Yonder Proves Games Don't Need Combat

Every once in awhile a game comes along out of a genre that really makes us realize that a formula can easily be shaken up. Yonder is one of those titles with a pretty interesting take on the questing genre. This game went mostly unnoticed as it released near the summer months and is considered a hidden gem. The game didn’t even retail it full price when it came out. Even with a reduced price point though, most people still haven’t picked this title up. This is because it has had very little marketing to its name. It, however, has proved to anybody that has played it that you don’t need to have combat in a game like Yonder to make it a wonderful experience.

The Flow

In this game there is no health bar or weapons to use to fight animals. The only danger you will face is from falling in the water. Still, this will not lead to a game over and only teleports you back to the closest spot on land. Now, while other games don’t have combat as well, they’re more in the simulation genre than the adventure. So I guess you’re wondering how exactly a game where you go adventuring survives without having monsters to kill. Does the game get boring really quickly? The answer to all of this lies in the wonderful pacing that Yonder has going on within itself.

The flow of the game is very steady and very relaxing. If anything, the only people I would say this game is not for is those that have to have combat to have fun. For lovers of all types of games, this is a treat that you should definitely pick up. Yonder keeps itself away from having a combat or leveling system while retaining the same feelings of reward. It does this by having you be able to access more places to explore as you go on instead of having you access skills as you level. The game really nails down the feeling of moving forward without tying itself down to any one thing inside of it.

As you play Yonder, you will quickly get drawn in by the pacing of the world. I don’t like most games that have time limits or overhead goals you feel pressured to meet. The game even starts out in a very relaxed manner, which is very weird considering that the opening scene has you involved in a pretty harsh shipwreck. The feeling of a relaxed adventure stays with you no matter what you choose to do.

The game also strays away from putting extremely hard challenges inside itself. There are no puzzles in Yonder other than simple ones that can be quickly figured out. There also is a lot of walking instead of fast traveling, making the player take their time and discovering your routes. By taking out things such as fast travel, the game really pushes itself with its exploration themes. Instead of focusing on what enemies are going to help you level up fastest, you will have to find the best routes to get around after your farm or quickly complete a quest. It will have you playing for hours just wandering the fields trying to find more and more of the world to indulge in. Prideful Sloth, the developers behind this game, really outdid themselves with making an engaging map.

Substitutes For Battle

Okay, what can I do in place of battle that would make me want to play this game? Well, you have a whole island to explore with different biomes. Each biome offers you a very diverse setting with diverse animals that you can befriend. There are also several different towns and lots of different guilds where you can practice your skills. The game adds a lot of little touches that will somewhat remind you of the Animal Crossing series. These are events such as festivals that will pop up during certain seasons when you visit certain locations. There are also a lot of time-dependent quests and activities you can fulfill.

One of the biggest things to take away from this game is all of the locations you can find. Yonder has a huge map that you have to unlock as you go. This is generally done by gathering Sprites that can clear the Murk blocking your path. To find the Sprites, you will have to wander the whole map looking for glowing spots to pick them up at. Each Murk location requires you to have a different number of collected Sprites in order to purify the area. The whole game is about exploring every little nook and cranny you come across. The developers took special care to fill the map with lots of different items to find and things to do. This makes it so no matter what route you take to the next town you will always find something you didn’t before.

Players really get sucked in by the exploration feature. Many games have huge maps with lots of empty amount of space that developers will just throw in enemy spawns for the player to deal with. Yonder replaces the enemy spawns with different things to find. This makes fully filling out the map take the place of the leveling system. With each new place you find, you feel more accomplished.* By not having to go the game keeps you from feeling lost by giving you a lot to look for.* The game becomes less about how much progress you’re making and more about finding the hidden little details scattered around the world.

If you have to have things to unlock then there is an expansive crafting system. This system has different categories that you craft in. For example there is a whole carpentry section that lets you work with wooden items. To expand it, you have to find the guild master and prove to them that you’re ready to reach the next rank. To do this, you have to do some crafting with your current set of available blueprints. It’s pretty quick to level up your stats and you need to do so to get to different parts of the map. So many quests that expand the map for you will have you building bridges out of different materials to cross things such as rivers or cliffs. By doing this, the crafting system becomes a vital piece of your gameplay.

This Does Restrict The User Base

Now, games without combat that focuses more on exploration and exciting moments can somewhat limit the player base it can accumulate. Games like this won’t sit well with people who prefer a lot of action in their games. If you’re a fan of fighting games or games like Call of Duty, then you may have some trouble finding enjoyment in Yonder. This is because while the game still has a lot to do, you may get irritated by just walking around. This game is also not something I would recommend playing if you’re in a really hyper mood. The game’s tone is really relaxing and is best used for nights that you just want to relax on.

If you have a hard time with non-linear games then you will have a hard time playing this as well. The game at no point really gives you a set goal other than repairing the Cloud Catcher. The Cloud Catcher quest is extremely short and just meant to give the game a little bit of backstory. The other quests in the game are to be done at your leisure. There are no time limits or overly serious quest for you to partake in. The closest thing you’ll get to a rush is one of the fishing tournaments. The fishing minigame itself, however, is one of the most relaxing mini-games I have ever played. This is not a game type for those looking for excitement in their life.

Another huge part of this game is the completion. The trophies for Yonder are actually pretty easy to acquire. It’s completely reasonable to score a platinum trophy from this game by just putting time into it. Most of the trophies involve you doing simple tasks that you would do by playing the game anyway or by completing a certain quest. If you’re the type of person who likes to 100% games anyway, then this is the perfect game for achievement hunting. By giving players a relaxing goal set for achievements, I feel this is really something people can invest time into who are looking to raise their level. Yonder also has a farming aspect for those of you who like to have customization in their games.

Other Games

There are other games that don’t feature combat in them. One of the titles I can recommend the most is the Harvest Moon franchise. This franchise now goes by Story of Seasons in America and focuses more on you building a farm and a family rather than slaying monsters. Most of the time you will be trying to figure out what you need to do for the day to turn a profit. Other times you will be focused on making lasting relationships with the townsfolk that live near you. Of course, Harvest Moon does have a combat cousin named Rune Factory for those of you who just cannot go without some action in your life want to play it. While I don’t find Harvest Moon to be as relaxing as Yonder it is a great title for anyone who wants a harder challenge.

Next, there are simulation games like The Sims. And most simulation games you won’t find a lot of combat and instead you’ll focus on building yourself or the thing you’re managing up. Games that are good for this category or things like Civilization and Tropico. These games will have you more focused on building the world around you rather than trying to wage war with other civilizations. They can be a pretty nice break if you’re looking for something that’s more time-consuming and nonviolent. They also have a growing level of difficulty to them as you get more invested. You would be surprised the amount of challenge that can go into a simulation game when something goes wrong.

There are also plenty of platformer type games that don’t feature combat. These are things like Little Nightmares that puts more of an emphasis on atmosphere than anything else. These types of games will have you running and jumping instead of fighting a dragon with a sword. They give you a sense of accomplishment through their puzzles and with well-timed jumps. While they may feature some Chase scenes they are mainly for intensifying the atmosphere within the game. Unravel Is another great example of this and a game that focuses more on its platform puzzle elements to give you a challenge rather than throwing in combat. Certain puzzles in this game will have you scratching your head at times trying to get to the next part of the level. It’s both rewarding and an amazing experience to go through.

Finishing Thoughts

While I don’t feel like there are many games that should go without combat this certainly proved to me that some games can be even more enjoyable without giving me weapons. I feel a little bad for not picking up this title sooner as it really opened my eyes to trying out different games like this. I generally get a little bit iffy when any game talks about just going on a quest and doesn’t mention anything about gameplay mechanics. Yonder Showed me that just because you don’t have an in-depth battle system doesn’t mean anything to the game’s length or their value. In fact, after playing this game I think there are a few stranger titles like Rime. Hopefully, this game will get a sequel one day that will have an even larger Maps and even more places to uncover.

Jessica has been working with the gaming industry for about two years now. She enjoys playing quirky Japanese games and learning about the newest trivia in the industry. When not working with games you may find her chilling with her naked cat Prince Noko... he's pretty cool we guess.