I’ve spent most of my gaming life killing people. I’ve probably amassed enough kills populate a small country by this point, which is a little scary when you think about it, isn’t it? I’m thankful, then, that Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is here to cleanse my dirty little soul.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (herein referred to as Yonder, because screw writing that over and over) is an open world game that’s a little bit different from most others. You’ve got this lovely open world full of villages and people, yet you can’t harm a single one. Oh, sure, you carry a mallet, scythe, and a pickaxe, but you won’t be burying any of them into any skulls. No, Yonder is an exceptionally different game where killing is off the menu.
The game start with you creating your own character before plopping you on a ship that’s doomed to crash. From the get go I knew something was different about Yonder, despite its striking similarities to other games, but more on that later.
The story goes that the boat you’re travelling on crashes on this great big island – it’s pretty big and it’s split into different biomes, too – and you wake up in some weird other-worldly place. It’s here you learn of your true calling in life as you are asked to explore the island and rescue the magical Sprites, free the island from the evil Murk clouds that have infested the place, and generally be a lovely person. The last part isn’t optional, by the way.
After the brief intro, it’s down to business and you start with the exploration immediately, and this is where it gets interesting. The first thing I did was run over to some great big brown cow/sheep/thing and bash every button on my controller in an effort to either kill or control it. Nope, nothing worked, so I set about following the marker on the mini-map and started my adventure.
Yonder will see you passing through different villages and towns, all the while meeting new characters to help. You’re a helper. You’re a bloody good helper, is what you are. The game is literally built around you helping people out. You see someone, you talk to them, you get a task, then you go and do it. Whether it’s finding some missing friends, building a wooden bridge, or setting up your own farm, everything contributes to the end goal: 100% completion. No, really, that’s what you need to be aiming for.
Each of the game’s areas has a set of objectives, and once you complete them all, the area is free from the evil Murk. Do each area, and you’ve saved the region. Sounds simple, but in reality it’s far from it. While most of the game revolves around fetch quests and collecting wood, stone, and all other materials for crafting, exploration is a big player, too.
In order to really get into the game, you need to collect the Sprites I mentioned earlier. This little creatures are what you need to defeat the Murk. There is a catch, mind you, as the different Murk clouds require different amounts of Sprites. So while one may only require four Sprites to defeat, others will need 10, 15, and more. This is where my only real criticism comes in: Collecting them ain’t so easy, and at times it’s an absolute nightmare.
While the map and the mini-map give you a few pointers, they’re not exactly full of information, so wandering around aimlessly for 30 minutes in the hope that I’ll stumble across a Sprite really did feel like a chore. I’m not asking for Ubisoft levels of map filler, but a few pointers or clues would have gone a long way. Though I suppose when I finally did find a Sprite, it was all the more satisfying. They’re hidden all over the world; some are in really simple places, like a town market; others are buried away in caves that you need to first find, and then wander around in.
With my main issue out of the way, I’d like to go back to the general gameplay.
Yes, it’s simple. Yes, you spend much of your time running from A to B. Yes, the game is essentially Fetch Quest Chronicles: Fetch Again. But you know what? I don’t mind. I really don’t mind. For me, this is a welcome change of pace. It’s a game where I can (and did) sit for a couple of hours without getting stressed out. You’re free to take on the game in any way you see fit, too, so there’s no pressure to get a particular mission done. At times I’d run around the game world collecting animals for my farm, for no other reason than I just wanted to. Other times I’d take my time and enjoy the challenge of hunting down Sprites by taking in the game’s scenery. Oh, man, the scenery.
Yonder may be a Unity engine game, but that doesn’t mean it can’t ooze charm with every frame. Yonder is one of the most charming, delightful games I’ve played on PS4. It’s not a graphical powerhouse by any means, but it looks absolutely gorgeous in its own way. Well, I say its own way, but there’s some definite inspiration from Wind Waker in here, but it still stands on its own and after a while all thoughts of Wind Waker were clearly driven out of my mind, though the game’s music has managed to lodge itself between my ears. That’s not terrible, I suppose, as the game’s score is just as whimsical of the game itself, but try telling that to my other half who hates it when I constantly whistle the game’s melodies…
Yonder isn’t an easy game to review, that’s for sure. On one hand, I’m a big fan of the game and the just how chilled out it is. On the other, I can see some going into it and being disappointed. Some early pre-release promotional stuff being done by the PlayStation Access team, as well as a few previews, paint Yonder as a third-person Minecraft. That simply isn’t the case. Yes, it’s got a few Minecraft elements in that you collect ingredients and craft stuff, but that’s where the similarities end. Yonder is its own thing, with day/night cycles that flitter through the seasons, a world with no creeps to hide away from, no real danger. Heck, even jumping off a cliff doesn’t kill our little hero; he pulls out an umbrella and floats to the ground like Mary Poppins. CUTE! Yonder is, to put it quite simply, a lovely game that I highly recommend if you’re looking to go a day without shooting people in the face. It’s a game that you can take your time with, relax, and just enjoy.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8.0/10
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles has no right to be as good as it is. I had low expectations going in, but I’ve come out a believer that pacifistic games have a place in gaming today. If you’re looking to just chill out, explore a bright and colourful open world while collecting all sorts of bits and bobs, then Yonder will have you smiling for hours on end.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.