The caravan is about to leave. Your truck is packed; the world beckons you to travel. There are plenty of people to meet and trade with and your store needs stocking. Signs of the Sojourner is a casual narrative-focused role-playing game in which you embark on a series of journeys through the country, visiting several cities and meeting with a varied cast of characters as you forge friendships, trade goods, and try to keep travelers and income flowing into your small hometown. The people you meet along the way will range from welcoming to defensive, pleasant to eccentric, and you won’t be able to please everybody. You can hear the hum of the road under your tires in your dreams, it’s time to leave once more.

Gameplay

Signs of the Sojourner has many stories to tell, however its gameplay is wonderfully integrated within its tales. The main focus of the gameplay is a card game that you play with the conversational partner and while when viewed on the surface it seems simple, when you study further, this card game has a great deal of depth to it. Each card has symbols on each edge which represent the type of approach you take to your response during the conversation. An orange circle represents empathetic and observant, a green circle represents logical and diplomatic, a blue diamond represents creative and industrious, a purple square represents direct and forceful and a pink spiral represents disinterested and grieving. When a card is played, the left side symbol on the next card to be played needs to match the right side symbol on the previous card and when a chain of matched cards is made, a positive interaction happens and the conversation continues. When you play a card with a symbol that doesn’t match the previous card’s, a negative interaction happens and the conversation continues. Each conversation has a certain number of positive and negative interaction points, used when one of the respective results occur and the conversation ends when one of those pools of points are expended.

When starting, you only have access to orange circles and green triangles. However as you travel further from your home, people will start to have decks with symbols you do not have, representing the difference in cultures and ways of life separate from yours. After each conversation, no matter the result, you will be forced to replace a card from your deck with a card from theirs, allowing you to more easily communicate with the people you couldn’t have a good conversation with earlier. However, doing this makes it harder to talk with the friends you’ve made closer to home. This causes you to have difficulty keeping consistent positive conversations throughout the game if you played it like I did, where I wanted to speak with everybody every time I left home.

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The game is made more interesting with special effect cards. Some examples are observe, which allows you to see your partner’s hand; chatter, which allows you to play another card immediately after playing the chatter card and reconsider, which redraws your hand. There is one negative effect card, which is called fatigue, and these are gained in relation to how long you’ve been away from home. The card had no symbols on it at all and playing it will almost always end this interaction and fail the next one as the last card played in one interaction is the first one used in the next one. After you spend enough time away from home, you will soon have an overwhelming amount of fatigue cards which could lead to an entire hand of them.

World Design

Signs of the Sojourner features a total of 16 different locations, each very different from the last. The hometown of Bartow is a small desert town with very few residents. Meanwhile, Old Marae is a larger city with walkways floating on top of water and an industrious fishing trade. The backdrops seen in each location and the fashion of the characters in each city makes the world feel alive and varied. However, the world is by no means a simple place. Not only is your own town in danger of becoming deserted, you’re not the first one to be facing that problem. Hara is already deserted and the lack of a railroad in Anka is promising doom to them as well.

Story / Personality

As a child, your mother was often away on a traveling caravan. She would return with the goods she had collected along the way to sell in her shop. You don’t know much about your mother’s travels as you were never able to go with her. While exploring her things as a child with your friend, Elias, you come across an old locket of hers. You and Elias fight over it, Elias wanting to stop snooping through your mother’s things while you wanted to open it and see what was inside. Your mother breaks up the fight, takes the locket, and leaves on yet another expedition, leaving you to wonder. Many years pass by and your mother has passed away. She leaves behind the store to you and with the encouragement of Elias, you resolve to follow in her footsteps and join the caravan. However, the caravan has been put in a difficult situation and there is discussion about dropping your hometown, Bartow, from its route. The loss of commerce would be devastating to Bartow but the leader of the caravan, Nadine, says that she will fight to keep the town in the route if you are able to keep your store stocked with goods, giving people a reason to visit. The deadline is five months, enough time for the caravan to pass through Bartow five times.

Signs of the Sojourner features many characters, each with their own concerns and struggles which will often not align with yours. Some examples are Marques, a member of a group in Bartow’s neighbor Penchenco called ‘The Circle’, who disagrees with another member, Isabella, on how it should be run. Ramir, a member of the caravan who is also from Bartow who wants nothing more than to leave his bad memories of his family and his home by dropping the town from the caravan route and Klaus, a mysterious one armed woman who sells you roasted nuts but urges you not to tell anyone where you bought them from. Your mother perseveres as a character in death as she is well known throughout the country, loved by most and hated by who remains, and you begin to find out more about her past when the locket returns to the story.

Music / Sound Design

Just like the visual design of each location, the music is also individual to all of the towns. Bartow features the soft plucking notes of an electric guitar to convey a quiet homey feel. On the contrary, Old Marae is a mix of many different instruments, including an understated synth orchestra, an even beat drum, a melodic acoustic guitar and many others that lead to a pleasant melting pot of music, echoing the many different people that live there. The overworld map features a lonely bass guitar, joined by the trilling of insects and the calling of birds to convey the loneliness of the road. These are but a few examples as the diversity of the music warrants its own review.

Final Score: 90%

Signs of the Sojourner is not a long game but it is a purposeful one. It drops you into a world you know nothing about and, with seemingly no effort, conveys the feel of its world and the life found within through its characters, music, and story. Every character you meet is their own individual with their own personality and problems; it’s a joy to talk with and learn about those you meet. The themes of the game, the way travel can change you and those burdened by wanderlust can become distant from their loved one is beautifully communicated through its main gameplay mechanic. I realized this clearly when I had my first negative interaction with Elias, in which he said to me “Why does it feel like the longer you are away, the harder it is to have a conversation with you?” This is a game that asks you to play it multiple times, allowing you to experience the many stories hidden within. I would argue that this game is worth every second of the time it asks of you.

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