The land of Gemea has been taken over by purple clouds of murk that have broken the Cloud Catcher. It's up to you to save this world from crisis and uncover the story of how this evil mist came to be.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is as open-world as a game can get. After a brief textual introduction from your parents and a minute or two on a boat in the vast ocean, you're plopped onto an island with nothing but a glowing compass to keep you company. When you open it, a marker appears on your map and the compass emits a glow that points to your destination. As you traverse the world, you'll open up more quests that unlock more markers with lots of activities to keep you busy. Your ultimate goal is to figure out how to clear the murk from the Cloud Catcher machine and fix it in order to return everything to how it should be and solve the riddle of what exactly caused this catastrophe in the first place.
Thankfully, even though the world has been taken over with blobs of violet haze, it's still very colourful for the most part and is presented wonderfully. The art style is generally simplistic with muted tones that create a cartoonish but quaint feel. There's a lot of variety in the different areas of Gemea to the point where it's actually quite impressive how they managed to create so many distinct visual styles. The typical grasslands, desert and snowy mountains are represented but there's also wonder to be found in a town that lives inside a cavern blanketed in dripping candles, a moth sanctuary blooming with beautiful flowers, a (literally) farting swamp land, and a glowing neon cave with giant vegetables. A ton of imagination has been poured into Yonder and it really shows.
The same can be said for the animals that roam the lands as none of them look like your typical creature. The deer have huge horns (but still remain cute), the pigs are covered in blossoms, the dogs are huge and purple, and the penguins are tiny and adorable. Even the music is unique and really helps to set a relaxing tone but also gives you a sense of accomplishment when each new day dawns and when you complete a task. The background sound of lapping waves when you're by the ocean, splashes of water when it starts to rain, and cute silly sounds from the animals all add to the atmosphere perfectly.
Even though the world is awesome to look at and won't bore you easily, you'll find yourself getting lost very often. That's because there's really only a couple of ways to get around the expanding world: walking or teleporting (which is actually more of a luxury). If you can find a headstone and complete its quest, you'll unlock the ability to teleport to one of the other few headstones that are dotted around the land. There's also the odd teleport that will throw you somewhere random and helps more with uncovering new areas in the earlier stages than it does with getting from point A to point B.
The map is quite detailed so it helps with plotting your journey to the next quest but it lacks vertical depth so you'll find yourself running around the same area trying to figure out where the marker is pointing and if there's a hidden entrance somewhere. You also can't set your own waypoints to help you with direction. Only quests produce waypoints and once they're gone, it's up to you to remember where you were trying to get to. If Yonder had a better system of navigating its awesome world then it would have made a huge difference. Then again, maybe I wouldn't have discovered as much without being forced to explore its nooks and crannies on foot.
In order to make progress in the sidequests and main story, the map is your go-to place. However, your only guidance is markers and percentages. There's no text or legend, no descriptions of towns, and no lists of items that you can trade in shops. You have to figure it all out yourself and have a great memory (or take lots of screenshots like I did). The map displays five icons with percentages including percent of murk cleared, percent of sprites found, percent of quests completed, percent of trees planted, and percent of farm growth. Getting to 100% on the murk is simple as you must find sprites hidden in the land to clear the murk when you approach it. Quests are generally pretty straightforward but they may require some grinding to catch the right fish or save up enough materials to make something and planting trees is as easy as pressing the right button when you walk over a brown patch with a seed in hand.
However, the other two are more difficult. First, you have to spot a glowing blue area and sometimes complete slightly obtuse tasks to find the sprites. Next, the farm was the most troublesome for me. There is almost zero direction given as to how to expand your farm other than the initial guidance to help you build a shed and put a Groffle in it to produce milk. I couldn't figure anything out beyond this even after placing more sheds and bringing other animals to the farm. I managed to hire a farmhand after giving him a ton of food but I'm not sure what he does. There is a farm to unlock in each area and the plot is quite small so I can only assume that the developer didn't intend it to be an in-depth farming simulator.
There are tons of items to find and build in the world of Yonder and you'll unlock eight different ways of crafting items as you continue through the journey and complete quests. These consist of: wayfarer, chef, carpenter, constructor, tinker, brewer, tailor, and master skills. Recipes are collected that can be used once you unlock a given skill and find the required items. Some items are more common and can be gathered for free but others require you to travel to specific merchants or parts of the world to trade, forage, and mine. Some quests call for items that can be made with a specific skill and you'll have plenty of requests to build bridges and other ways to help with connecting parts of the world together to make it more traversable.
Given that there are so many items to trade, forage, plant, and create; Yonder could have done a better job with its inventory management. You have limited spots and you'll fill them up quite quickly if you're as curious as I am. When you've traveled to a faraway land and you want to take on a quest only to be told that you can't start it because your inventory is full, you'll feel frustrated. You're nowhere near your farm and that's literally the only place that you can offload your goodies without just binning or trading them. Having to travel all the way back to your farm to unload your backpack is quite a chore and you'll never be sure if you're removing items that you may need when you go all the way back to where you came from.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles delivers an imaginative and colourful atmosphere that's contained within its own unique fantasy land. It's great fun to explore, learn skills, complete quests, and befriend the residents and the local wildlife. I only wish there was a clearer sense of direction and the ability to traverse this wondrous land more efficiently.
- + Creative and bright world filled with wonder
- + Lovely presentation with unique fantasy elements and relaxing audio
- + Good variety of tasks to complete
- - Map and tasks often lack guidance
- - Traversing the world can take far too long when you're on a mission
- - Inventory system is too limiting