Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is easily one of the most gorgeous looking games that has come out this year, offering a fantastic looking world to explore with various different biomes to discover. At the same time, the island of Gemea doesn’t offer a lot in terms of variety, boiling down to the same type of repetitive quests and a short, predictable main quest line.
The game begins with your customised character being washed ashore on the island of Gemea after your ship gets sunk in a storm. Turning up on Gemea is no accident though, as you were following the directions of a magical compass to try and reach here anyway in an effort to learn more of your past.
You soon learn that not all is right with Gemea, thanks to the mysterious Murk which is bringing the happiness of the population down. Your main objective becomes to disperse the Murk, allowing for Gemea to flourish once more and in this quest your character is helped by Sprites. It turns out the main character is a Sprite Seer and is the only person who can see and interact with these creatures.
Sprites are spread out all over Gemea and you need to collect them to clear the pockets of Murk that sit across the island, blocking pathways and items. Each bit of Murk requires a different number of Sprites to clear it, so its a good idea to look out for the telltale blue sparkles that pinpoint the location of one of these creatures. Outside of a quick introduction when you first find them, the Sprites don’t say anything for the rest of the journey.
Clearing Murk isn’t the only thing to do in Gemea. There are villages and people all over who require your help, though many of their tasks boil down to either gathering certain items or crafting something. Crafting, trading, and collecting items is what you’ll spend the majority of your time doing in Yonder, with an underlying system that’s quite easy to get to grips with. However, items you can craft and purchase are locked until you find the right guild associated with them.
These include the Tailor, Constructor, Tinker, Brewer, and Chef guilds, each of which have quests to complete before they’ll consider letting you in. The guild quests follow the exact same structure for each, with the Guild Master title being granted should you craft items from that guild. Considering you’ll be picking up resources all over just by wandering some of this doesn’t take long at all. Crafting is as simple as getting the right amount of items required, going into the craft menu and selecting the item you want.
There’s a bit of a knack to trading, as Gemea has a barter-based economy. Some villages will pay more for items than others, while other villages will sell off surplus items for cheap. You don’t earn coins but instead barter the goods you have in your backpack for items the shopkeeper has. It’s a key element of Yonder that if utilised well can see you breezing through some of the quests that require specific items.
There’s no combat in the game whatsoever, leaving you free to explore the island without having to worry about losing progress or health. The only time you “die” is when you wander into water and sink, but you’re immediately transported to the nearest bit of land completely intact. You’re never in danger, and I actually found that rather refreshing, allowing me to explore the island at my leisure.
The problem is that there’s just not enough to do instead. Sure, you can build a farm and boost its rating by building things for it, or hire a farmhand to take care of things for you, but there isn’t a ton of depth there. There’s also only so much trading, fishing and crafting you can do before hitting the wall of having seen pretty much everything. It’s a little disappointing because Gemea as a location is wonderful to explore.
The various biomes from grassland to forest to a mountain and a mini arctic all blend together so well. The environments look gorgeous, and I really enjoyed going through every nook and cranny to find the world’s secrets, even if there are very few of those to really find. There are no real standout characters due to the minimal dialogue in speech bubbles, and the story itself shows its hand before the end. After the story is done, you’re free to explore Gemea and carry on with other quests but they’re all pretty samey in structure.
The sounds and music of Gemea are also well done with each area having its own tune to accompany it, though at times silence will fall upon where you are. The sound work for the animals is put together well, with each area having its own fauna and flora which can change depending on the season.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a beautiful canvas that needs more detail to make it a masterpiece. Gemea is an enchanting location and the majority of systems in the game function well, but the magic hook is missing. The story isn’t engrossing and the quests just blend into each other for the most part, as do the characters that give them. Gemea is magical, the content not so much.
Version tested: PS4