The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood Review (Switch) – Bewitching Fortune

The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is the latest title from Valenica-based studio Deconstructeam. Fans of the interactive fiction genre are probably familiar as their back catalogue consists of Gods Will Be Watching, Essays on Empathy and the critically acclaimed The Red Strings Club.

Known for their impactful narratives and well-realised characters during their run of games; I’m pleased to inform you that The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood does that and then some. And after my 7-10 hours of gameplay, I was left spellbound. So what about the game makes it so bewitching? Let’s spin that wheel.

Wheel of Misfortune

As I alluded to Deconstructeam’s previous games, The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is essentially a visual novel. Most of your time is just reading the dialogue and choosing where the conversation goes with your limited options. However, you are the fortune-telling witch Fortuna after all, so your choices will have immediate consequences. Relationships form and potentially break, resentment could become understanding, and above all else, the fate of the Coven is in your hands/cards.

Witches in the game live in space and Fortuna has been banished by the head of her Coven for 1000 years. Forced into solitude and stripped of her Tarot cards, she’s left to gaze among the galaxy from her bedroom window, losing her composure and sanity. Out of desperation, she summons the Behemoth, Àbramar. Behemoths are forbidden and the magic surrounding them can lead to the execution of the Witches that dare use it. So for Fortuna to go ahead and summon an entity that transcends mortal existence, solitude is obviously a gruelling punishment.

Àbramar grants the player and Fortuna the Arcana magic to create their own cards to tell people’s fortune with, and after a recent grant of visitations, what better time to use them? You then start meeting friends of Fortuna, learning the histories, problems and current ongoings within the Coven. Instantly I was hooked by Deconstructeam’s relatable and empathetic characters. They are all so vivid in motive and feelings that you quickly decide your alignments with your own human values. The game could be lacking in plot and just conversing with these characters would have been an enjoyable experience. However, that’s not the case as so much is bubbling up for Fortuna and the Coven.

Dealt a Powerful Hand

Times are shifting in your Coven and there are a plethora of ways to go about the story. As I mentioned, Àbramar gives you the power to create your own cards to tell every character’s fortune. This is where you have the freedom to craft a deck however you see fit. Each card you design has a background, main character and a set of objects that you choose. Each subject uses the four types of magic – Earth, Air, Fire and Water – all having their own deeper meanings like aggression, power, and empathy.

Combining different magics with the three formats of making a card builds a more versatile card, that you can then use when reading someone’s fortune. Using that card doesn’t just give you an increased magical essence to create more cards with, but it also opens up unique dialogue options given the properties. The more cards you have, the more left up to fate the reading and subsequent dialogue options you get, essentially driving the narrative in a mixture of choice and RNG. It’s a deeply satisfying mechanic, perfectly befitting the genre that also makes narrative sense, the overall design is enthralling.

I brushed over the creation aspect but I absolutely fell in love with being able to craft my own cards. The creativity and ownership I felt in building my own deck visually just made the narrative that much more personal. It’s overall remarkable how synergised the story and main mechanic are. On top of all the beautiful stories from the characters, it was captivating.

Not Just a Broom and a Crooked Hat

Deconstructeam does a wonderful job of telling deeply human and mature stories in a very progressive manner, and I can’t commend them for doing so enough. There’s one Witch in particular who in the human world isn’t feeling right about their assigned gender, leading to dysphoria and what I can only explain as death. Reawakened as a Witch, unsure of their identity, Fortuna guides them to be who they want now.

The relatability of trying to figure things out with confidence in a space so welcoming is a positive representation that is much needed in video games. I know games are one of the first mediums to deal with these topics head-on and be generative. But the scale in popularity of the publishing arm for The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood hopefully means casting a wider audience for these stories. The level of maturity and respect the team has when depicting sensitive topics is so refreshing to see them told so well here.

There are also contextual minigames that resemble some of the card-making that you do too. There’s an instance early on where you’re in a flashback talking to your two Witch friends, if you’re paying attention you learn a bit about them, like one being vegan. Then later on you are making a pizza, toppings range from cheese, rocket and pepperoni. Naturally, I made a smiley face out of the toppings I had and the vegan Witch commented about the use of meat. The game is brimming with subtle repercussions from your choices in those instances, that make the story feel like a living organism rather than a set narrative.

Fire, Burn and Cauldron Bubble

The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood sports a pixel art style that leans into a manga influence with the characters. There are some flashbacks in the game that are truly some of the most cinematic moments. Some wonderful scenes are few and far between though as you’re mostly in the house. Intentional or not, like Fortuna I was yearning to be out of the house to see the beauty of the world in the game. It’s a shame because when Fortuna is out of the house the environments are stunning.

The house has some intricate detail, however, and Àbramar snaking around the house whilst you’re out in the cosmos is a sight to behold. The framing of characters, when you’re reading tarots and doing stuff around the house does keep the game engaging by mixing up shot types and animations. The game is confident with its style but I do wish I saw more of what they were best at when exploring outside of the house. There is something special about creating an emotional rollercoaster in one area though, and that is a testament to the direction.

The other half of that aspect is the music. I love the soundtrack, there’s a persistent melancholy with every tune and there’s an array of instruments throughout the tracks that achieve this cohesion. All the songs have a driving repetitiveness that feels meditative. Whether it’s the echoing guitar, distant claps or slow and mournful keys, there is an adaptive quality that builds and crescendos to match story beats, creating a lot of emotion. I often felt like I could have been listening to something from Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill series) but it’s Fingersplit from Valencia – who has worked on previous Deconstructeam’s games. Long story short, I’m a Fingerpsplit fan from now on.

Last Spell

What more can I say for The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood? This is a bigger game than fans of visual novels. Decounstructeam does a wonderful job of creating immensely emotive choice-based narratives, and this title will sit with me for a long time. The overarching plot is entertaining enough, but it really is the characters along the way that steal the show for me.

The card-creating mechanic weaved into the storytelling is a standout aspect that only becomes more potent and meaningful the more you carry on. I love the overall art direction, though I do wish there was more variety in the scenes. The music perfectly sets the tone and only bolsters the emotive language the game goes for. Even if the genre isn’t your style, The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is well worth checking out as it shoots for something special and is a Deadshot.

The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is a mystifying and emotive title from Deconstructeam. The complex characters and card-creating/reading mechanics bring exciting concepts to the interactive fiction genre that leave a long-lasting impression. A game that is uniquely beautiful inside and out and deals with topics with much-needed maturity and representation. Let the game cast a spell on you and you will be left bewitched.

The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is available now for Nintendo Switch (review platform) and PC via Steam.

Developer: Deconstructeam

Publisher: Devolver Digital

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

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