The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is a choice-led narrative experience with divine consequences
She might be stuck on a giant rock hurtling through space, but The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood's clairvoyant witch Fortuna has all the creature comforts you'd expect. These include a bubbling cauldron, bookshelves stacked with well-worn magical tomes, and an ancient preternatural entity offering her the promise of immeasurable power.
My hour-long hands-on preview gave me a taste of the magic yet to come, and it put more than the fate of an exiled witch in my hands. Desconstructeam knows a thing or two about spinning an epic yarn, having developed narrative-driven adventure experiences like The Red Strings Club to rival some of the best visual novels. It's not often I find myself so engrossed in a game beta, but with its immersive soundscapes, interactive gameplay mechanics, and the seeds of a thoughtful story starting to sprout, The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood had me hooked in minutes.
Karma's a witch
It's a kind of magic
Check out our Immortals of Aveum preview for a more action-RPG take on witchcraft.
The game hints at a great many opportunities for branching storylines, cautioning us frequently that every choice has its consequences. The theme of witchcraft mirrors this gameplay aspect when you remember that a certain karmic Threefold Law presides over the wiccan tradition: "Ever mind the rule of three, What ye send out comes back to thee." It warns against using magic to cause harm to others, since your magical intentions could come back to bite you three times harder.
Your intentions are made up during this first crucial hour of gameplay in The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood. Exiled to spend a thousand years on a wandering asteroid, Fortuna is breaking Magical Law to summon Àdamar the Behemoth and binding him to her cause. He's a being of unthinkable power and scope, a one-way ticket out of this bleak situation – and after two centuries of solitude, I would be getting desperate too. It turns out that making a deal with a Behemoth works similarly to freeing a genie, except instead of getting three wishes, you must answer one pivotal question for each magical element: air, earth, water, fire, and void.
Stripped of her card deck and unable to predict her own future, your responses to Àdamar's questions will establish five outcomes that Fortuna desires. These range from how she wants to be perceived by her peers, to what she would sacrifice for the Behemoth's help, and each one is held within an elemental seal that binds you to Àdamar. Playing through the story will break the seals at various points, and only then will your wishes come true.
It felt like I was playing Mad Libs against a video game, diligently filling in the blanks with sweeping statements while having no idea if they'll make sense in the unwritten story. It's exhilarating in the same way a novel is when it starts at the end, and creates a clever parallel between the witch and the player; we both know what's coming, but since destiny keeps to its own schedule, the how and when is yet to be gleaned.
Given Fortuna's backstory of being unfairly banished after predicting her coven's downfall, I decide I want justice for the lonely little witch. I keep this goal in mind while answering Àdamar's questions: I want to get super powerful, return to the coven, and enact swift vengeance upon its cruel leader. This means choosing power over romance or knowledge, fear over respect or admiration, and basically any option that screams "villain origin story".
I'm reminded that my answers will have consequences in due course – yes, yes, evermind the Rule of Three – but Fortuna's fate is sealed with these five demands I'm making of the universe. I only saw one of mine come into play during my beta preview, and being the first seal to be broken, the consequences weren't all that severe. I'm hoping Cosmic Wheel manages to sustain the intrigue of how these known events will transpire, involving more branching pathways and multiple means to achieve the same end. This should keep you from feeling forced to spoil your own ending, especially if you aren't the clairvoyant type and would've preferred a surprise.
Fate or foe
It's exhilarating in the same way a novel is when it starts at the end, and creates a clever parallel between the witch and the player; we both know what's coming, but since destiny keeps to its own schedule, the how and when is yet to be gleaned.
One of the first things I noticed during my brief time in The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is how well it plays with temporal issues. It suggests a lack of linearity without ever feeling disjointed, constantly blurring boundaries between time and space in a way that had me questioning the order of events as I played them.
The unique themes and setting make this suggested non-linearity work seamlessly; when Fortuna's on a roadtrip with her sister and best friend, each of them making a wish on a shooting star – is this happening before we enter exile or is it a flash-forward to when we are free? Up here on this giant asteroid, is time moving faster or slower than down on Earth? What does two hundred years feel like to an immortal witch, and would that even register as a blip in time for a being like Àdamar? It's a story that strains against the very fabric of spacetime, and Deconstructeam draws you into Fortuna's journey by having you ponder her comparative ephemerality in the grand scheme of things.
But amid this relentless flow of time are moments where the clock seems to stand still. These come when, after each lesson with Àdamar, we are able to create another card to add to our bespoke tarot deck, each one giving Fortuna the ability to channel her magic and see into the future again. It's a welcome change of pace, providing a break from the mostly click-through gameplay as we instead get to flex our graphic design muscles – choosing from a selection of backgrounds, icons, and tools to depict in each card, the sheer variance indicates that no two cards should ever be too similar.
You have all the time in the world to build your cards, and I took full advantage of finally getting to sit back and do some divination of my own. Once again the player is being tacitly linked to Fortuna, as I found myself trying to think like a witch despite my lack of spiritual know-how. I took painstaking care in selecting my design elements, reading the descriptions and matching them up to ensure they would complement each other visually and meaningfully, once assembled as a card. This made for some interesting combinations, and also gave me an opportunity to quite literally stack the hand of fate in my favor. Watch out, Coven. I'm coming for you.
From what I've experienced of The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood so far, this is a lot more than your average choice-led adventure game. Desconstructeam has clearly put a lot of thought into creating intricate parallels between the game's story, themes, and the way in which you play it, and these are all linked with a delicate hand that never feels forced. Much like the magic Fortuna wields, every element is deliberate and creates a sophisticated cohesion, from the stunning pixelated graphics to its truly ethereal sound design, and I can't wait to see more when The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood launches later this year on PC and Nintendo Switch.
Fancy yourself a witch in training? Check out some games like Hogwarts Legacy that are all about mastering the magical arts, brewing potions, and casting spells.