TWICE IN A MATTER OF LESS THAN A MONTH!
HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT I CAN PLAY TWO GAMES ALREADY THAT HAVE ME THINKING…. “Oh this is definitely going on our game of the year list this year.”
The first was Nex Machina, and now this. Both games also have more similarities than you might think, and it’s these similarities that set them apart from everything else I’ve played thus far.
One: They’re both from independent developers that weren’t on my radar prior to playing them.
Two: both games play heavily on the nostalgia of older games.
Three: They both have transcend the games they seem to be inspired by.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is the best adventure game of 2017 thus far, and I doubt anything will dethrone it this year. Why I say this is because none of the games that could be considered adventure titles that are scheduled for this year seem like they will surpass it. In fact, this didn’t wow me until I actually started playing it. My initial impressions after seeing it on Kinda Funny’s 30 min let’s play, was that it was likely an average indie game with basic elements, and boy was I wrong.
When considering all the things that make a great adventure game, Yonder ticks all the right requirements. Beautiful engaging environment, check, lots of side quests check, a variety of activities, check, check, check… as a whole package the game joins just a few other games in its genre that can claim to be among the best adventure games ever made.
When you begin the game you are given just enough plot to compel you to explore the island you are shipwrecked on. This for me is one of the aspects about the game that kept me playing long after I saw the credits roll. The plot is centered around your character being marooned on an island with very little knowledge about it and its inhabitants. It’s nothing complex mind you, and most will figure it out the overarching premises behind it pretty early in the experience, but heavy plot is not what good adventure games need, Freedom is. From the get go you are capable of exploring most of the island, with very few small locations hidden behind a sort of check-point system. So basically what this means is that if you can see it in the distance, chances are you can visit it. In fact I had already traversed most of the main island before completing my first quest. The game allowed me just the right amount of freedom, and I emphatically accepted. What I mean by this is that too much freedom can result in a game becoming unfocused, placing most of the drive to play on the players creativity, and existing Interest in the game. Too little and the game feel restricted, almost like a viewing experience rather than an interactive one. Yonder rides the fine balance between these two extremes, while managing to tickle the good old nostalgia nerve in the process.
This nostalgic feeling exudes from every facet of the game while trending its own new ground.
Controlling your character with a controller feels eerily similar to the way link controls I The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker, and visually they look pretty close too. It’s so similar that If you liked the look and feel of playing Wind Waker then you’re likely gonna like this too. The most predominant difference between the two arguably being the lack of combat in Yonder. This game is all adventure all the time. And though it may have other activities like farming and crafting, they never steal away the spotlight from the games primary focus. These aspects are there, but none have enough weight on their own to distract the player for too long. Farms in the game operate mostly autonomously once set up, and the crafting is mainly there to serve as another form of a checkpoint for the adventuring. In this game npcs use a barter system to trade goods, that makes acquiring items from them more interesting. Some npcs value certain items more than others, so knowing what to trade to get the best value is important.
Visually this adventuring is accented by the games stunning beauty. Environments are colorful, and each of the regions have a clear theme that is as unique as it is beautiful. These locations are then further enhanced by time of day, weather, and the game’s dynamic lighting. Oh an mind you this game is running on the unity engine, an engine that has been showing its visual prowess with the rise of more independent games.
The game also has a soothing soundtrack and very appropriate sound effects that set the perfect ambiance for the island’s many regions. When In the tropical forest the cicadas chirp, the beaches offer the sound of waves hitting the shore for a more tropical feel, and you can hear the sounds of interesting wildlife in the rain forest.
Yonder is also surprisingly environmentally friendly. In the game you are able to cut down trees for material to be used for crafting, but another tree need to be replanted to replace the harvested trees or they just don’t grow back. This mechanic was one that surprised me at first, because I had become so accustomed to having virtual trees resporn in games. This game doesn’t do that. It puts the responsibility in the hands of the player, and even weaves it into the games completion system, which gauges a regions health on a few factors including the trees. Keep in mind however that any tree can be planted anywhere. The only draw back being that some of the the environmental sounds and wildlife are tied to specific types of trees, so be mindful of what you plant where is a good idea if accurate ambiance is important to you.
If I could think of a flaw in the game it would be that the engagement between your character and side characters are one dimensional. It would be nice to build relationships with npcs to make the experience much more engrossing, and it would be nice if the food mechanic had more use other than using them for barter like every other item.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is an amazing game that will likely go down as one of the best titles to come from this current generation of games. This is no small feat given that more of new games are of a high quality when compared to previous generations. In this thriving ecosystem, Yonder has managed to stand out, because of its structure, and the way it plays homage to other greats while at the same time carving its own name into the hearts of players.
The copy of Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles used for this review was supplied to us by it’s publisher Prideful Sloth.