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Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 16.05.2018

Review for Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles on Nintendo Switch

Players primarily on Nintendo systems had to wait an extra generation to finally begin experiencing HD games at home with the Wii U, but then open world games really, truly took an extra generation to finally become also predominant on Nintendo's vastly more capable Switch, which has proven successful enough to motivate developers to port their titles over. The Switch may be a portable system at its core, but it has proven time and time again that it can handle those, right from launch day with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and now with the likes of Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles, which Cubed3 originally looked at last year on PlayStation 4.

A nameless hero washes up ashore on the vast island of Gemea after a ship gets caught in a storm and sets out to look for his other comrades, hoping they managed to make it out alive, too. In doing so, however, the hero soon discovers creatures known as sprites - who have the peculiar power to dispel pockets of miasma known as "The Murk" - that have been appearing all over the island. It becomes clear that the island is in danger and the hero, being the only one alive who can still gather together the sprites to clean up the land, since other humans can't see them, must discover the origin of the Murk to stop its progression, while still cleaning existing tainted areas of the country. This will be the main objective but, by and large, this can be completely ignored to go out and explore everything that there is to explore.

One could rush through, following the series of main story objectives and collecting only the amount of sprites necessary to do so... but very quickly it becomes evident that this is nearly impossible to not run into other attractive distractions along the way, be it side-quests for people in need, or befriending wild animals or simply the tingling necessity to collect stuff and complete more over-arching objectives within each region of the island, such as replanting trees and so on and so forth. Indeed, each area keeps track of how many trees are planted in the current area, encouraging the completionist inside to replant in hope of a reward for doing so and, in the process, subtly teaching younger players the importance of not deforesting without replanting since otherwise it is probably impossible to fulfil every objective in the game without at least replanting some trees at some point to make more wood. Clever!

It is a really big open-world game, maybe not as long or as big as the AAA heavyweights of its kind, but still massive for a title of that calibre or of that budget. The draw distance can be frankly jaw dropping, and is helped by a reliance not on detailed textures but rather on complex geometry almost devoid of textures.

Screenshot for Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles on Nintendo Switch

A great level of detail can be seen close up to the camera, like bits of grass and flowers, with an LOD draw distance comparable to the likes of Skyrim on Switch, but perhaps better hidden by the smaller scale of said elements, lower resolution and anti-aliasing in play... Furthermore, real-time lighting effects give volume to elements of the scenery better than textures or pre-baked lighting ever could. It's quite a sight to see the hero at night, running around with its lantern and casting light around himself, even onto NPC that, themselves, can cast gigantic shadows on their surroundings. Closer inspection reveals where other things were sacrificed to allow for this level of quality, of course, but it is altogether cleverly designed to deliver a really captivating experience. One such area, for example, is in the character models, which are not the prettiest seen by a long shot. Body proportions can sometimes be a bit out of whack, but like many things here, they have a sort of intriguing quality about them that makes the discovery of every new NPC an adventure in and of itself. After all, some players can put a lot of money into acquiring blocky, highly pixellated character skins in the likes of Minecraft, so being weird is not necessarily a bad thing, although it may limit their appeal to a fraction of the audience who may not be quite a receptive.

The big defining aspect of Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is the total absence of combat. The player may carry around many tools to cut grass, break boulders, mine minerals, to fish, and so on... but there are no weapons and enemies to defeat. No health bar, either, for that matter, and falling from too high triggers the hero to open an umbrella to slow down the descent and avoid hurting himself. There is plenty to do, no rush to do so, and usually no huge amounts of farming of resources required to achieve a single objective, so it is easy to keep doing different things in succession to avoid repetition. It is the epitome of what a relaxing game should be. The story itself can very quickly take a back seat as the draw of the world and the thrill of discovery becomes predominant over time.

Screenshot for Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles on Nintendo Switch

It helps too that this title has one of the better side-quest tracking system and navigation systems ever seen in a game of that type, trumping even some of the best of its kind. It originally came out not long after Breath of the Wild and was probably in development way before that was released on Wii U and Switch, but it has nothing to envy Zelda in terms of helping the player know where to go, which helps making the vast openness of the environment less intimidating.

A game of that scope is indeed very rarely seen at all from indie developers. It is not nearly as big as the likes of Skyrim, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 or even The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but the draw distance and everything in-between is certainly a sight to behold even on Switch, so that begs the question of how it manages to run. The short answer is: "well enough but not without some hiccups." Docked resolution seems to sit somewhere between 720p and 1080p, but the use of effective anti-aliasing gives it a slightly softer look that makes it hard to determine the actual native resolution without the kind of technical wizardry of the likes of Digital Foundry.

In handheld mode, the resolution is certainly lower than 720p, still with a hefty dose of anti-aliasing thrown on the screen, giving it a very soft look that actually reminds of Snake Pass, which ran similarly in handheld mode. It is another example of a game that is rather well optimised for docked mode but which is just a little bit too much for handheld mode, not unlike Xenoblade Chronicles 2, in fact. Next up, in terms of frame-rate, it does seem to be fully unlocked in both cases and to go up and down depending on what's being displayed on-screen at that moment. Facing the open ocean where geometry is far less complex results in the frame-rate approaching or even meeting 60 fps, while the more crowded areas can dip below 30 fps, but most of the time, strangely, it seems to limit itself to 30 fps throughout. It's hard to tell whether the frame-limiter is behaving strangely if there is one... or if there is simply none.

Screenshot for Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles on Nintendo Switch

Overall, however, the game doesn't feel so jerky that it hampers the enjoyment that can be had elsewhere, but there are some strange times where it will feel a lot more fluid all of a sudden and others where the amount of visual effects and the complexity of the scene makes the Switch struggle a little, so that had to be said. One more thing of note, though, as the main draw of this particular version of the game is portability, this game runs better in handheld mode than Xenoblade Chronicles 2, so those who had no issue sitting down with their Switch to play the latter, coping with the shortcomings of that mode on it, will have even less issues here.

As for the sound part, the soundtrack itself is mostly comprised of peaceful piano tracks which, if anything, could be taken straight from Minecraft. Sound effects do their job and the little voices of the characters are a bit... weird… but combined with the equally as weird character models, this just adds to the quirkiness. There's actually a strong suspicion that the short female voice clips in the game are delivered by male actors, but, again, this just adds to the overall hypnotic bizarreness of the in-game characters. It is just that kind of weird yet captivating experience overall with no combat whatsoever and no real way to die or lose that the player can lose him or herself into, just fulfilling quests or chasing down collection objectives.

Other versions of the game run better, sure, but the Switch version is the only one that can be enjoyed on the go without having to lug around a gaming laptop or without an Internet connection for remote play as is the case on PS4. This is a compelling selling point as this is a game that can certainly be enjoyed while sitting on the couch while the rest of the family is enjoying TV or something, as well as a title that can be enjoyed during bus or train rides as it does not require a 100% focus. It's a relaxing, beautiful, magical experience that serves as a magnificent entry point, especially for younger players who have never played a really open adventure before.

Screenshot for Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Despite some hiccups in performance that are perfectly understandable given the scope, limited budget, and the engine used, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles in its Nintendo Switch incarnation retains all of its charm. It is not a Triple-A product, and yet what it manages to achieve is a wonder to behold. The vast, beautiful world delivered through complex geometry and loads of lighting effects is truly compelling and the relaxed pace of the exploration is nicely complemented by the quirkiness of the dialogue. Character models are a bit on the weak side but this just adds to the quirkiness of the in-game universe.

Developer

Prideful Sloth

Publisher

Prideful Sloth

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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