It's not everyday you find a game billed as "chamomile for the soul," which is exactly what three-woman Italian developer CoseBelle wants to create with Selling Sunlight, an upcoming narrative-driven RPG starring a faceless wandering merchant. It's currently on Kickstarter (opens in new tab), with CoseBelle asking for $14,250. At the time of writing, it has raised $12,545 and will run for another 12 days.
Taking inspiration from the Rune Factory series and Sunless Sea (opens in new tab), Selling Sunlight is based on exploring its gorgeous watercolor world, meeting people and trading with them. Rather than combat and skills, the main systems are bartering and conversation. Buy low in one city and sell high in another, and use different tones and responses to haggle prices down or coax information out of people. It sounds very choose your own adventure-y, and not unlike Oregon Trail.
The playable character is a blank slate marked only by a mask which hides their face and brands them as an outcast, and a merchant pin which marks them as being trustworthy. It's an interesting dichotomy and complements the conversation system which promotes role-playing, which you can sample in the free demo available via itch.io (opens in new tab).
"There's a shy, troubled clothier living in Green Hamlet," CoseBelle says of the conversation system. "Be a stern, serious merchant and he'll give you a mission: to bring him a rare, beautiful bolt of cloth from another city. The matter is incredibly important to him, and he needs the help of a reliable friend.
"Be more charming, and he will reveal that his marriage is falling apart: his wife is getting more and more distant and he doesn't really know what to do. He was thinking about making a nice dress to win her back, but maybe you have a better idea? Same story, different perspectives."
Selling Sunlight's art caught my eye and its premise drew me in, but it's the setting I find most fascinating. Half of its tidally locked world is an uninhabitable desert always facing the sun, and the other is a lightless, frozen wasteland. So, its inhabitants have been crammed into the strip of never ending sunset dividing the two, resulting in a colorful cultural mashup spread across seven cities.
CoseBelle's other inspirations are also eyebrow raisers. The one that sticks out for me is Spice and Wolf, an animated series about a travelling merchant and a goddess. It's built almost entirely on dialogue and uses financial crises to inspire drama and drive characterization. It will be interesting to see if Selling Sunlight can use its role-playing tools to foster similar tension.
Provided its Kickstarter is a success, Selling Sunlight is slated to release in 2019.