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‘Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles’ A mild, gentle breeze

By Morgan Shaver | shacknews.com (TNS)

Platform: Playstation 4, Microsoft Windows
Genre: Exploration-Adventure, Fantasy
Developer: Prideful Sloth
Rating: E, for Everyone 

“Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles” is interesting in that there’s no combat, no dire conflict, and no inherent risk. You have no health bar, no stamina bar, and no enemies to fight. Instead, you wander through Gemea helping NPCs and clearing Murk (a strange, wispy form of pollution). Although Yonder is stripped down in every way imaginable, it works by remaining true to its peaceful heart.

“Yonder” is a relaxing game spirited by its breathtaking graphical style and meditative atmosphere.

Most of your time in “Yonder” is spent fetching things for NPCs, tending to farms, finding Sprites, and clearing Murk (with the help of Sprites). Meanwhile, you can also craft, fish, befriend animals, and expand your Collector’s Journal with a variety of collectibles strewn about the map.

There’s no real limit on where you can and cannot go in “Yonder.” If you feel like taking the short way off a large cliff, an umbrella will spring up after you jump and glide you safely down to the ground. If you feel like going for a swim (not realizing you can’t actually swim in “Yonder”), you’ll sink to the bottom before re-spawning on dry land.

The game has a sort of “Stardew Valley” feel to it where each day is spent exactly how you want to spend it. In fact, the thing “Yonder” suffers from the most is its tentative story ties. Essentially, your character has ventured to Gemea in search of their family history. In the end, when you find the answers you seek, you’ll likely set that knowledge aside and return to Gemea for the things you’ve already established.

You want the simplicity of tending to your farm, exploration without consequences, item collection, and relaxation. In fact, the latter is one of the best facets of the game, as it’s a fantastic game to play when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. “Yonder” has this unique ability to lift the weight from your shoulders all without going out of its way to impress you.

For some, “Yonder” really works as a deviation from the endless role-playing game competition. For others, however, the lack of action and complexity may feel a tad too bland. For example, there are set limits to your creativity. The farms are pretty standard, and while there’s a nice array of cute clothes to purchase or craft, there isn’t a lot of motivation to pursue these cosmetic items.

On the flip side, there isn’t much motivation to fish for a good 10-15 minutes, but the simple act of casting your reel, moving your bobber, and pulling in a mystery fish is honestly a blast. It’s one of the things I’ve spent a lot of time doing in “Yonder” just for the sake of doing it. As such, there’s beauty to be found in every crevasse of the game as long as you approach the game with an open mind.

If you’re a fan of games like “Stardew Valley” and are looking for something to play while you let the rage of being bested in “Overwatch” yet again simmer down, “Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles” feels like a cool breeze on a hot summer day.

If you’re looking for a grand adventure after completing “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” you may find yourself lost amid “Yonder’s” empty spaces. Alternatively, if you’re a fan of exploration games like “Abzu” and “Journey,” “Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles” will exceed all of your expectations.

Overall, I recommend looking into “Yonder” with an open heart and an ample amount of patience. If you give it the chance, it’ll charm you with its adorable creatures (Fabbits and Groffles especially) and whimsical Sprites. And if you play long enough, it’ll even start to feel like home.

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