Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (Review)
Yonder on Nintendo Switch is the perfect game to unwind with. One part Skyrim, one part Animal Crossing with a few sprinkles of Minecraft thrown in, this open world adventure takes you to an island plagued by poison clouds called the Murk. And by take you to, I mean it crashes your boat headfirst into the island. From there, the story is mostly what you make of it, with a heavy focus on exploring the games many distinct areas. The game controls and runs fine on the Switch, though I noticed a few framerate drops in docked mode. However, I spent most of the game playing in handheld mode, where the relaxed atmosphere and music were the most calming. The main quest line involves completing 3 specific fetch quests to repair the titular “Cloud Catcher”, but how you get to that point is up to you.
Yonder is the first title by Australian studio Prideful Sloth. Despite being their first title, the studio’s devs have a long, impressive pedigree. The lead developer Cheryl Vance is an industry veteran who has worked on a number of large titles like Devil May Cry and the DJ Hero franchise. Joining Cheryl to round out the team are Joel Styles (Bioshock, Elder Scrolls Oblivion and Guitar Hero Two) and John Northwood, who has 10 years industry experience.
As I had said earlier, the story is mostly what you make of it. The main quest around removing the murk is… ok. It’s not compelling and probably the biggest issue with the entire game. The subplot about finding your missing parents comes out of nowhere and was lost on me because it wasn’t mentioned for the entire game and is thrown at you right at the end. The other subplot about finding your missing crew also leaves something to be desired. The dialogue between characters is believable and is only exaggerated to the point of a standard RPG. Most of the side quests involve crafting, finding a location, or are fetch quests. They feel unique and offer enough variety and spacing to help amplify the relaxed pace of the main quest. They allowed the perfect opportunity to let me lean back in my chair and just enjoy the world. It’s worth noting I played most of this game sitting in an airport and on a plane in the middle seat, and the music, gameplay, and world were immersive enough to help me Zen out and ignore the noisy children two rows behind me. The music of the game reminds me a lot of the Legend of Zelda: Windwaker; it was appropriately atmospheric without being distracting.
The biggest standout of Yonder is the lack of a combat system. Going in, I wasn’t sure how I would enjoy a game without combat because I’m not a fan of fetch quests generally, and having no combat seemed like a recipe for all of the fetch quests, but I had a good time. The game is immersive, and time flies both in real life and the game world with changing seasons. Stumbling into one town just in time to go trick or treating was a pleasant surprise during the fall. By discovering small details like this, most of my enjoyment of Yonder came from exploration. A lot of quests send you to the other side of the map, and I found myself getting distracted and frequently ignoring my quests to explore the world Prideful Sloth created. Each one of the game’s 8 biomes had a distinct feel and atmosphere that kept me entertained and engaged for the entirety of the time I spent playing the game.
This style of game isn’t for everyone, but if you want to play a game to relax, or if you enjoy the combat-free, Animal Crossing style of gameplay, you’d be hard pressed to find a better indie title on the Switch.
Yonder is available on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and PC
This review was made possible by a review key provided by Prideful Sloth
Yonder was reviewed by Michael Flaherty, content creator for The Surly Nerd (firstname.lastname@example.org)