Reviews - Updated on April 9, 2022

The creators of puzzle games try to make their projects different from the rest, inventing unusual mechanics and, in some cases, accompanying what is happening with a story. Someone, like the authors of Portal and QUBE, adds characters and a lot of dialogue, and in some The Witness it is extremely rare to hear someone’s voices, and the meaning of what is happening is not clear for a long time. The Sojourn balances on the verge between two extremes – the new product from the Shifting Tides team has both a demonstration of events and words folded into beautiful sentences, but it does not cease to be mysterious.

Intrigue without intrigue

Nothing is really explained in The Sojourn: you wake up in an unknown place, some kind of white firefly flies around you, lighting bulbs, and a few seconds after your appearance, each new location begins to change before your eyes. Cobblestones line up in stairs, stones stand next to each other, forming platforms, and statues or columns appear in empty places. It all looks mesmerizing. I don’t even want to twist the camera once again – you never know, you suddenly miss something.

The player is soon introduced to key mechanics related to campfires located on the ground. As soon as the hero enters such a fire, he is transferred to a dark world, where the level structure remains the same, but minor changes appear. Either an extra platform will come out, or a bush will grow and become an insurmountable obstacle for the character. And most importantly, only in the dark world can you interact with the statues, when using which the player changes places with them, no matter how far they are located.

The mechanics have one limitation – you can only walk around the dark world for a few seconds. The game does not punish you if you stand up and decide to think, but as soon as you take a step, the gauge will start to dry out. Therefore, if the invisible platform is located far from the fire, it will probably not be possible to run to it (or rather, to reach it – the hero is rather slow). You will have to look for another way and use teleporting statues, as well as other methods that appear as you progress.

Later, gates will begin to meet, which remain closed until you place the statue in a certain place; lyre-shaped figures that restore destroyed platforms for five seconds; cabins, duplicating statues, and other similar objects. Toward the middle, there will be more and more opportunities to stay longer in the dark world, including gates, when passing through which you will not leave the darkness until you get to them again.

Sojourn game review

Sometimes riddles can be solved from the end – to understand how the statues should stand in the final, and rely on these reflections.

Need more statues

And at this point, you have to finish the story about the merits and immediately move on to the shortcomings. The best part of the game was the introductory chapter, where for the first time you see many effects, the puzzles do not tire, the difficulty does not jump, and the manner of narration is not so annoying. Even the structure of this chapter is different from everything else in The Sojourn – if during the first hour we gradually move from one “room” to another, watching how more and more symbols appear on each new door after solving puzzles, then everything becomes what – something crumpled. When you get into the tower, solve four puzzles, go up the elevator and see almost the same floor already with five rooms, you start to get disappointed in the game. But after that, two more floors are waiting!

As a result, The Sojourn is completed in nine or even ten hours – depending on how often you get stuck and whether you want to solve bonus puzzles. Locations will change, but very, very rarely – in the first zone you will spend so much time and solve so many puzzles that lining up platforms and other beautiful effects will no longer evoke any emotions. Then the scenery will be updated, but not much – the colors will be different, but the design of past locations is still recognizable in them. After the rides on the elevator, you will be offered to jump into the well, and the puzzle episodes will remain about the same.

The same mechanics here can be used several times in a row, and therefore new features do not appear as often as we would like. The genius of The Witness, which The Sojourn reminds me of at first, was how the same mechanic can be used in completely different ways, even within the same region. There were many mysteries with a shadow falling on the slabs, for example, and all of them were solved in completely different ways – either you had to go from the other side, then look for the answer above your head, then mentally connect the broken objects. Here, at the end of the game, you change places with the statues in the same way as at the beginning.

Not Plato and not Socrates

In such a situation, the story could have saved, but the developers were too carried away by philosophical reasoning. In the “main” game, words rarely appear, only when moving from one zone to another, and they do not explain what is happening at all – they are just vague comments about how we experience the world and what we see around us. The story is told with the help of blindfolded statues periodically appearing after solving riddles. If at first it is interesting what kind of boy you see surrounded by parents and strange people, then very soon you lose all interest in these motionless figures.Sojourn game review

What is he showing them? They don’t see anything!

More text is found in additional puzzles. A large part of the main riddles is overgrown with new challenges after they are completed – you can immediately leave the “room” and go to the next one, or you can stay and solve the bonus riddle. The location will be the same, but a couple more platforms, a statue, a harp and something else will form nearby, and you will need to get to the scroll and complete the task in this way.

When you open the scroll, you will read the quote, and that’s it – for the sake of this you have been tormented for five or even twenty minutes. “Chaos destroys everything we know and believe in, but it also forces us to build a new foundation,” says one scroll. “We are molded by uncertainty. But it recedes when we sculpt ourselves,” says another. The feeling that I went into a group with quotes of great people – this does not help to understand the plot, nor does it reveal the universe of the game. And in general, these are not the prizes for which it is worth spending extra time (and there are fifty of them here). Military quotes in Call of Duty that appear after death, and they carry more meaning and look more appropriate.

As a result, it turns out that after a few hours after the launch, you can hardly find reasons to play The Sojourn. There are episodes in it when new mechanics meet, and they are used in an original way, and you gradually guess at the solution and feel like a winner. This can even happen for several levels in a row. However, soon, either the puzzles will be monotonous, or all the tired mechanics will try to lump them together, or the difficulty will start to jump. A couple of times I had to completely restart the test from the very beginning, as I found myself in a stalemate with no way to return to the dark world.

The game looks great, even when such effects start to bother.

***

Those who miss puzzles should still try The Sojourn – sometime later, at a discount. It’s a long way from The Witness, The Talos Principle, Portal and other worthy representatives of the genre, but the puzzles here can be fun if you break the passage over several evenings, and not try to complete everything as soon as possible. Otherwise, the monotony will be very tiring, and the motivation will gradually begin to disappear due to the overly mysterious plot and the meaninglessness of everything you do in this game.

Pros: great visual style; sometimes there are excellent puzzles; a large number of puzzles, including bonus ones.

Cons: instead of a normal narrative – excessive mystery and inappropriate philosophy; protractedness associated with monotonous puzzles; locations change very rarely and tire with a similar design.

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