A VAST, GREEN EXPANSE
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is an exploration-driven, open world title where you restore and repair the world and its farms and bridges. You find yourself on a ship, heading toward a thick fog, behind which lies the island of Gemea. But, before your ship reaches its destination, lightning – or, what looks like lightning -- strikes the ship. A voice informs you that your friends are safe, however. Once you make your way through a cavernous area, you emerge through a narrow hole (with the help of the Sprite Lumie), standing before a vast, green expanse.
At this point, you may save and access your inventory, craft-able items, and other tabs related to your character and journey. As you explore, there are flowers, stones, and sticks you can pocket. Later, you can obtain tools that assist in collecting from trees or ore deposits. You may also encounter a groffle, a large animal with antlers. The steam page displays the character interacting and befriending this wild beast, so I tried to mount and ride it, but to no avail. If you have an item which is liked by an animal, you may give it to the creature as a gift. The animal then follows you, but temporarily. After you repair the farm, you may adopt a wild animal after befriending it and leading it into your farm, so long as you have space available. As days pass, these animals shall produce goods for your use. As you explore this world, you may stumble upon other areas you can turn into farms. Different regions offer different animals; perhaps you could adopt them all. [EN: Harvest Moon: Animal Parade, anyone?]
You can also craft items which you can wear or add to a farm. You unlock recipes by completing quests, especially ones that grant you entry into a guild. The products you may craft are often -- if not always -- worth more than the sum of the value of the ingredients. Quests to further yourself in a guild and obtain the next guild’s badge might require you to craft a particular value of goods; unless you have other plans for certain ingredients, it’s a win-win to utilize this crafting system.
AMAZING DEALS, FOLKS, BELIEVE ME
Yonder implements a barter economic system. Each item has its value, and to buy what a merchant has to offer, you must offer items until the total value can pay for what you want. Values vary by area, so if you’re displeased by a specific quote for your goods, simply find another region and barter there. I’ve found amazing deals by holding off and checking what another merchant’s prices were. Likewise, each merchant has a different shop inventory -- you may have to travel a bit before you come across the item you need.
Sections within a region are inaccessible, blocked by Murk: an impenetrable purple mist. You can purify this mist and access these sections if you have a required amount of Sprites. A strange blue glow marks an area that contains a Sprite, but, on occasion, you may have to complete a puzzle before finding the Sprite. Even though the text in-game asks if you want to use your Sprites to purify the Murk, you don’t lose the Sprites -- you’re not required to manage your collection of Sprites or re-find a Sprite if you use it. There’s no strict linearity to the story, and you’re free to explore as you desire. But, these Sprites help in accessing parts of the world. Later areas require more Sprites to unlock.
Besides these Sprites, you can also collect cats in boxes, but your current progress on this front is unbeknownst to you until the next time you acquire a cat. Each area or region has a progress marker, which displays how many quests you’ve completed, Murk you’ve purified, and so on (but, your cat collection progress isn’t shown here; you need to accept a quest before you can see your progress). At certain milestones, you’ll unlock a perk that affects the region, such as increased animal sightings or a boost to the amount you harvest. You’ll also have a journal that records how many different types of fish you’ve caught and animals you’ve encountered, and constellations you’ve found. I’m unsure of the purpose of these constellations, but the journal states there are only five.
Graphics are rendered in a low-poly form, but the execution provides a stunning aesthetic while allowing for a casual experience. I found the inclusion of weather, seasons, and day-night cycles added an immersive and dynamic aspect. Equally noteworthy is that abrupt changes in the weather -- from sunny to a heavy downpour -- did not result in lag or interrupt the smoothness of play. You can rotate the camera angle when playing; it can go from a vertical top-down position to nearly beneath the ground, for a wider field of view. The only glitches I encountered were that the character would stand higher than the ground in one small area in Radiant Sands, and that I managed to get stuck in a crevice on a rocky mountain and had to load a previous save [EN: That sucks, bro]. Fortunately, the game auto-saves regularly, so I did not lose much.
The absence of major bugs ensures that this title is ready for release. It does, however, seem as if it wouldn’t take long to explore nearly everything. After an initial few hours into it and I’d already completed close to 30%. There’ll still be collectibles and Sprites you’ve missed (they’re hard to find) and there’s still plenty to accomplish, but where? Somewhere over yonder -- let’s explore.
For an open-world, immersive experience replete with quests, fishing, farms, and more, look no further than Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles. The design is apt to please any gamer interested in what Yonder has to offer, while nightfall and the gloominess of a heavy rain ensure that players who might otherwise avoid overly bright hues don’t feel left out -- a sure recipe on Yonder’s part for broad appeal. However, as an exploration-heavy title, especially one that does not offer combat, the allure is counteracted in part, but ultimately all -- save the hardcore -- can enjoy Yonder.