The Sojourn is a first-person puzzle game ripe with thought-provoking themes and gorgeous landscapes bathed in bright colors. The game is developed by Shifting Tides, a UK based game development studio, and published by Iceberg Interactive. It features four chapters, each with a distinct atmosphere and style, filled with different puzzle mechanics that ultimately culminate with the player traversing through parallel worlds of light and darkness in order to move forward.
The Sojourn tells most of its story through the environment. Outside of a few subtitles, the game has no dialogue and instead uses set pieces within the game to layout its narrative. The idea is that the player is born into a beautiful, pure land, but as you progress forward, solving puzzles and gaining new understanding, it becomes clear that everything is not as it seems. As darkness seeps through every crevice and forms the foundation of the world, your eyes are opened to the shadows of the world and can begin to uncover its hidden truths.
The main focus of the game is the puzzles and the fantastic, whimsical environments. The design of the world and the puzzle mechanics themselves feel like something from a far off mystical world like Agrabah or Mount Olympus. The puzzles themselves are not overly difficult though. As the game progressed and more and more elements were added to the puzzles, it became challenging but never overwhelming.
The game tasks you with moving between light and darkness to open gates that lead to new areas. To do this, players have to think strategically, as you only get so many steps before the light within the environment comes roaring back. The atmosphere and some of the light-based puzzles felt like I was back in Alfheim playing God of War, or the puzzles in various shrines throughout Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Additionally, the color palette and the mechanics feel very similar to Breath of the Wild.
Players move through the game by opening new pathways in the dark by moving statues or getting harps to repair bridges. Each section adds a new component to the puzzles which are later repeated in unique ways. There are not a lot of mechanics in The Sojourn. Players can walk and jump, but the majority of the time-solving puzzles is spent interacting with the various items. The only time I wished there was a run option was when I continuously failed a puzzle and had to restart over and over. Additionally, players only are allowed a number of steps in the darkness before the power is taken from them. This mechanic forces players to be very strategic.
My only issue with the puzzles is that there are no hints if you get stuck. While there is the option to reset the puzzle, which I used frequently in the latter part of the game, the option to have hints is often necessary for me. A lot of players with cognitive disabilities, I have ADHD and anxiety, could greatly benefit from an option to receive hints, even small ones like the difficulty options offered in Shadow of the Tomb Raider specifically for puzzles.
Another concern I had about The Sojourn is it relies too much on environmental storytelling. The game almost doesn’t have a narrative at all outside the vague chapter names and occasional statues of people that appear out of the dirt with the rest of the environments. The puzzles become monotonous fast because there is no clear reason why the player is progressing.
Additionally, there is no menu telling players what chapter they are on or how much is left in that chapter. Outside of the marketing, I would have never known the game was split between four chapters because of how little is communicated to players. I wish the narrative was more clear, either through journal items the player could read or the addition of dialogue from the statues that appear throughout the game.
That being said, even without a concrete narrative, The Sojourn is a beautiful game. Between the score and the peaceful environments, the game is extremely relaxing. It ended up functioning for me as a way to meditate or decompress from the other pressures around me. If you are looking for a puzzle game with a relaxing setting and score, then The Sojourn is a must-play. However, if you want something with more narrative driving the gameplay, look elsewhere.
The Sojourn is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Epic Games Store on September 20, 2019.
If you are looking for a puzzle game with a relaxing setting and score, then The Sojourn is a must-play. However, if you want something with more narrative driving the gameplay, look elsewhere.