Developer: Prideful Sloth
Publisher: Prideful Sloth
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Adventure, Simulation, Lifestyle & Role-Playing
Release Date: 17th of May, 2018 (EU & NA)
“Sprite-seer, open your eyes!”
When the Australian based Prideful Sloth, brought Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles to PlayStation 4 and Windows last year, they were doing non-Nintendo gamers a huge favour. 2017 was the year The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild finally made its debut and stunned the world. It was big, it was different and it was an instant hit with most of those who played it. But, it’s a Nintendo exclusive, so the only way to play it, was to either own a Switch or a Wii U, but then came along Yonder.
Yonder isn’t just another open world game, it’s an open world game made by an indie studio that was able to do something incredible. Prideful Sloth created an alternative version. Sure, there are huge differences between the two as Nintendo’s offering gives you a world full of dangerous enemies to fight, breakable weapons and endearing characters like Mipha, but the things that the two games do share in common, does justify the comparison. For starters, both games have a “wow” factor to them. Yonder’s world might be nowhere near as large as that in Breath of the Wild, but made up of 8 different regions that will go from a nice woodland area to a snowy region, complete with ice and mountains and even a desert, there are many sights to take in and places to explore. Places which you will want to explore and happily spend traipsing all over.
Then there are animals discoverable the world over, which you can walk up to, you can feed and then lead them back to any one of the farms you have built in the game, provided you have built a large enough pen for the animal to live in. (Groffles aren’t exactly small, so a Large Animal Pen is a must if you wish to home one and have them produce Groffle mark.) In addition to a living world full of wonder and a soundtrack that compliments the game perfectly, Yonder’s biggest comparison to Breath of the Wild is game’s visual style.
While it has a gameplay experience that feels a lot like the one players received from Breath of the Wild, along with some Animal Crossing-like gameplay elements, Yonder looks like the love child of Breath of the Wild and The Wind Waker. I know Breath of the Wild is pretty colourful as it is, but imagine if it featured the Toon graphics from the Toon games that which you’re picturing is Yonder. In case you can’t picture such a thing though, try this out instead. Picture Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas, but replace all seas with a landmass called Gemea and subtract the combat system, again, the result is Yonder. But just because the game does lack combat, it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable as there is a story, plenty of collectables and a whole ton of side-quests and crafting that will easily make you rack up 20 hours of gameplay at least! If you’re not convinced though, there is something you will want to know, Yonder does take design inspiration from Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, The Legend of Zelda and Skyrim. (Say what? Yup, Skyrim!)
Being an open world game, how you choose to play Yonder, is entirely up to you. You can’t visit every single location from the get-go as certain areas are locked behind purple clouds called Murk that must be cleared out of the way, or require a bridge being built first, so you can cross, but there is a story you can pick up and leave at your own leisure. Talking of the story, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles takes place in the world of Gemea, a described “natural island paradise,” but it is not the paradise it seems as Gemea is under attack. The mysterious murk is spreading and only one can stop it, the would-be hero of Gemea, who can be customised to the player’s preference and starts the game by washing up on the island of Gemea, after surviving a shipwreck. (“Sprite-seer, open your eyes.”)
As a Sprite-seer, someone who can interact and see Sprites, it is down to the playable protagonist, to gather all 26 Sprites to restore Gemea back to its former glory and repair the Cloud Catcher. Sprites aren’t just cute and have the means of flying, without them, our hero will not be able to clear the Murk he encounters. So be prepared to travel far and wide with your eyes peeled, because Sprites can be encountered all over and so can cats. As part of a collectable that I’m pretty sure no one has asked for, Yonder has a side-quest that asks you to collect 55 cats all because their Cat Lady owner, lost them. Oh, and on the off-chance, you think 55 is a bit much, the Cat Lady actually says in the game she could have had more but chose not to, so let’s be glad there aren’t 900 of them to find. No one needs another Korok seed scavenger hunt.
Finding the cats will not be easy, but there are maps available online of you need the use of them and when you are in the vicinity, they will meow. So, providing you have the volume up and the wiliness to hunt them down, you can catch your prey every time. Now, something that Yonder does have to make up for the lack of a combat system, is the means to interact with the world around you and make the Yonder experience be all that you want it to be. Items like a pick, a hammer and a sickle can be acquired, so that you can walk over to a patch of grass and cut it down, mine for ore and even reduce a boulder to small lumps of rocks. If it can be broken, cut or hacked, it means there are resources that can be collected, much like random plants all over Gemea and it can be crafted. If you want to build a new Large Animal Pen, you can. If you want to bake a loaf of bread, you can craft that too. You can even craft an all-new attire for yourself to wear, only to change it at a moment’s notice, because you feel your current ensemble is out of seasons.
Sadly, just because you can make anything you want (within reason and the game’s programing,) there is a catch. You can only make something if you have the recipe for it and in order to get the recipe for it, you will either need to craft every available item you can that can then be used to craft something else, or join the game’s various guilds, complete the first side-quest each guild has and get recipes that way. Once part of a guild, be it as a Carpenter or something else, you’re then often tasked with producing items related to your new profession that collectively have a value of 1000 coins.
Ironically enough, although Yonder features money and has price-tags for every item you can possibly acquire from a trader in the game’s many villages and towns, money is not something that can be earned. Instead, if you see something that you want, Yonder actually requires you to barter for it instead. So, instead of parting with some gold coins, you’re asked to offer up any and all items in your possession that add up to the value of what you’re aiming to procure. Just don’t go trading for the likes of a fishing rod, as items like, which serve a purpose to resource gathering, can be earned for free in-game within the first hour of gameplay.
Oh and because I mentioned a fishing rod, yes, Yonder actually allows you to fish with a rod, as opposed to throwing bombs in the water to blast fish your prey and/or swim amongst them and grab like you can do in Breath of the Wild. There’s also quite a variety as to what you catch, with some fish serving a better purpose than most, as some can help you complete specific quests, get a Sprite and even be used as food to endear an NPC to you, just so you can set them to work on one of your farms. Not only will they keep the place clean, but they’ll keep your animals happy and help you make the most out of each one to ensure a better produce of milk and other goods.
With regards to the game’s many side-quests, the majority of the time you will find yourself having to run backwards and forwards to collect specific items, or building something, but there are others that are simpler than that and although Yonder does have a much slower pace than other games of this genre, it is a game where adventure is yours to behold, but on your terms and moves at a pace so that you can enjoy every minute of it. Side-quests can also be collected, so even if you have one active and there’s another one you really want to do, there is no limit as to how many you can take on and everything is recorded in a journal, so if you need a recap or feel like doing something, you can always open up the tab/journal and select something else that takes your fancy.
If in the event the side-quest is for a Sage Stone, always try to complete them as soon as possible, because Sage Stones act as portals that allow you to travel to a small hub world that homes all Sage Stone gateways. There are also warp stones available all over Gemea, so the means for fast travel is there if you want it and if you don’t, good. As nice as it is to be able to get somewhere in a hurry, Yonder features a day and night cycle and it even has something of a dynamic weather system. Yeah, the world can be a bright and colourful place when the sun is out, but it can also be positively gorgeous when it’s raining and the thunder is lighting up the night sky. Oh, and unlike in Breath of the Wild, the rain isn’t an issue because Yonder’s hero will not get cold by it and it won’t stop him from going wherever he wants. Sure, he can’t scale mountains anyway, but if you jump from one rock to another, you won’t have to worry about slipping off it. So, let’s call that one a win right there, but in all honesty and without pretence, Yonder is an indie version of Breath of the Wild, and even though it could never live up to it, that doesn’t matter as Yonder is a fantastic game and I am thankful to have played it.
If you can forgive Yonder for its slower pace and lack of a combat experience, what you can expect to experience is an indie game that will do its best to take your breath away. There is a story to follow if you’re in a hurry, but with so much to do, when you want to do it, with some limitations in place, Yonder is most certainly a time-sink game that I would recommend to anyone. Whether played in handheld mode or docked, the gameplay is constant throughout, save for instances when you enter another area and the game autosaves. There is something however I do need to say about it, Yonder will not appeal to gamers looking for a rush and action, but if you’re not put off by that and are fine with waiting, although it releases digitally in May, there is a physical release in June and if you’re happy to pay a little bit more, it would make a fine addition to anyone’s physical Switch collection
THE VERDICT: 8/10
*Review Key Provided by Prideful Sloth
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This post was written by Jack Longman