Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is quite possibly the most pleasant game on PlayStation 4. Constructed by the tiny indie developer that is Prideful Sloth, it's a rather ambitious little title that fuses open world exploration with lite crafting and farming elements. It takes clear inspiration from a number of different games like Harvest Moon and The Legend of Zelda, but it's able to form its own identity through a lovely art style and some surprisingly addictive gameplay.
Right at the start of your adventure you're presented with a character creation screen. The options are fairly limited but you can choose to be either male or female, and before you know it, the ship that you're currently travelling upon is wrecked by a storm. Washing up on the island of Gemea, you're gifted with the ability to see sprites – small fairy-like creatures that normal folk can't discern – and it's not long before you're tasked with collecting these cuties.
By gathering sprites that are scattered all over Gemea, you're able to clear away 'murk' – a shadowy substance that envelops parts of the island. As such, purifying the land becomes your main priority, and in the process, you'll uncover the truth of your origins. Completing the main story alone will take you around five or so hours, but Yonder's open world structure essentially allows you to keep playing for as long as you like, and there are plenty of collectables and other secrets for completionists to hoover up.
Gemea's an environmentally diverse setting. Rolling green fields are partnered with snow-capped mountains in the north, and there's a smaller desert island to the east. It's a wonderful land to explore, and it's really brought to life by a dynamic weather system which is partnered with a gorgeous day and night cycle. What's more, seasons pass as you continue to play, and it's hard not to get caught up in the atmosphere of a sun-baked summer afternoon or stormy winter night.
When you're not staring off into sunsets, you'll likely be completing quests. Non-playable characters across the island will ask for your assistance, but just about every task boils down to the same thing: fetching items. Many quests offer up small storylines, but aside from the narrative intrigue, there's not much to keep your journal from simply turning into a long list of goods that you need to procure. Bit by bit, repetition settles in and the joy of discovering new places and exploring Gemea is dampened.
That said, there is an addictive quality to finding, crafting, or trading for the items that each quest requires. Once you have a handle on where to harvest specific base materials and what you need to combine them with to make more complex objects, you'll be blasting through quests without breaking a sweat.
It's safe to say that Yonder isn't a difficult game to begin with, however. It's quite clearly designed with accessibility in mind first and foremost – it's the kind of release that just about anyone can pick up and play. There's no combat to worry about and the game's plastered with a big menus and text boxes, making it an easy recommendation for children and those who don't dabble in games all that often.
Again, though, there's plenty of stuff here to keep more invested players entertained. The previously mentioned farming system springs to mind, which allows you to build a number of farms for housing animals. The animals themselves can be found all over the island, with different regions boasting their own unique wildlife. Feed them their favourite treat and they'll follow you back to their new home, where they'll periodically yield produce such as milk and fur, which can then be used to craft or trade. It's certainly not the deepest farming system we've ever seen, but it fits snugly into Yonder's accessible structure, and gives you something to work on when you're feeling a bit bored with questing.
Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a delightful little game that can appeal to players of all ages and skill levels. The island of Gemea – complete with its atmospheric weather and seasonal cycle – makes for the perfect destination if you're looking for a relaxing virtual vacation.