The Sojourn Review
Release Date: September 20, 2019
Publisher/Developer: Iceberg Interactive/Shifting Tides
Platform: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC (Epic Game Store now, Steam 2020)
As we grow up, we go through several phases. Learning about the world requires us to trust certain things we are told as infallible, while carving out our own beliefs in order to form what we interpret as reality. The Sojourn attempts to share a grand tale on the nature of reality itself through manipulation of light and shadow over the course of it’s four-chapter runtime.
The Sojourn reminds me of classic fantasy puzzlers like Myst or The Witness. Players walk through beautifully rendered environments that literally build themselves in front of you upon entering a room. There isn’t any threat of danger or death, as falling off a platform results in you popping right back up. Basic gameplay consists of finding your way from Point A to Point B past various obstacles: gates that won’t open without being activated, bridges that are crumbled and need to be mended, or such. These are manipulated primarily via statues scattered about the levels. Stepping on a mystical portal puts you in the dark world, where some of the broken bridges are mended. You can move a limited amount of distance before being thrust back into the real world. The statues are active in the dark, allowing you to mend other bridges or trade places with them, basically teleporting around the stage to reserve dark world energy or get past certain obstacles, and another that blasts a ray of dark energy allowing you to activate certain things at a time. Gameplay reminds me of the old riddles where you have a chicken, fox, and bag of grain you have to take across a river but can only carry one at a time. It’s finding that particular combination of moves to get to your destination. As you go further, extra gameplay mechanics arise such as runes that allow a statue to remain on no matter what or a duplicator that places a second statue that you can then use to progress.
The Sojourn’s story is told through statues as well. Every few levels a progressive story of a child’s life is told. It feels as if it’s representative of the way we develop our perception of reality, with idyllic family portraits and strange contrasts like blindfolds over the parent’s eyes. Each level has a title that seems to go along with the current step in life, and is the closest thing to a clue you get for your progression. It’s one of those frustrating games that don’t offer much past that so if you are stuck, you are stuck until you figure it out with nothing else to do. Most levels do have an optional secondary task to go back and figure out, though it is simpler to just try to find those solutions while you are in the level the first time around. Bonus objectives lead to more philosophical text about the nature of reality and our perceptions of it. The story bits are interesting, but feels disjointed as the static statues don’t really seem to have a lot to do with the gameplay itself.
Every life is a journey, and we have to decide how we perceive it. The Sojourn attempts to bring light to that independent thought, though my memories of my time with the game will center more around the gameplay sections than the story itself. That’s not a negative to either, though, as the mind-twisting puzzles are just difficult enough t not outstay their welcome and the tale, while silent, is very impactful and helps us realize that there could be more to life.
-Beautiful world that builds itself around you
-Great puzzles with a nice learning curve
-Strict and easy to understand rules that interact with each other: finding a puzzle solution is a great “ah hah” moment
-Story and gameplay are disjointed
-Getting stuck on a puzzle is a dead end until you figure it out
Special thanks to Iceberg Interactive and Shifting Tides for providing a code for review!