I am inches from the finish line on The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood and can’t wait to see where all the cards fall. Despite being just shy of rolling credits, I can tell you unreservedly that this is a game you’ll want to play. And I hope you do because there are so many seemly game-altering choices that I’m eager to hear how drastically other players’ paths diverged from mine.
To get a better sense of what exactly to expect in this wild concept of an experience, imagine the emotional exploration of Coffee Talk, but in space with magical powers, artistic expression, existential dread, and a white-knuckled political campaign to top everything off. If it’s not an immediate cult classic, then I’ll never trust my expectations again.
Floating the the dark and lonely vastness of space is a cozy apartment. This is Fortuna’s prison. Here, she must spend a millennium without magic or company because her coven’s leader condemned her to exile. But after a couple of centuries, Fortuna won’t stand for that. The set up is as intriguing as it is motivating, I instantly connect with the protagonist’s plight, having been not-too-long-ago in a similar space during the early days of the pandemic.
Whether ill-advised or not, Fortuna reaches out to the darker forces of the cosmos to end her unbearable isolation, gaining the ability to weave both a set of arcane cards, but also fate itself. What I love about this game is, even though these are reality-bending powers, the narrative looks inward rather than out. A flip of my cards can determine the course of someone’s lovelife, career ambitions, or even their demise.
Small matters often bear more weight than life’s big issues because, for the game, the two are intimately connected. If I foretell someone will get their big break at work, it may well spell doom for the magical way of life I’ve known since becoming a witch. When I pick up my deck — which I get to make myself by selecting each card’s background, imagery, and composition — I’m given several choices for how I interpret its meaning.
Like dialogue choices, I scroll through prompts that dictate one fate or another before declaring the card’s significance. This process can be highly selfish, which is a wonderful way to entangle the game’s themes with its mechanics. Every option rewards me with different magical energy, a kind of currency that helps me make more cards or, occasionally, pay for other services. So, if I’m low on fire magic, choosing the fate that leads to me gaining some fire magic is awfully tempting, even if it means sparking a war.
The true thrust of the narrative, however, isn’t geared toward magical powers or political intrigue. At its core, the game is about relationships — with friends, family, strangers, and also myself. Each new chapter explores Fortuna’s journey up to this point, delving into her time as a misfit mortal and inexperienced witch. These illuminating sequences lend the story and characters thoughtful complexity.
I’m sorry to say that there is a devastating downside to this game that’s easy to miss. The developers have spelled video games with no space. “Videogames.” No space. I’m sorry to have had to report this fact, but players deserve to know. If you can muscle past this egregious misstep, the writing is otherwise notably nuanced, unexpectedly funny, and allows for a lot of possibilities.
The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood should be on your to-play list for this year. As 2023 has already been a year studded with amazing titles, that’s an impressive accomplishment.