PSX 2016 – Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles Preview – Living World (PS4)
Sometimes the best games aren’t about putting a bullet into the brains of waves of enemies. Often great games don’t elicit any sense of violence or combat at all. Sometimes it’s the sense of discovery and beauty that a world provides that drives players to keep going. Instead of destroying things, you build things up. Instead of killing everything in the game world, you cultivate and celebrate life. This is Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles.
Developed by three people with some impressive resumes (Devil May Cry, Arkham Asylum, and more), Prideful Sloth is taking a decidedly lighter approach than their history may suggest. Their aim is world building, making an environment that feels open and alive, full of stories to tell and interesting things to see. Yonder may seem like an indie game at first glance — and technically it is — but the inspiration for its massive living world comes from the likes of Destiny, Zelda, Harvest Moon, and even some smaller games like Supergiant’s Bastion for the unique and compelling characters that can be found throughout.
The influences of Harvest Moon and Zelda are the most clear and can be felt rippling throughout the game design. Once I got my hands on Yonder it was one that I didn’t want to stop playing. My appointment was scheduled for 30 minutes, but 20 minutes past the end of it I found myself still running around in Gemea, playing with Groffles (I hope I spelled that one right), and cleaning up the murk that is infecting the world. There’s something addicting and serene about Yonder, and of all the games I played at PSX 2016, it was the one that I was most happy to just wander around in, taking in the scenery, talking to villagers, and befriending the animals. Even the PR at my Hand of Fate 2 appointment understood my being late because it’s just that easy to lose yourself in Yonder.
Harvest Cloud Catcher
I ran around collecting wood and stones to construct things, searched for some berries so that I could bring a Groffle back to the stable and run around with a fox. I found little sprites that are the only beings who can dispel the murk. I even customized my character and made him look like a wannabe from Jet Set Radio. There was so much to do in the limited demo that I felt I could have kept playing longer, which speaks volumes to what we’ll see in the full game. The area I played was a single biome, of which there are eight. Day/night cycles have an effect on the natural order of each one. Apparently seasons impact each as well, but I wasn’t able to see that aspect. I was reminded constantly that this was the first public playable build, in pre-alpha state, but I was still highly impressed with the polish and promise that it showed.
It should be said that combat is completely absent from Yonder. Tools can’t even be used unless you are using it specifically at the object it is intended for. For example, you can’t use the ax to kill animals, it can only be used to cut down trees. It’s not that Yonder wants to preach pacifism, but killing animals isn’t the point, so by removing the ability to do anything violent, Yonder is allowed to focus on what it does best. What it does amazingly is show off a bright and big world, one that’s alive and full of wonder, and I can’t wait to explore its every border and boundary when it releases in 2017.