Communication is complex. All of us will have experienced instances of communication gone wrong and what disastrous effects it can have. By using a simple card game, Signs of the Sojourner depicts the highs and lows of communication and, in the process, offers a novel way for players to engage with dialogue options.
Created by Echodog Games and set to be released on Steam on May 14, Signs of the Sojourner takes players on a journey where relationships and communication are crucial. It is a deck-building game where cards are used to communicate with other characters to find key items, discover new travel routes and forge relationships. While deck-building already exists in games such as Griftlands, Signs of the Sojourner implements it in a manner that sheds light on the art of communication.
In Signs of Sojourner, you play as a silent protagonist who must take care of their mother’s store following her death. To find stock for the store, players are required to take a caravan trip to various settlements where they meet an interesting array of characters.
The player begins with a deck of cards that have a symbol on the left and right sides. When a player interacts with another character, they take turns laying down cards. The objective is to play a card where the left symbol matches the right symbol of the previously played card. If sufficient cards are linked up, it represents an instance of successful communication and players are rewarded with special items or new travel routes.
Signs of the Sojourner manages to capture many of the nuances of real-world communication. Most notably, in each interaction, the aim is not to get the best of the character you are speaking to but rather to work together to reach common ground.
Some of the mechanics of the card game allow for interesting commentary on the nature of communication and its relationship with one’s growth. For example, when the game begins, players are introduced to the main character’s childhood friend named Elias. He communicates using mostly cards that have triangle and circle symbols.
However, when players travel in their caravan, they acquire cards with different symbols to communicate with different characters. Slotting these new cards into your deck comes at the cost of losing older cards. Hence, upon returning home, it is often difficult to communicate with Elias because cards with triangles and circles might have been replaced with others.
If players fail to link up the correct cards with Elias, he asks whether something happened out on the road. This demonstrates how life events can change us, leaving us unable to relate to people we were once familiar with.
The fatigue mechanic also offers an interesting perspective on communication. If players spend too much time on the road, they accumulate fatigue cards which lead to unsuccessful interactions when they are played. If the deck becomes filled with too many fatigue cards, having conversations becomes near impossible.
The only way to get rid of the fatigue cards is to return home. Even the most extroverted among us will be familiar with how excessive socialization can lead to feeling drained, and how an occasional retreat from the world is necessary if we are to face society with a fresh mind.
Signs of the Sojourner’s gameplay is fun and easy to grasp while still requiring a fair bit of strategy. The game can be completed in about two hours, making it relatively short, but one is unlikely to discover everything it has to offer in a single playthrough. Considering the interesting concept that Signs of the Sojourner is built upon, I craved more from the game both in terms of narrative and locations to visit.
The setting of Signs of the Sojourner is a fantastical one that easily captures one’s attention through its colorful art style, enjoyable soundtrack and a vibrant host of characters that range from young thieves to nut merchants. Considering how narrative-centric the game is, it is a positive that the characters are all well designed and unique. Memorable characters include XN-220 the android and Thunder the dog who brings an interesting twist to gameplay.
For anyone with an interest in deck-building games, Signs of the Sojourner is worth a try if only to see how it implements card-based gameplay in novel ways. Despite the gameplay being a little repetitive at times, Signs of the Sojourner offers an immersive world and lovable characters that make the game engaging for its entire duration.