When researching a game for its upcoming release, a cold bead of sweat may drip down your brow when you discover that said game will be “nonviolent” or “a pacifist RPG”. What absurdity: next you’ll be telling me that there will be flying cars, real life friends or a female Dr Who, and I simply do not have the time for your whims of fantasy.
Except for possibly the heavyweights such as Harvest Moon or Minecraft, the non-violent genre of video games tends to put off gamers, who would rather bathe in an orgy of blood than tend to the farm or embrace their inner lumberjack and chop down trees whilst skipping and jumping. You could say the whole genre has, in some circles, been unnecessarily written off as “kiddie games” due to its target audience being mainly children and casual gamers who are perhaps put off by violence.
However, there is and always will be a place for the pacifist genre and if for nothing else, to offer us a break from the norm of violence. While Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles doesn’t particularly reinvent the wheel, it doesn’t need to. The debut game of Australia’s Sloth Games invites you to a graphically beautiful world that may scream Zelda meets Fable, but offers enough variety and exploration to keep you chugging along and pouring a fair chunk of your time, gathering resources and soaking up the beautiful atmosphere this game has to offer.
There’s no pressure to Yonder, no time constraints, no enemies to fight. You can achieve tasks as and when you want to; while for some gamers this may be a little too relaxed, others may find this therapeutic. It also should be pointed out that this game was only created by a three-person development team, which in my opinion is nothing short of staggering; I shudder to think about the tireless work they put into this cel-shaded alluring piece of Eden.
So despite its relaxed nature, is there a plot? Well, actually, there is – your custom made character, who for the sake of this review we will call Keith, ends up in a horrific boat accident and wakes up on the beautiful island of Gemea; an island where everyone seems nice and friendly enough, without looking like they belong in a cult. There is a great evil lurking on the island, however, known as Murk: a purplish non-entity mist that covers all. After a little bit of exploring to find out the origins of the mist, you find that the cloud catcher, a machine that keeps away the Murk, has broken down.
However, rather than elect a hero or at least a competent technician to repair this cloud catcher, our hero Keith has to run up mountains, traverse deserts and go on the occasional spelunking exhibition to find sprites. These creatures are armed with enough awful puns to sink a ship (all puns intended), and also possess abilities that can magic away the Murk, which lets you carry on with exploring the island as well as the overall adventure of the game.
While the sprites are the main component to completing Yonder, they are infuriating to find, especially later on in the game when you need between 10 – 15 to carry on with your adventure and there are 26 in total to find. It would have been nice if Sloth Games provided some form of upgrade or contraption to build to make finding them a bit easier, similar to how the cats make a sound when you are in close proximity. Instead, you’ll often keep walking past a silent glittery blue sphere over and over again without realising, because you’re too preoccupied looking for a particular type of flower to clean up Farty Fen Bog. The aforementioned cats, which are turned in to the requisite crazy lady, are only just part of a completion check list.
Should you get bored of finding little bugs that can mythically pray the murk away, or cats for that matter, there are plenty of other ventures to get sucked into with Yonder. There is a grandiose and varied checklist of collectables, if 100% completion is what you are looking to achieve – I would strongly encourage you to target that to get your money’s worth. As previously mentioned, there’s farming, which I have to say was my favourite part of the game; building up ranches, water troughs and befriending animals that will follow you back to your farms so you can harvest milk, clay and other resources to trade in order to help complete guild missions, which are available in the different villages you come across. If there are tips I could give out for Yonder, it would be to invest your time heavily in farming, as collecting said resources for trade at high prices can make life much easier.
Guild missions come in a variety of types: cooking, carpentry and tinkering (basic machinery), to name a few. Each guild starts you off with a trial mission, another mission asks you to build 1000 gold’s worth of materials specific to that discipline before finally throwing you a master guild mission. None of these missions feel entirely repetitive, especially when these missions actually help build up your farms or can help you trade items worth more value. Fishing competitions also provide a fun mini game challenge and there are, like all RPG’s, plenty of fetch quests to encourage more exploring to discover new villages, quests and collectables along the way.
Though fetch quests can be quite tiresome in any game, fetch quests in Yonder feel like they go hand in hand perfectly with the rest of the game. There were a few side quests that were peppered in with enough quirky humor to make the journey a little more worthwhile. One such quest that sticks out in my mind, “The Great Beard Off,” has you fishing for a ghost fish, to create ghost fish soup, which includes growing a massive beard among its nutrition values, all for one woman to compete with her equally bearded boyfriend. It was funny to see her excitement when she grew the bushy face mane, it was even more funny to unlock a trophy for it.
Yonder doesn’t offer much in the way of fast travel, which can be bothersome when you consider all of the travelling back and forth you need to do to complete quests. Sage stones are dotted around the map, and are the closest you will get to fast travel. Just like the farming, my second tip would be to search for these sage stones just so you can get around a little quicker.
I had a tremendous amount of fun with Yonder. Though it wasn’t groundbreaking in the pacifist genre, as previously stated, it didn’t need to be. What I got was a fun little game I could sink a few hours into and not have to worry too much about overbearing plots, complicated battles systems or 10 year old children insulting my mother online. Sloth Games’ debut provides a stunning and immersive world for all ages that will have you coming back for more, but also wishing there was a little more when it’s all said and done.
Review copy provided
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