You begin Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles with the most basics of tutorials, very hands-off and based on self-driven exploration: this sets the tone for the entire game. You can choose to follow the quests, explore and gather for a bit or chat with NPCs. There’s also a crafting system, but some of the game’s recipes are locked behind story quests, leading you to “unlock” new areas by erasing an evil mist.

This freedom was a bit jarring at first. The game keeps certain recipes locked until you quest making it less freeform than Minecraft-like titles, but you never feel confined either. For instance, you could be heading up a hill, see a cool looking beach and then spend a while checking that out only to return from your little side adventure without feeling like you wasted time. Once I found my personal balance of doing both, the game became much more apparently fun. The lack of combat or health bars makes it a very relaxed and chill experience too, which is refreshing in an open world crafting game.

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The game has 3 core mechanics: crafting, farming and trading . All in-game items have both a base and a regional value, but no currency that you can collect. In theory this means you gather items to craft into better ones, trade them for what you want and repeat the cycle or travel around trading. I did not do this. Not at all. Farming is a great way to get items instead of gathering and keep fun animals. Yonder expects you would use this as an easy way to enter the craft/trade cycle and give you access to rare items. I also did not do this. I never felt like I had to. The work to reward ratio was never enticing enough to want to.

The multiple farms had very little in the way of customisation and were glorified fast travel points for me. I understand that this is an opinion based on my own gameplay methods, and I know many other people enjoyed these mechanics and had fun with them, but I couldn’t recommend Yonder for these aspects. You can go through the whole game buying things from harvested stone, craft quest items as needed and never have to farm. It was interesting how different regions have specialties and market values fluctuate in the towns.

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The customisation leaves a bit to be desired. You begin with tattered clothes and a generic hairstyle and need to find, craft or trade for more options. There are some items you can find as a reward for exploration, but generally NPCs and certain seasonal events are the best way to go. Mix and matching clothing was fun but the lack of preview made buying items, or thinking about using rare hair colours, discouraging to experiment. Also because there is no combat, there is no best gear.

The story and environment work along well. Even though the main quest is short and just secretly a game guide, it was still worth playing to the end. While doing it you get to visit the different regions and they are all interesting. The regions of Gemea boast their own plants, trees, animals and minerals. And not unlike Mario Odyssey, if you go somewhere you normally shouldn’t be able to access you are rewarded with a chest containing any item in the game. The major flaw to this great looking world is that because it’s a large open world with a short story, it is filled with busy work side quests that do not provide much in the way of backstory or world building.

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The story was too short, the mechanics were irrelevant, customisation was awkward and if you didn’t want to like the game before buying, it would be a real test of motivation. Yonder could easily be put down and never picked back up. I loved exploring the world, harvesting was never so hard as to hate and they did find a good way of managing story and free exploration.

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles was vibrant, interesting and tried a few new ideas. And despite the many faults and nit-picky things, it was an overall great experience. I wouldn’t recommend this game to most people, but if grinding to beautify small properties, travelling, trading and not fight anything sounds appealing to you, this is the game for you.

A copy of Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles for Nintendo Switch was provided by Stride PR for review purposes. Make sure to visit the official site for more information.

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