Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles PS4 Review

August 9, 2017 by  
Filed under PS4, Reviews & Features, PlayStation

Publisher: Prideful Sloth  Developer: Prideful Sloth  Genre: Open World Adventure

Players: 1  Age Rating: 3+  Other console/handheld formats: N/A

Clearly inspired by Zelda: Breath of the Wild and sprinkled with hints of Animal Crossing comes this cute little open world game that encourages exploration and discovery, and omits any form of combat.

There are collectables to find, such as these constellations. You can also find stranded cats that mew when you are nearby. Another challenge includes planting seeds.

Even though there are no enemies, the only evil presence in the game is that of a mysterious purple mist the locals call ‘murk’, and even though you are told it is hazardous to humans, walking into it never causes you any harm. In fact, the only death-related obstacle you have to overcome is trying not to drown in the ocean or in a pond, lake, or stream. If you do find yourself unintentionally drowning in some water, your character is simply respawned on to the shore, no hassle, no fuss – the game in a nutshell really.

Whilst the murk is there as a plot point, mostly it is there to prevent you from travelling to places and experiencing too much too soon – the murk helps to pace out the gameplay. In order to clear the murk, you have to find a certain number of Sprites, mysterious little creatures dotted about the world. Initially you’ll find yourself with Lumie, the ‘main’ Sprite and your companion during your adventure, who will clear up the murk with the help of his Sprite friends once you find them. Murk requires you to have a certain amount of Sprites before you can clear it up though, meaning some areas are off limits until you find them.

Sprites can be found in the world, though sometimes you’ll receive one upon completing a mission. The island of Gemea has numerous villages and villagers, some of whom will offer you missions. Completing missions will reward you with the aforementioned Sprite, or something else. Missions are varied, ranging from anything to building a bridge or bringing a villager certain items in order to complete something else. Missions are never overly complex, with the only complication being that some missions require certain items that take a bit of time to attain.

Your character can carry various tools that you can use to help you collect resources.

Items can be gathered from in and around the environment, and you can pick up all manner of different things, including stones, sticks, clay, flowers, cloth; you’ll find yourself with an abundance of items, though perhaps not necessarily the items you need. You can trade your items with the locals – each item has a value, and if you find a particular item you want from a tradesman, then you will have to match or exceed their value in order to make a trade using your own items.

Your character can also craft certain objects using what you find. Around the villages you can join a Guild, and this will give you recipes and instructions on to how to craft more complex objects, such as bridges, meals or clothing. You can become a constructor, chef, tinkerer, plus more, and once you complete set tasks, you’ll be rewarded with a badge, making you an official part of that Guild. Joining a Guild is necessary, as learning some of these skills will help you to complete some of your missions.

Another aspect of the game, and one that is poorly done, is that your character can become a farmer. You can build a farm in each area, and can adopt the local wildlife. In all honesty, I found I did not need to do much farming at all, and this part of the game feels very tacked on. There really isn’t much you can do at the farm and it doesn’t yield spectacular results. You use valuable materials to build animal pens, a water and food trough, bring in the local wildlife to ‘adopt’ and then you can leave them to make you goodies, such as milk, and that’s all there is to it. To bring in an animal, you give the creature its favourite treat and it will temporarily follow you, and you can lead it to your farm, where you can place it in a pen.

There is a story, though it’s not a factor that will keep you invested.

You can interact with the animals you bring in, and even have the option to take it with you on adventures (though because they are so slow and clunky following you, chances are you will end up losing them, so I never bothered doing this). You can also hire people to tend to your farm and when you leave the farm for a certain amount of time, upon returning you’ll find that your farmhands aren’t really doing their job properly, as your animals will leave you smelly gifts around the plot, which you have to pick up. Also, there isn’t a lot of variety of wildlife to choose from – most of the animals run away from you when you approach them, leaving you with very few choices. The farming is one aspect that the game really could have done without; overall, it is very unnecessary and feels like filler.

And the farming isn’t the only part that feels like filler. Your character can also go fishing, something else that is poorly done. Whist the way you catch the fish has been done well, fishing becomes very boring when you find yourself catching only one particular kind of fish, no matter where you are fishing and no matter what time of day it is. Night time brings slightly more variety of fish for you to catch, though at any other time, it is probably not worth the hassle. You can use the fish you find to bribe the locals into working on your farms (for some reason you need to fatten them up with food before they will work for you), and you can use fish to trade – after all, why part with valuable, hard-to-find food and other items, when fish is always available (heck, the fish may as well have been the games currency!). Apart from these uses though, fishing isn’t overly important. You can even join a tournament, though it seems fishing here is about luck, and I found that if I joined a tournament and fished out a boot, it seemed to end the ‘competition’ –  and that term is used loosely as it seems there is no one else you are competing against.

You can use fish in some culinary recipes, though as your character doesn’t need to eat (there are no personal requirements for you to take care of), then there really isn’t much use for fishing at all – you can make dishes for your locals, again, bribing them to work on your farms, maybe even building up relationships (though there isn’t a way to tell how friendly you are with certain people), but as the farms don’t require much work and friendship-building isn’t necessary, then this also makes the fishing aspects feel very tacked on and pointless.

There is some simple customisation at the start, though throughout the game you’ll be able to change the look of your character. They’ll find various wigs, outfits, and shampoos that will change the colour of their hair.

Even some of the crafting seems like bloat – I’m hours into the game and have still yet to find a couple of the crafting skills, which clearly shows that not all of them are necessary. Some crafts will go unused for ages too, maybe even being used once or twice. In fact, it seems that there is a lot in the game that is unnecessary, including the items you find; you’ll be finding more variety of items than you’ll be using.

There is also a very poor fast travel system in place, and it got tiring very quickly having to run from one place to another and constantly backtracking because of this. The first Fast travel option is to use numerous stone heads in which you walk into their mouths. These heads will take you to a mysterious alter where a magical creature lurks and where there are other stone heads that you can then walk into the mouth of and teleport somewhere else on the map. The second form of Fast Travel is a strange alter with a sun or moon logo on; jumping into the hole once open will teleport you to another alter on the map. Both of these methods have their limitations though; you have to unlock the stone heads by completing more missions, and the sun and moon alters are only active during the day or night. For the most part, you will be walking everywhere and it becomes very tiring and tedious, and it begins to feel as though this was done to give the game yet more longevity.

I wanted to like Yonder as the exploring and discovering is certainly fun, and you can tell that a lot of effort has been put into it; the game is very innocent and eye-catching and it pulls you in instantly with its colourful palette and the anticipation of what you will uncover. However, once the exploration and discovery is narrowed down and you are left with an abundance of missions, this is when a huge lull starts to set in, and what starts out as a bright, mysterious adventure quickly becomes a very repetitive, drawn-out experience.

There is clearly a lack of balance in what you collect and what you can actually do. I was left with a number of missions that I started to tire of because I couldn’t complete them quickly. You’d think this was a good thing, though as the amount of tasks started to rise, I found that a lot of them couldn’t be completed until I had found the items required to do so, and seeing these missions constantly hanging around in my list made me feel as though I was doing more work than I was being rewarded for.

Yonder is a beautiful game, even if you can see the 2D backgrounds where the game is saving on memory at times, depending on your view.

With there being very little else after you have discovered the majority of what each area has to offer, completing missions is your only true reward, but the pacing really starts to drag down the flow of the game. Whilst reaching missions is well-paced, completing them is not; there’s too much time spent in between finding a mission, and completing it, with your tasks steadily rising and you not having the resources to complete them, frustration setting in as you look at your list, look at what you can actually complete, and then finding that there isn’t actually much you can do at all, leading to aimless wandering around and hoping that you will find something else to do.

Coupled with the filler that is the farming and fishing and add in the constant backtracking and, in truth, you have yourself quite an empty game with elements that are only there to give the game longevity. True, the first half of Yonder does offer a good few hours of intriguing gameplay, and it is fun finding new items, villages, Guilds, and once you get to complete a mission, it feels very satisfactory, though whether it will hold interest after you have discovered the majority of the games secrets is very doubtful. Perhaps Yonder could have done with a few enemies after all.