This week was filled with me taking car of my cat who had four teeth removed. He is very angry and does not want to eat his food or take his medicine. That means that I spent what little time I had in between work and aiding a cat to play a game. This weeks game was something that I was hesitant on playing but by the end of it I was left with a feeling of accomplishment mixed with frustration with the main mechanic of the game. This week I played Signs of the Sojourner.
Signs of the Sojourner is a narrative deck builder developed and published by Echodog Games. It released in May 2020, is on Switch, Ps4 and Xbox, and retails for $20.
Life is fleeting. This is made apparent as you take the role of merchant that has lost their mother and with that takes the reigns of the store that she ran. As the mother’s personal history is shrouded in mystery so to is the history of the store that she ran. The story unfolds primarily through the conversations that the main character has with shop owners from the trade route that their mother went on.
Conversations are the true backbone of Signs of the Sojourner as it is the only true mechanic in the game. Conversations start with a character having two symbols next to their character indicating the type of conversationalist they are, either it being logical, direct, grief, etc. Each card has a symbol on the left and right side and when conversing, they need to match the symbols being played by the NPC. Note that if you cannot match the symbols with the NPC there is a chance that the conversation will fail and there will be a less than favorable outcome, but when succeeding it rewards you with items to sell at the store and unearth more information about your mother and her past.
As you travel with the caravan your deck begins to grow with more different types of cards, alongside the introduction of fatigue cards that are essentially dead cards when in a conversation with someone. As the player completes an area they are given a chance to replace a card in their deck with another. These cards can have effects that draw a new hand, immediately play another card or even look at the NPC’s hand to be able to anticipate their next play. It really shows a sense of character building as the caravan moves out for some time (50 days max) the character learns new languages and with that builds their deck to be able to converse with the people who live farther West.
These “fatigue” cards on the other hand are awarded to the player as they continue to push their adventure with the caravan. They suck, I hate them. They add a layer that really punishes the player for wanting to seek adventure. Drawing completely dead hands when it matters is the biggest feel bad in existence.
I hate fatigue cards.
What makes fatigue cards even worse that in really inhibits the exploration of the map. The game only allows the player five trips to be able to take in the whole map, so as the player is in a time crunch to see the whole map, they also have to deal with cards that, most of the time, will lead to failures in conversations that matter making it essentially a waste of a stop for that trip.
It is a real feel bad.
Characters are great, I love a majority of them (especially the matcha woman who reads the leaves). They are have feelings and personalities that are written very well and when you engage with them they usually react to what is going on within the game and express it through dialogue. It is all really great.
The music is relaxing and simple enough to allow the player to stay focused on the task at hand rather than being distracted with a loud complicated soundtrack.
The art is good, I like it. The colors are nice and each area has its own palette that makes it its own area. No two places look the same.
Signs of the Sojourner is a game that I want to like a lot but as time went on I ended up deciding that it is just okay. The premise is good, the characters are good, everything is just good. When it comes to the main mechanic it falls short. Conversation with NPC’s are fun but they are bogged down when fatigue cards begin to accumulate in mass. The restriction on trips really hurts the game too only because there is so much to take in and majority of the time you cannot take it all in requiring a second playthrough.
Overall, I liked it and I would recommend Signs of the Sojourner as a “palette cleanser” or sorts if you are burnt out on games.
It is worth it to play.