First, lets talk about exploration, what the game is being hailed for doing quite spectacularly. While everyone is talking about how vast the world is I’m just trying to get over the vast emptiness. There is very little between point A and point B so you end up just running as fast as you can to the next area while ignoring basically everything around you with the only thing to really divert your attention are specific crafters out in the wilderness but I’ll come back to them later. Something you might think could really add to the exploration is the wall of the game, the murk which you need to gather little creatures called sprites to clear but very rarely does clearing a wall of Murk provide you with anything new or interesting. Something that hurt me the most is that there wasn’t even a single instance where clearing the Murk opened up a short cut back to a previous area and was relegated specifically to extremely tiny side areas with very little in them with one area in particular having 1 collectible and a few tree planting spots. Other than this there really isn’t much to say as there was very little in the way of exploration with most areas being extremely flat and open where I could really see everything there was to explore.
Before moving on I feel the need to call out one area which requires quite the excessive amount of lumber to reach. Upon building two extremely expensive bridges to reach it, you find the only actual content that is cut off from you, a “troll” village and yes the developers do intend these to be internet trolls. Each troll gives a “trolly” line of dialogue about the game; however, only one of these trolls is actually bad saying “games need guns” where as all the others offer legitimate criticisms about what the game is lacking such as lacking substance in the world or having very little to legitimately explore. In fact the criticisms are so well grounded and sound that I almost felt like this area was a middle finger to the player saying “ha, you bought this and we intentionally made it as barebones and lacking as possible.” I find it extremely sad that the developers labeled these criticisms as just people trolling them and it offers a bit of insight into why the game was so lacking and under developed.
Well, hopefully they at least took some hints from other games with heavy crafting systems right? Wrong, O boy the crafting. We fall somewhere between tedious and mind numbingly bad. Ok, maybe I’m just spoiled because I’m used to different crafting mechanics actually being somewhat related to one another where each skill helps you further develop another. For example, if I told you there was basically a metal working crafter (Construction) and that for the wood working crafter (Carpentry) you needed nails, what would you say you needed to do to get nails? If you answered “Go create them with metal working” you’re wrong, the correct answer is “trade them in limited supply from 1-2 traders that are on complete opposite ends of the map and only restock every few days.” And don’t worry, its not just nails, every single crafting guild has several items that can only be bought in very limited supplies that are required for literally every single crafting recipe. What gets me more is that they all sound like they should be craftable from the other guilds such as the previously mentioned nails being made from Construction. It honestly seems like this choice was made for no other reason than to pad game length. Speaking of padding game length, remember those specific crafters I mentioned? Generally these crafters are used for another base item (that again, all recipes require to start) except they require excessive amount of items to craft them (you gather 4 wood per tree and it takes 10 wood to make 1 wood plank which many recipes need 4 or more to make) and they’re relatively close to the town they’re most needed at but generally still a long trek away for absolutely no other reason than to force you to walk. I suppose when you think about it, its not too big of an issue since crafting is completely pointless anyways.
I hate that I need an entire new section for this but theres so little in crafting despite years of games “doing it right” that I don’t understand how this slipped through. Carpentry and Construction quite literally make the exact same items except for aesthetic differences, Construction should have been split into a tool making branch(don’t worry, we’ll get to problems with tools soon.) Cooking is used for a woefully dull karma like system where you feed residents to make them like you so you can recruit them to work on your farm (again, we’re getting there) except none of the residents seem to have specific foods they like and you can just spam giving them any food at all and they’ll eventually like you permanently. From Tailoring, most of the nice looking stuff you just find on your own or you can buy from an end game shop, making it yourself offers no real benefits or fun because of how tedious resource gathering is. Brewing is supposed to be related to tailoring (making dyes) although its only used for base crafting rather than swapping up cosmetics when it should have been used to make the more tedious items for other crafting guilds such as glue for Carpentry or the cement needed for Construction. The only part of the game where crafting is really required is for making your farm but honestly, there’s not much of a point.
The farm is something that was promised to me that honestly inspired me to write such a detailed review in the first place and I think part of the problem is the farmhand system which basically does everything for you. Yonder was touted as the next Harvest Moon or a great new take on farming like Stardew Valley had been but in reality there’s nothing to the farming mechanics. When it comes to taking care of animals you have a small shed for little ones and a big shed for big ones. First you must waste an excessive amount of time leading the animal from wherever you found it all the way back to your farm then once its close enough its instantly put into the shed, it never leaves, and it auto produces resources which are dropped neatly into a chest by the front of the farm for you and that’s it. Crops and Trees work exactly the same, once they’ve been planted they will harvest themselves and be automatically put into the same chest, they’ll even immediately replant. Farming seems to only be a means to an end, a way to gather materials faster so you can craft more except most of the materials that you actually have trouble getting can only be purchased so the entire system just goes to waste.
The last item on my list of mechanical issues are the tools and I’ll keep this short. There are no upgrades, side grades or anything to do with tools after you get them. Where a game like this should have included some sort of branch specifically for tools, Yonder simply ignored them all together. The only thing I can really add to this is what I think personally could be done to remedy this issue. Tools should have had at least 2 extra factors, yield result and “mining level” in that there should have been higher level tools which could get more items out of collecting and there should have been higher leveled resources that required stronger tools to get a hold of. The latter of these concepts has been a staple in gathering for decades and used in everything from Runescape to Minecraft so I see absolutely no excuse for both of these concepts to have been completely ignored during development.
Alright, I’m giving you a fair warning, if you don’t want spoilers skip this entire section because I will ruin the entire story, but why wait this late into the review to cover it? Well because the story is almost non-existent. The developers originally stated the main story would take you around 9 hours to complete however I’ve reached nearly 100% completion rate in those 9 hours. The actual story consists of approximately 6 quests and 3 of those quests are all handed out at the exact same time and need to be completed at the exact same time, realistically without artificial barriers the story is around 20-30 minutes long. The original premise is that you’re just setting out to explore the world but then you find a sprite and suddenly you’re trying to clear the Murk in the world to help people out but now suddenly you’re the chosen “sprite-seer” but now actually you’re a prince/princess from the land that was destroyed by the murk but now actually actually its your fault the murk came about in the first place because the kingdom tore itself apart trying to save your life because you were deathly ill as a child. Just what? And no, I didn’t leave anything out, the game provides minimal dialogue, this review was longer than the actual written story by paragraph 2. What really pushed me over the edge on this was they had the gall to end the main story with “but there’s still so much to do and see out there, this wasn’t the main event anyways” kind of speech and it took the ending from poor to offensively self-righteous.
I feel the need to mention combat and dungeons as this game was also advertised everywhere as being similar to “The Legend of Zelda” but in reality there is none. No dungeons or combat of any type and it makes me feel as though this bit of advertising was almost malicious on the developers part. There’s no way they looked at this product and felt it was deserving to be compared to a series as tried and tested as “The Legend of Zelda” and I don’t even know which game in the series they thought they could compare this to aside from possible aesthetic similarities to the Toon Link games.
From what you’ve read, you may think I’ve given this poor early access game a hard time, they just need more time to develop right? Wrong. This is a full release that is seeing a physical release in this state on the PS4. This game was simply not finished, they have no fleshed out any of the systems they’ve implemented and at the end of the day it feels like I just played a prototype or proof of concept of a greater project except it costs 30 dollars and it’s supposedly finished. I can only really recommend that you steer clear of Yonder. If you really want a good farming based game I’d recommend Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley but if a good gathering and combat RPG is what you’re looking for try and pick up a 3DS and get Fantasy Life but you won’t find anything those games have in Yonder.
Original Steam review: http://steamcommunity.com/id/rebellucy/recommended/580200?tscn=1500489465