Thursday, 27 July 2017

Review - Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is an open world RPG with quests galore, seemingly hundreds of NPCs, a vast world to explore, a crafting system, and multiple guilds to join.  Your player character was abandoned when a baby but you were given an instrument - the Celestial Compass - that would enable you to find the truth when you became old enough to seek it.  That time has come...

Now at this point you might be forgiven for thinking in terms of slaying enemies to gain gold to buy better weapons and armour, and levelling up... but Yonder isn't that sort of game.  You complete quests by gathering objects, building things and generally helping people - everyone is friendly and has either a quest, some advice or perhaps even just a joke for you.  You can go fishing and trap animals, but that's the closest we get to combat.  The whole game is focused on exploring, gathering, building and interacting with the people (and, often, animals) you meet.  You will soon enough get to run your own farm and hire people to work on it.

The sun is shining, you have your backpack on... what more could you want?!

The game is designed to encouraging free-roaming exploration and the player is never punished for any action or inaction - if you fell into deep water, for instance, your sprite immediately fishes you out, and jump off a cliff and your character opens an umbrella and drifts safely to ground.  Oh, sprites... yeah, you meet one very early in the game and find more as you go along.  There are quite a few to collect, and you will need them to get rid of "Murk" - a dark substance shrouding certain areas, and effectively reducing your area of exploration.  Some require more sprites than others to abolish them, so there will be a few you can clear quite early in the game, and others taking you much longer until you've found sufficient sprites.  As you progress through the game you will obtain various implements that will let you do more - a hammer to smash crates and quarry stone, axe to chop down trees, scythe to harvest and clear away spiders webs, etc. 

Being designed to be absolutely user-friendly, the game always tells you what implement you need to use on a particular object (not that you will need this function for very long, it's pretty self-explanatory).  You can get a lot of things by just picking them up, but to harvest things in bulk you will need to get all the necessary implements - most (possibly all) are given to you for completing simple tasks, or you can trade for them.

With a 6 year-old daughter it was only a matter of time before my androgynous avatar ended up looking this this...

The trading in Yonder is rather interesting - it's all based on a bartering system, you have no currency but everything has a relative value, and you can build up your offer with whatever materials you have available to trade against what you want from the trader.  Eventually you will fill up your backpack completely, at which point you will have to start getting rid of things or storing them at your farm.  Incidentally your farm is rather expandable, although I don't think you necessarily have to spend time on that part of the game unless you want to.  Everything grows back (or in the case of crates, magically rebuild themselves!) each day so you're never at any risk of running out of resources.

The graphics are nice with a large, interesting environment with a full day-night cycle and seasonal changes.  The ambient sound effects and music too are good.   The characters are rather MII-like but that seems appropriate enough.  No-one ever appears to sleep, and you can (much to my 6 year-old daughter's delight!) explore all through the night as well.  The time of day can affect what you're able to do as well - for instance one quest involves catching a type of fish that can only be found around midnight.  

Guess what?  There are certain places in the game where you can build bridges (with the right materials of course)

Everything in Yonder is geared towards having fun, always having new places to explore and things to do, with absolutely no risk of dying or running out of time.  This creates a relaxed atmosphere but there's enough intrigue and variety to keep you coming back for more.  IT's a game your kids are likely to love too, and you'll be happy to let them play it / watch you play it.  You may go into sugar shock at just how cute some of the animals are

Overall I can thoroughly recommend Yonder, it's a constantly enchanting experience.  I found it particular enjoyable as a large-scale RPG without any violence is something I've often thought about and come up with several ideas, but always with something replacing combat while using similar mechanics.  I think the developers of this game have come up with something better than that.

The sprites all help you, but some are a bit grumpy about it.

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