Review – The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood
Have you ever had your fortune told? I have, and the results were… hilariously mixed. From tarot readings from my school friends just learning to the craft (which lead to wildly outlandish results), to a self-professed genuine medium who read my palm (which turned out to be scarily accurate), to having my fortune told from a “real professional psychic” (who got absolutely everything wrong), there’s a lot of fun and mystique to trying to learn what the future has in store for us. But what if there’s more behind the readings than simply attempting to peer into one’s life, whether in earnest or as a simple party trick. What if reading from a deck of tarot cards held much more weight than that? This is the question that The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood from Deconstructeam poses to us.
In The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood, you play as Fortuna, a young witch who has been sentenced to be exiled from her coven in complete isolation for one thousand years. After two hundred years of her sentence passes, Fortuna realizes she can’t take it anymore and makes a pact with an ancient cosmic entity in order to regain her freedom. She and the Behemoth join forces, giving Fortuna terrifying and thrilling new powers, and she slowly starts to reconnect with the sisters from the coven she was banished from centuries prior.
Honestly, I had no idea what to expect from The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood. From watching the trailer it looked like some cutesie, deck-building, witch-themed romp, but that’s not really the case here. The actual game is so much more than that, far deeper than I was expecting. On the surface it’s somewhat of a visual novel that follows Fortuna as she tries to regain her life after being exiled, but there’s quite a bit more to it, both in terms of its narrative and gameplay. Once again, Devolver manages to subvert our expectations when it comes to card-based games, which we’ve already seen from titles such as Inscryption and Card Shark.
While technically a visual novel, The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood strays from the traditional format by telling its story mainly through reading tarot cards. You’ll still have certain interactions and story beats affected by various dialogue options, but the bulk of the gameplay is decided through tarot card readings.
However, you won’t be using a traditional tarot card deck. Fortuna had her deck revoked from her when she was banished. What’s unique about Fortuna’s newest deck is that she gets to design them from the ground up. There are three components to every new card she’ll select in her new deck: a main sphere (the background), arcane powers (the primary icon), and a symbol (the finer details). Each of these have their own elemental costs when crafting (Air, Water, Earth, and Fire), but they’ll also grant you certain strengths and weaknesses in different areas, depending on what you choose.
For example, Air reveals how things are affected by the current environment, even on a social level. Water is ever-changing, and embraces all living things equally. Earth demonstrates the necessity for structure and relishes the foundations of existence. Fire can destroy everything, but also ushers in new waves of change.
The amount of energy points you’ll be able to spend when crafting new cards is largely dependent on how you respond to the various characters you’ll meet throughout the game. Although, this isn’t just limited to which dialogue options you select. Another huge factor is which card(s) you draw from your customized deck. Often times you’ll pull more than one card to choose from when reading into someone’s past, present, or future. Sometimes the person or entity you’re trying to help will ask more than one question at a time. This will give you several options to choose from when reading their fates. Since you’ll be able able to design your cards in countless amounts of combinations, this means that your readings for each character will vary quite a bit from playthrough to playthrough.
Yes, this also means that there are multiple endings. Seven, in fact. I wanted to check to see how much weight the various choices made within The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood, so I played through it a few times to see for myself. It takes about eight hours to play the first time; when you’re still learning how things work, who each character is, what their plights are, and all the time meticulously crafting the images on your specialized tarot deck (which is pretty much pointless outside of the cosmetic appeal). After that, you can easily run through the game in about half that time, since the dialogue is pretty similar for the majority of the game, aside from reactions to more extreme dialogue options you might choose.
That’s not to say that each playthrough will feel the same as one another. Quite the opposite, in fact. Since there are so many crafting options for the cards in your deck, the potential meanings behind each card will be widely varied. Then there’s also the fact that you’ll only be able to pull one or two of the cards from your deck for each facet of the reading. The possibilities are endless, and while yes, you’ll see repeats of certain options during subsequent playthroughs, there’s also a good chance that you’ll see different options depending on what choices you make.
Certain decisions will carry more weight than others, especially those made in the very beginning of the game. While not immediately apparent, the choices you make in the beginning of the game hold the most weight. The decisions made in the later chapters of The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood are also extremely important, but in different ways. I want to avoid spoilers as much as possible, so let’s just say that this will become clear once you’ve played the game for yourself.
The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is a beautiful game through and through, from its narrative to its art design. It features highly detailed pixel art graphics, as well as some truly gorgeous cutscenes. I also can’t praise highly enough the creativity behind some of the character designs. There are entities here that are truly original. My only small gripe is that there is a lack of other locations outside of Fortuna’s living quarters. I understand that this was an intentional choice to give players the feeling of the isolation Fortuna experienced, but after hearing so much about the wonders of the cosmos and sending out allies to explore them in depth, it’s shame we never get to see any of these other places for ourselves, even through the eyes of others.
The sound design in The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is fantastic. Despite taking place in one small location, the sound effects are very well done. The shuffling of cards, creaking floorboards, and slithering Behemoths all add to the immersion while playing the game. Then there’s the original soundtrack from composer fingerspit, which does a lot of the heavy lifting to create the chill and otherworldly vibe that The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood strives for. Fingerspit knocked it out of the park with this soundtrack, creating a soundscape that evokes feelings of transcendence and tranquility.
The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood managed to surprise me in just about every way. Believe me when I say that the trailers don’t do it justice, because there’s a much deeper game here than I could have ever expected. Changing up the visual novel formula by telling the story not only through dialogue options, but also through tarot card readings, is an ingenious concept. This encourages replayablility, especially with offering seven different endings, an makes each playthrough unique. The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is truly a bewitching experience.
Some truly gorgeous pixel art and creative character designs. Lack of other locations, while an intentional choice, does feel slightly stale after a while.
Mostly a visual novel, but the branching story paths are told through tarot card readings.
The sound design is fantastic, from the creaking of floorboards to the shuffling of cards. The soundtrack is chill and just a bit otherworldy, which is perfect for this game.
A captivating way to craft a visual novel. Due to you creating your own cards and it being random which cards will be drawn during your readings, every playthrough will be completely different.
Final Verdict: 8.5
The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood was provided by the publisher.