Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is an objectively beautiful game. That makes sense though, with games like Fable, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and Stardew Valley all influencing Yonder's visuals. So it's not surprising that Yonder has garnered so much attention during its development, from its impressive trailers. With Yonder, Prideful Sloth games endeavored to create something which took things from each of those, amazing, aforementioned games and create something great. From Stardew Valley, there's farming, from Fable, there's Peter Molyneux's idea of a dynamic world (far better executed), and Windwaker's snappy visuals, with the twist of being in a low-pressure world where things like, leveling, combat, and the ability to die are missing. All of this sounds good but, after hours of trying to settle into Yonder, I don't know if I've enjoyed my time with it.
My first few minutes with Yonder were rather innocuous. You begin by creating your character from, happily, a range of skin colors, hair colors, and body types. The game, then, opens into a scene already in progress. Your character for some vague reason is on a boat following a path their mystical compass is indicating, when there is a storm and your boat is wrecked. You then come to in a cave for a tutorial and are released into the vast world, in a scene almost identical to the starting scene of Breath of the Wild. I was charmed by this, I enjoyed walking around the starting zone chopping down trees, gathering flowers, weeds, and rocks. I was excited to get to the story and to meet the world's characters. I ran towards the starting town and received my first few quests. Yonder was truly enjoyable for my first hour of playing. I could gather, and gather, and gather, and fish to my heart's content. There's nothing wrong with the basic concept of Yonder's various systems from a technical standpoint. My issues with Yonder started when I began to search for the why of those systems.
In games, crafting and gathering systems exist so they can improve the player's experience. When you fish in Animal crossing you know you can sell that fish or give it to a neighbor, in any game with weapon crafting, you craft those weapons so you can have a more powerful weapon, or, hell, sometimes the motivation in crafting and gathering is so you can level up your crafting and gathering skill. The point is, in all of these cases there is a compelling why for spending hours preparing different materials and warehousing them away. There's a reason why you put up with that intense grind and that is where Yonder falls short. Everything in Yonder seems to rely upon the motivation of just doing the act in and of itself, so much so that event he story, and characters seem to be an aside. Really, the only thing you are doing is receiving a to-do list and going down that list and the bad part is, those tasks just aren't really interesting. Crafting is done by gathering the right components and clicking a button, or buttons if you're feeling sassy, gathering is simple, farming is very minimalist, in actuality, Yonder is an exercise in minimalist game design in some ways that just goes a little bit too far. There are rewards that can only be gained through questing, such as different sets of clothes, accessories, and hairstyles, but I have to care enough about the world, and my time in it, to care enough about unlocking those, and I just didn't.
It felt a bit like I was a phantom in Yonder's world, a part of the world, but not quite. I remember the first time night fell, I wondered what kind of things happen when night falls in Yonder's world. If I needed to sleep, or would different types of fauna appear, but nothing happened, I continued tirelessly on, needless of sleep. When I went into town everyone else had already gone to bed, but there wasn't even the option for me to as well. My options were to just go about my business collecting rocks in the dead of night, or stand still until morning. It was as though, my character was completely unaffected by the world around her. That was the kind of feeling I got a lot in Yonder. Like my character didn't belong there, and it wasn't just because she had washed ashore, she didn't even really seem like she was alive or consequential. After the first night I forced myself to play on for a while, but I didn't know why I was bothering. Eventually, I just stopped and I can't find the motivation to go back.
But that doesn't mean I don't like Yonder. Everything about it from the music, the focus on crafting, and the visuals are great ideas in theory. The farming, if it were just a bit more hands-on would have been fun. I can't help but have this strange endearment towards Yonder that it absolutely does not deserve. I was planning to review it, but I can't even figure out how to. I'm almost positive that someone else would enjoy Yonder but, I'd be hard pressed if someone asked me why.