Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles – Co-op Review
Developed by Brisbane based indie Prideful Sloth, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a charming adventure game focused almost entirely on exploration and crafting. Without a combat system of any kind and no player death, it’s possible to journey through Yonder at a very relaxed pace, soaking up the pleasant atmosphere of the world whilst completing tasks for the various inhabitants of the many small towns that dot the map. Paul and I decided to compare notes on our time spent enjoying this unique experience in the form of yet another Player2 Co-op Review!
Stephen del Prado: I don’t know about you Paul, but the opening section of Yonder put me very much in the mind of The Legend of Zelda and Oceanhorn. To the credit of Prideful Sloth however, I think what they’ve managed to achieve is something that takes elements of many familiar franchises and packages it in such a way that Yonder feels like a fantastic palate cleanser, something that really let me relax in a way that few AAA titles do these days.
Paul James: To say Yonder is aesthetically pleasing is a massive understatement. I was immediately struck by how gorgeous the game looked and upon stepping out onto the green plains a second wave of awe hit me. That began to fade somewhat as the game progressed as I saw repeated use of the same assets and the waves of (not particularly exciting) fetch quests began. I was quite a fan of the open, less hand-holdy approach, but the repetitive mission structure grew tiresome. Where do you stand on that?
SDP: I think it’s getting harder and harder for games to provide true diversity in tasks, especially games that aren’t made on a huge budget. That said, even some of the biggest franchises in the world like Assassins Creed end up repeating the same couple of tasks ad nauseum, not to mention scattering a ridiculous amount of collectibles around. I think Yonder does enough to offset that feeling for me, given that most materials can be purchased close to quest givers and many of the quests themselves don’t actually need to be completed to progress the story. This is aided I think by the map, which is large enough to feel expansive but not so large that parts of it feel wasted. How have you found the process of traversing the world?
PJ: The size of the world is immense but still distinctive enough at points for me to be able to navigate my way around by key environmental points alone. This is helpful because I feel that things were more cumbersome than they ought to have been due to a lack of really useful mini-map; things in that space were a little too vague and because you couldn’t zoom it out, it was just screen clutter. The murk, which is supposed to be an obstacle (and is in a vast number of scenarios) can be avoided in a few circumstances which was a nice perk for the more explorative players. Whether this was intentional or not remains to be seen, but it was a rewarding feeling when my poking around paid dividends.
SDP: I think that the lack of combat makes me much more adventurous than I might otherwise be and is especially appreciated when I feel like winding down. Often I find that many titles don’t particularly help me to relax when playing, while Yonder seems almost completely designed to facilitate a peaceful experience. What also aids this feeling is the score, which I find very reminiscent of the music in Viva Pinata – one of my favourite ‘meditative’ titles that was as hurried or lackadaisical as the player made it. Moving over to performance, I’ve played Yonder on both the base PS4 and the Pro using Boost Mode, finding the latter to be a much smoother ride in terms of frame rate. That said, the base PS4 wasn’t unplayable and I still enjoyed the hours I put into Yonder on it.
PJ: I did certainly encounter a few moments where the game chugged which was unfortunate, but for the large part, performance wasn’t a concern, and I do agree with your stance about the game being a meditative experience – I personally liken its effect to titles such as Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing that have impacted me in a similar way. Were the franchise to continue, what changes or inclusions do you feel could be made to enhance a potential sequel?
SDP: I think any sequels would need to widen the scope of activities slightly, with more animals, more varied quests and deeper world building in terms of the overall story arc and NPC involvement. The current game feels a bit bare in some of these areas but I appreciate that it isn’t necessarily trying to be a deep as some of the titles it’s taken inspiration from. I’m still happy to recommend Yonder as a great experience for people looking for something a bit more laid back and I think parents with younger kids just getting into gaming might get a lot out of this title as it’s something that would work well when played together.
PJ: A collaborative, co-operative experience would be a fantastic next step for this franchise. It’s also exactly as you said, this is a great entry point for younger children. However, as a big kid I feel I needed a little bit more meat on the bone, and certainly more variety to the quest structure.
SDP: Thanks for joining Player2 in another Co-Op Review. If Yonder sounds of interest, make sure to pick it up for the PlayStation 4 or PC and help support Australian independent development!
Stephen del Prado & Paul James