments and days feels largely contextual...it is so impressive for a first game, and an indie game at that, to have music that is as good as Yonder's.
Look, if all of what I talked about above is at least a little bit interesting to you, and you are in for a zero-combat, building and exploration game where you are working at your own pace (or, as it was for me, a change of pace), then this 20$ gem needs to be on your radar. I know that I will also be keeping a close watch on what Prideful Sloth is up to next, because the first world they created I adored getting lost in.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is available on Steam and PS4 right now!