Review by Jack Bankhead
Game provided by publisher
Previously released on the Playstation 4 and PC, Yonder set out to make an open world experience without combat. If you can get past the price tag, Yonder is one probably the closest experience to Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild you’ll get on any system. It’s beautiful world and charming nature may be a far cry from Zelda, but you’ll be reminded of it when you play.
The game opens up with a ship on its way to Gemea, an island kingdom in need of a magical person who can remove the Murk. After a storm, the boy (or girl) you create will find his way out of the cave into the big plains of Gemea. You may be blown away by the cel-shaded graphics if you were blown away by Zelda. You meet a little creature called a Sprite, and with its help you clear your path. The next course of action is to find people and find out what the heck to do- which is to help people! Do some tasks to receive rewards and other stuff. Or progress the story to get the Cloud Catcher to remove all murk! It’s a slow paced game, so don’t rush it!
The island to explore isn’t the largest open world out there, but it’s still big. A bigger open world doesn’t mean it’s better. I grew to know the island of Gemea like the back of my hand, the mountains, the seashore, the forest, and more. It’s incredibly beautiful, with vibrant colors and detailed environments. There’s even little animals roaming the lands. The open world is truly seamless, with even skip travel being instantaneous. Your character, luckily, runs quite fast. If you need to get somewhere, your character runs fast enough that it isn’t a chore. You’ll get to know the world and love it. You cannot swim though, you’ll respawn where you last were standing. Sad.
To get access to some places in Yonder, building bridges is necessary. To build bridges, you gotta have the right materials! It’s a reason to craft and collect things, so you can make it to new locations, or go through an area faster than it would have going around. Speaking of collecting…
There’s a system of collecting and gathering in Yonder. Throughout the island, you can collect things such as vines, mushrooms, rocks, sticks, and more. With these materials you pick up, smash, or chop, crafting opens up. While there is not a lot going for crafting aside from the fact that you can trade for more amounts of currency, or quests, it’s an addition that somewhat works.
The currency system is very interesting. Instead of “selling” stuff or collecting gold, each item is worth a certain amount of money. For example, if I want some materials, and I have caught some fish, once I give enough fish to meet or exceed the value, I can “buy” the item, trading the fish for the item I need. It’s a unique system, bartering instead of buying. It’s a breath of fresh air, for something that is a common staple.
There’s farming and animal husbandry in Yonder. While nice additions, I feel they don’t add as much as they could. It’s not as in depth as it could be, but if you feel like raising some animals and planting things, go ahead! There’s more than one farm you can build throughout the entire island, so there’s plenty of things to be grown and taken care of.
Fishing is another aspect of Yonder. It’s executed better than other aspects. I love fishing in video games, and Yonder is no exception to my love. The fishing works by moving around the bait, and moving the joystick in the direction that the screen says to go in. After a while, you will catch the fish. Fish are needed for quests, can be used as currency, and more.
Helping people will bring all sorts of cool stuff. By helping people, you can obtain new clothes, shampoo to color your hair, and more. Helping people can also lead you into the direction of sprites, which are necessary to unlock and progress through everything in Yonder. The more sprites you get, the more places you can clear of the Murk and get treasure, progress, or explore the island more. Sometimes you’ll find a sprite just laying around, sometimes you have to do a quest, or again, help people.
While dialogue is not deep between characters, the talking is cute and has funny jokes and sayings that made me snicker occasionally. For instance, there’s a “ghost” in a cave you’re tasked to find. After finding out it was just a sprite, you talk with an old man, then talk to the person who sent you to find the ghost. The character agrees that the old man is scary, just like a ghost. Dialogue like this makes me fall in love with the world a little more.
There’s even little guilds you can join! If you want to be able to build wood stuff, stone structures, or little gizmos, you can join a guild to learn how to craft things and go down a quest path to learn more recipes!
Performance was really good. While a little jittery in some areas of the island, for a dev to get this beautiful island on the Switch without a large team is impressive. The open world definitely chugs my Switch, but I’m excited to see performance patches.
While Yonder is super charming, and oh so lovely, it doesn’t fully use its potential like it should. In some areas of gameplay, it seemed that the mechanic was half-baked. I loved the island, and the places, I loved crafting and fishing, even if it was not executed to its full extent. While nowhere near Breath of the Wild, Yonder is the closest game I’ve seen to it while finding its own path, which really says something. It’s relaxing, and it’s peaceful without the combat. Yonder is a game I’ll be revisiting time and time again, and it’s all because of its charm. However, a word of warning. While you may love Yonder, for $30 it may not be worth it to you. Pick it up on sale for around twenty, and you won’t regret your purchase. $30 may be worth it to a select few.
Reviewed on the Nintendo Switch, provided by Prideful Sloth