I’ve seen a lot of dialogue systems in games. Some with dice-rolls, some with obscure glyphs, but none quite like Signs Of The Sojourner, which transforms conversation into a deck-building puzzle. Just announced by Echodog Games and aiming to release later this year, they’ve just released a playable alpha demo, available via their Discord channel to gather feedback. It’s a story about leaving home in the wake of a parent’s death, travelling, discovering delicious foods and trying to come away from every conversation with knowledge of how to talk to others better.
The demo build lacks music or sound, so I recommend putting on whatever chill jams get your brain oiled up best. While the conversations themselves are effectively canned dialogues that you don’t effect, moving to the next part of a conversation requires both participants – you’re not ‘fighting’ here – to bridge a gap, taking turns to place cards with matching symbols. It’s a little Solitaire, a little Triple Triad, but gets interesting when you realise that your options are changed by who you’ve talked to. After each conversation, you have to replace one card from your (very small) deck with one of theirs.
It feels like an interesting – if reductive – way of depicting shifts in vocabulary. You can’t go home again, as they say – or at least, you can, but only if you’ve still got the right cards to talk with your childhood friends. You’ve got a limited number of fumbles to move a conversation forward, and unless you can find common ground, both of you leave having gained nothing. You need to practically replace your whole deck in order to interact with city-folk after life in the boonies, but with each new door opened, it seems another closes. It’s a clever idea, and one I hope Echodog can stretch out into a full game.