Get ready to open your third eye in our The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood review!
The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is a deck-builder featuring a witch doing divinations on an asteroid in the cosiness of… outer space? Sign me right up! Questions around determinism and choices abound in a Coffee Talk/Every Hue of of You vibes, games that use a cozy, Ghibli-like atmosphere to envelop deeper themes around the human condition in our digital age; loneliness, connection, and identity.
The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood was released on August 16th for Steam and Nintendo Switch, developed by the team at Deconstructeam and published by Devolver Digital. It’s on the smaller side in terms of playtime (6-10 hours for a first playthrough) but a lot of indie games sacrifice a 100 + hour playtime to deliver a much more personalised, intimate narrative experience, which much more suites what I look for in games I truly enjoy. I personally find that a much more worthwhile journey than the bigger triple AAA titles (still love you Final Fantasy and Monster Hunter!).
The developers are a team from Valencia, Spain, and this is their biggest game to date. Their other titles are Red Strings Club (2018) and Essays on Empathy (2021). They are known for The Three Pillars of (what I consider) to make a good story-focused game :
- Narratives that deep dive into the heart
- Intricate, hand-crafted pixel art and;
- Resonant music.
If you’re tired of the absurdities of modern adult life, jump into a different kind of absurdity, that of Witches in Space + existential dread!
The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood Review – Story
Decisions, decisions, decisions…
Sisterhood is about witches and fortune-telling (if the title didn’t give it away). I personally love it when elements of traditional fantasy and sci-fi are combined together. The tone of the story is soothing (think hot chocolate, wrapped in a blanket on a rainy day) yet melancholic, wrapped in the mystique of the glories of vast space-time.
You play as Fortuna, a witch exiled from her Coven, floating on an asteroid in space in her little house. Her banishment period is 1,000 years and after 200 years of her sentence , she makes a pact with a creature (a Behemoth called Ábramar) to assist her in dealing with her little banishment problem. But a deal with an Eldritch space god always comes with a price… right?
The Cosmic Wheel of Sisterhood delves into more sombre themes of suicide, depression, and self-harm, so please be careful if these topics hit too close to home.
Fortuna creates a new deck of cards to play with, using the elements of fire, water, air, earth and void. These elements have a pivotal question you must answer that is tied to them. Given the focus on determinism, you do get many a narrative choice that affects the story, so replayability is high.
The story-telling itself at times feels non-linear, some scenes I wasn’t able to tell if they were in Fortuna’s future, or her past. I love it when there is a strong link between how you play a game, (how it’s mechanics function) and the story.
The absurdities of modern life, right?
The plot hones in on personal responsibility with power, and how each and every action affects the tangible world around you. Are you rail-roaded by deterministic shackles, with every building-block of your life carefully placed by a force outside your hand? Or does every tiny choice you make tweak your fate by milliseconds? Which is worse? The past that binds you can be as fragile as silken threads, or as heavy and binding as iron chains.
The other characters that you meet are full of life and unique, such as other witches, other-worldly being and other critters. The personality and love shines through the game’s characters. They are full of life and unique, charming in their eccentricities. The dialogue is well-thought-out, with no discussion seeming extraneous.
The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood Review – Gameplay
The main gameplay hook is being able to build your own tarot deck to help you with divinations. You build a deck of fortune-telling cards that you can infuse with various emotions, happiness, fear, and grief. To make a tarot card, you’re popped into a basic visual editor page. You’re given a bunch of visual assets to create a card. You get to choose a sphere (a background), an Arcana (the main figure on the card), and finally Symbols, extra bits that add more visual flare to the composition.
Each asset holds arcane energy (tied to elements) that can be used. Depending on what elemental assets you’ve used, the tarot card will have differing emotional energy. If you’re a visual artsy metaphor type, go bananas (I certainly did). You use these cards to assist the characters that you meet with readings.
You become an advice giver to your friends, using the cards to give out readings to help them with their troubles and queries. Choosing a particular card will change the choices available to you as to what reading or ‘advice’ you give out. You get elemental energy back depending on what reading you choose to give out, which will assist you in future card creation endeavours.
This little system is visually and emotionally engaging, with a little bit of strategy to keep your mind and heart switched on.
The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood Review – Presentation
The pixel artwork on show here has a slightly more muted tone, but the colours are still varied and have depth. Purples, dark reds, golds and greens. There’s enough detail and shadowing to keep things visually interesting.
Don’t we love Faustian pacts with strange worm-like Gods?
The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood’s soundtrack is ambient, science fiction serenity. It combines a mix of strings, piano, and lo-fi sounds that run through your body like wine through water. I found myself putting on my headphones and falling into an almost trance-like state. This meditative atmosphere created by the talented fingerspit perfectly suits the existential, yet hopeful story.
Here are some of my favourites from this star-dusted soundtrack:
The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is a gorgeous little game that maturely explores high-concept themes such as determinism, as well as isolation, community, and personal responsibility. The tarot deck-building gameplay mechanic fits in wonderfully with the story in very surprising ways. Go forth and build the deck of your dreams.
And as an added bonus, enjoy this behind-the-scenes video on the making of Sisterhood.
So, why should you play The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood?
- An engaging narrative similar in vibe to Coffee Talk and Every Hue of You
- Gorgeous pixel art
- Space lo-fi music that soothes the soul
But why shouldn’t you play The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood?
- You will not be making any finger-breaking co-co-combos here. Slow point and click is the way
- Themes on existentialism, fate etc take up a decent amount of brain space. Sisterhood may look chill, but it really does demand some thinking
A review code was kindly provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review. If you enjoyed our The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood review, be sure to check out more from Deconstructeam in our Essays on Empathy review and join the Qualbert Discord!