This Open-World PS4/PC RPG Looks Like Zelda And Has No Combat -- Here's Why
Q&A: We speak with Prideful Sloth about the intriguing-looking RPG, Yonder.
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Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles catches your eye immediately. With its striking, saturated, stylized scenes, this 3D open-world RPG may remind you of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. Developed by a small team (3 staff and 2 contractors) at Australia's Prideful Sloth, Yonder differentiates itself from that game and others in that it has no combat whatsoever.
We played a portion of the game and visited a new biome, which you can see in the gameplay video above. There are eight biomes in all, so what you're seeing represents just a slice of what the game offers in terms of diversity and scope. Note that the video was captured on PC.
Zelda was not the only influence for Yonder. Prideful Sloth director Cheryl Vance says Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon were also touchstones throughout the game's development, something that becomes obvious when you dig into the game's farming system and meet the animals that inhabit the world. Additionally, she mentions a game that might surprise you: Shadow of the Colossus.
"Shadow of the Colossus was really impactful for me from the point of view of how beautiful and empty the world was, and you still enjoyed being in it," Vance said. "Between us and the contractors, we've probably got 100 gaming years under our belts--so a lot of influences in small, little ways, too. So many different things."
Your goal in Yonder is to clear out the "Murk," an evil presence that physically blocks your progression, by collecting sprites throughout the world of Gemea. Sprites are scattered throughout the world, and you also need to complete quests, including farming, to get what you need.
At the start of our gameplay demo, we came across a creature that looked like a buffalo who was chomping down on grass and minding his own business in the middle of a grassy field. Upon approaching the creature, it turned its back and shied away. To obtain the affection of a creature you must find the food it likes. After doing that, floating hearts appear and you're likely to let out an 'Awww' the first time you see this animation. After you've befriended an animal, you can lead it back to your farm where it will stay. You can customize the look and layout of your farm, placing items like stables and stalls on a grid system to your liking.
You must also grow crops, and collect items on quests (including things like gathering wood and cooking food) to curry favor with locals and get the items you need to eradicate the Murk. The Murk descended on Gemea due to an item called the Cloud Catcher becoming corrupted. It is your job to restore it and bring the world to peace again.
But why no combat? Vance told GameSpot that not including combat helps the game potentially appeal to a wider audience.
"That really came down to more of the influence of Harvest Moon and things like it...it's just more of a thing of going, 'What can we do and not wanting to put it in there was sort of the pillar we have, which is the called the 'safe, inviting world.' It's more about being able to load it, not run five minutes, and then get splattered. Our focus was the Nintendo audience, initially, [but now] it's broadened past that, which is nice to see."
Yonder has been purposefully designed to cater to a more casual crowd; those who want to pick up and play and not get frustrated with challenging controls.
"Not everybody wants to die. Once you get into the world, it doesn't feel like [combat] needs to be there. It's not something...it would feel odd, putting it in," Vance said.
Combat can sometimes, for some games, "get in the way" of the story, she explained.
While our Yonder demo was limited to a particular section of the larger world map, when the game launches, people will be able to basically run from one end to the other right from the start. It is this kind of freedom that Vance and Prideful Sloth wanted to emphasize, and combat was seen as something that could have gotten in the way of that open-endedness, she said.
There is a full day/night cycle in Yonder (some objectives and activities are only available at certain times of the day), as well as environmental effects such as rain. On top of that, Yonder has seasons, though our one-hour gameplay demo only brought us six days into the game world, so we did not see how the world changes with each season. One example Vance provided of how a particular season can impact gameplay is that in the winter, lakes will freeze, allowing you to cross where you otherwise could not.
The camera in Yonder is a treat. Presented from a third-person, over-the-shoulder perspective, Yonder's camera is set far enough off the character to provide a wide field of view. Sometimes the camera is low to the ground, which provides a nice effect that frames the world in such a way that you can take in more of what's around you. Prideful Sloth worked with John Nesky, who worked on the camera features for thatgamecompany's acclaimed adventure game Journey.
Yonder launches on July 18 for PlayStation 4 and PC. Prideful Sloth is considering other platforms, though that will depend on if the game is successful. There are only two programmers at Prideful Sloth, Vance reminded us.
Here are some other things you might find interesting about Yonder:
- When you jump off a high space, you float to the ground with an umbrella.
- Tools do not break, so once you have an item in your inventory it will always work.
- Yonder also has a trading/currency system; You can trade items you collect in the world to merchants or sell them.
- The in-game economy, which is still being tweaked, Vance told us, will respond to your decisions. Flood the market with a lot of one item and its value will drop.
- The creatures have silly names, including the Fabbit--which is a fat rabbit.
- Prideful Sloth has a lot of ideas for what it could do for DLC or a sequel, if the first game is a hit.