Today I'm going to be going over a specific facet of a game I recently reviewed on Geek Nifty. I'd really appreciate it you headed over there to give the review a proper read. Click Here!
I'm lucky enough to have two game review gigs, meaning I get to try a lot of games I might not ever experience otherwise. Sure, when I'm lucky I get something right up my alley like WWE 2K19, but often I get the weirdest, oddest little games. Or Farming Simulator 19.
One thing I have to consider is what a game is trying to do. What does it mean to be a game in a certain genre? When I was given Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles, I had to really think about some things I might have considered fundamentals of gaming. Does a game need to have consequences? Does it need to have combat? Death? Can an adventure game really be an adventure without the risk of failure? And you know something, I think maybe it can.
Yonder might be described as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild meets Stardew Valley, with one important exception: both those games have combat and death (sorta.) Weapons aren't even an item you can get in Yonder. A mallet, a scythe (for grass), a pickaxe, a fishing pole, etc, etc... but nothing that can hurt anything.
You have no foes, you don't even take fall damage. Seriously, they design the opening (I think) to make this evident. You exit a cave to see a beautiful, never-ending landscape from a cliff's edge. And I immediately hopped off like an idiot. But did my character die and reset? Take damage and need food to refill her hearts? Nope. She opened an umbrella and gently floated down to the ground.
About the closest you can get to death is this game is "drowning," which is really just the game moving you back to a safe place if you stay in water too long. It's not about drowning, really, it's about the game thinking you might be stuck. In fact, there's not even a health meter in this game. Food exists, but not for you. Do you want to know what that beautiful plate of poutine is used for? Making friends.
So with all this going on, is there even a game worth playing? I say yes. Yonder isn't about fighting something, defeating evil with your magic blade, or rescuing a helpless princess. It's about discovery. Sure, you meet people and go on quests, but it's all about farming, building, and other constructive actions. You're encouraged to plant trees, to farm herbs and flowers. You gain skills in carpentry, tailoring, tinkering, cooking, and other similar fields. Technically there is a hunting aspect, but you don't actually kill anything. Yes, I know, it's really weird. It's a bit of a "stork delivering babies" thing in which you set out traps and pelts and fur just appear. In fact, you can have animals on your farm that produce pelts and fur. Nothing dies to make these. Somehow.
The game is really just about moving forward. Sure, you have to discover Sprites and use them to dispel darkness, but that really just serves as a gate keeping device to keep you from finding the most amazing things too early. You're free to go wherever, and, honestly, I don't know that there's a "best" path. If you see something cool looking, investigate.
The game doesn't give you a lot of advice on this front, letting you stumble into wonders that help you traverse the world faster or otherwise experience things you didn't think you would in this kind of game. SPOILER... Heck, there's a town I stumbled into that celebrates Halloween! You dress up and trick-or-treat! END SPOILER
This game is innocent. It's super relaxed. It presents its challenges in a very different way from most games. This can turn people off. Some may think you can't have a game where you can't die or where there's no enemies. But that's not what this game is about. It's about that sense of wonder you get when you step into a new world. It's like being a kid again, getting dropped into an amusement park or a museum or whatever floated your little kid boat back then. It's about being so excited just to see what is around that corner. It's about constantly finding something to chase after, something to collect, something to climb.
That makes it a very different kind of game. Perhaps not your kind, but no less a game. I think with all the Dark Souls and God of Wars and Call of Dutys, there's certainly room for one little Yonder.
PS. MeganBob, if you read this, I think you'll adore this game. You'll want your own Groffle.
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Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.