by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Imagine an RPG set in the world of Spyro the Dragon. That is primarily what you get from Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (herewith referred to as simply, Yonder). Set in the colourful world of Gemea, you are aboard a ship when it crashes on the lush land. Your shipmates are nowhere to be seen, and so you set off in search for them. You soon notice a purple haze that is beginning to devour the countryside, and after being informed that it is known as the Murk, you set about attempting to help the locals eradicate it from their world.
As mentioned, Yonder is a role playing game, but I would consider it a beginners RPG, or an RPG-lite. Indeed, there is no combat in the game and you can't really die (though you can drown and return back to the point on land prior to the accident). Instead, Yonder requires players to explore the land at their own pace, helping out the locals and their problems as well as clearing the dreaded Murk from the landscape. Many of the locals are quite indifferent towards the Murk and seem to continue their lives as if nothing is happening - it is somewhat like how many people ignore climate change. These inhabitants will often send you off on reasonably mundane quests to collect materials or find lost animals. But, as I said, there is plenty of exploring to do.
Exploring means plenty of walking. Fortunately, scattered around the island are Sage rocks, which look akin to the Easter Island statues. These Sages will request certain simple tasks before they will open their doors, but, once open, they will act as portals between the different areas of Gemea, allowing for quicker travel. This definitely comes in handy when you need to travel from one side of the map to another to complete a quest for a particular inhabitant. I do have an issue with the mini-map, as it doesn't really allow you to plan a route. Instead, I found that I often needed to switch to the main map to see where I was located and then plan my route from there. I felt the mini-map needed to be a little larger or zoomed out more.
Travelling throughout Gemea, gamers will come across a number of villages. Each village is primarily a hub for a particular crafting guild. This is one area where I particularly enjoyed Yonder. Upon meeting the crafting guild leader, they'll set you a simple task of gathering some items related to their field and then combine the items to craft better items. For example, the local carpenter will task you with collecting wood to craft into timber objects such as planks, whilst the chef will ask you to gather food items to make into some delicious meals. Once you become a master at that craft, you will then gain a whole heap of recipes or instructions that enable improved items. Crafting itself is really easy. Simply by opening up the crafting menu, each item shows the amount of ingredients or parts required to complete it. If all the requisite materials are owned, then simply clicking on the item will produce it.
Of course, whilst travelling around and collecting items your bag will eventually fill up, and you will have to dispose of some excess or trade some items in at the various traders in each village. Unfortunately, this can be a little tedious, as you can't simply sell items, but instead are required to swap them with similar valued items. And if you have limited space in your backpack, trading doesn't always work as you would like. An option to sell the items would have been most advantageous and helped to solve the issue of the bulging backpack.
Hunting and gathering
Trading is not the only way in which you can gain items, though. In certain sections of Gemea are areas in which you can build a farm. Building a farm takes some basic resources, but once your farm has been set up, farming provides you with the ability to collect supplies that you would normally have to purchase at inflated prices. Seeds can be grown and animals tended, gaining items such as vegetables and milk, which can be used to craft items once you have acquired the necessary recipes.
As well as farming, our little avatar can also gain items by using his outdoorsman skills in fishing and hunting. Fish can be used as food or included in recipes. This food can then be used to feed the locals and, in a way, bribe them to work at your farms while you're off on your various quests. Other local fauna can also be hunted by setting traps in their environment, Upon catching the poor creatures in the traps, you gain meat and furs. Of course, the meat can be used in various recipes, whilst the furs can be used to make a range of garments once you have earned your sewing craft badge from the local tailor.
As mentioned earlier, Yonder has the look of the colourful game Spyro the Dragon, albeit an enhanced edition. The vast landscape is full of mountains, lush meadows, and sandy beaches, all affected by weather effects determined by the current season- rain and snow fall in Winter, a breeze whistles by and birds chirp in the Spring, and the sun shines and crickets chirp in the Summer. Day and night cycles also affect certain tasks and give the land of Gemea a sense of life. Many of the characters that you meet seem to look identical, but being that they live on an island, they could all be related. The interface works remarkably smoothly, with the screen uncluttered apart from the largely irrelevant mini-map. A simple press of a key opens up the inventory, the crafting menu and the list of current and completed quests.
Cute and fun
The story in Yonder isnít in the same category of RPG such as The Witcher or The Elder Scrolls - even the inhabitants of Gemea seem generally disinterested in the Murk that has covered much of their lands. However, the game mechanics are generally fun, and one could argue that Yonder would be the perfect introductory RPG, especially for younger gamers. The cute, colourful characters, animals and locations make peaceful exploring rather enjoyable, and the fact that there is no combat and your character cannot really die, makes Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles an easy proposition for those unfamiliar to the more serious role playing games.
Cute visuals, simple crafting
Mini-map is largely useless, trading is tedious