Skip to main content

This witchy indie will challenge your idea of what a ‘narrative’ game looks like

I’ve played many narrative-driven games over the past decade, and I love quite a few of them, like The Wolf Among Us, Life is Strange: True Colors, and Pentiment. Still, none of them have ever had me metacontextually thinking about the genre like The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood has.

The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood - Release Date Trailer - Nintendo Switch

This new game from The Red Strings Club’s Deconstructeam and Devolver Digital follows a tarot-reading Witch called Fortuna, who was exiled to house on an asteroid after predicting the fall of her coven. From there, she makes a deal with a behemoth named Abramar to craft a powerful tarot deck and slowly make her way back into the coven, reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, and forging the future of this universe.

That premise alone could have made it a solid narrative adventure game for fans of witchy things, but what elevates this indie is its surprisingly meta approach to the genre that had me thinking about the actions and consequences that have shaped my own life.

Giving the narrative game genre a tarot reading

Almost all of The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood takes place on the small asteroid where Fortuna was exiled. It’s here where Fortuna is visited by friends, family, and Abramar. Fortuna then has to make the kind of critical decisions you’d expect from a choice-based narrative game. Some of these play out in normal conversation, but other times, these people visiting will ask Fortuna to do a reading from her deck. This deck is made up of customizable cards that players can make, and as is the case with tarot, they all have different meanings that change the response and readings that Fortuna can give to the people she’s talking to.

I’m not someone who’s into astrology and tarot. But I understand that people use it to help contextualize their actions and make sense of the world around them. I also see how those elements provide a novel way to frame choices in a narrative game, rather than defaulting to the four-choice, “this character will remember that” system that Telltale popularized. On top of that, The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is willing to use the inherent mechanics of its genre to wax poetic about how our choices are pivotal parts of our identity and that there are irreversible consequences to our actions.

Fortuna and Abramar hang out around the asteroid house in The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood.
Devolver Digital

A matter of fate

Without spoiling much, I’ll say that the narrative of The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood gets meta when the idea that Fortuna’s readings aren’t just possibilities, but fate, arises. After this, every choice I made in the game before and thereafter had a greater impact. When we’re playing through a choice-based narrative game, the decisions we make can drastically change the world that the characters would have to deal with for the rest of their hypothetical digital lives. While most narrative games don’t dwell on that much during the story or after it concludes, The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood makes its main character mindful of the impact she’s having, which is a form of characterization I haven’t seen in this genre before.

As a player, the fact that I know the player character knows this also increases the pressure of each decision and card pull, even if The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood isn’t that mechanically different from its peers. To reinforce this feeling, all decisions in the adventure are final, as the game does not allow players to reload previous games. I was bit shell-shocked by this at first, especially coming off Baldur’s Gate 3, where I constantly save-scummed to get the results I wanted.

The more of The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood I played, though, the more I wouldn’t want it any other way. The stakes of Fortuna possibly charting the future of her clan are massive, getting more and more political as the game goes on, and knowing that it’s impossible to go back on any decision you’ve made makes every choice feel that much more critical. I’ve yet to replay The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood to test out just how different the game is from run-to-run, but this alone already gives the game a lot of replay value — though my playthrough feels final, at the same time.

Fortuna reads Jasmine's tarot The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood.
Devolver Digital

An unfamiliar, but welcome feeling

While I love narrative-driven games, many of them can start to blend together after a while, especially if they’re hewing closely to the formula Telltale popularized. Nowadays, the most exciting narrative games are the ones that find a way to play around with the genre and explore new ways to make old mechanics interesting. The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood does that on multiple levels.

Tarot is a fun way to present the game’s important choices to players, while the metatextual nature of some of the game’s themes had me thinking about the impact of every decision I’ve made and will make, both in the game and real life. That’s the kind of feeling I’ve never been able to get from things like astrology and tarot readings before. While I went into this game unsure how much it would appeal to me, I found an experience that reaffirmed things I love about the genre while delivering a captivating story about identity and consequence.

The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood releases for PC and Nintendo Switch on August 18. There’s a free demo on Steam if you want to experience some of this adventure for yourself.

Editors' Recommendations

Tomas Franzese
Gaming Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
Sludge Life is getting a surprising sequel and we’ve already tried it
A character lays passed out on a shipping container in Sludge Life.

Oddball indie Sludge Life is getting a surprise sequel, bringing another installment of the urban open-world game. Sludge Life 2 will launch sometime in 2023 and it seems like the project is already far along. In fact, I already got a chance to play one hour of it.

The original Sludge Life, a collaboration between artist Terri Vellmann and musical artist Doseone (Adam Drucker), launched in 2020. It gained some attention at the time because it was initially offered for free on Epic Games Store for an entire year. While it's not clear if the sequel will take the same approach, the first game is once again free on Steam from March 23 to March 30.

Read more
Here’s what E3 2023 could look like without Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft
Playstation character wall at E3 2018

Let's start with the good news: E3 2023 will be held in its in-person format once again after three long years of digital events necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, this time with ReedPop at the helm. The bad news is that Sony, Xbox, and Nintendo -- gaming's "Big 3" -- may not show up at the industry’s biggest convention this summer.

This is according to a report from IGN citing multiple sources, who claimd the companies won’t be a part of the show or make appearances on the floor at the Los Angeles Convention Center in any way. Their absence from this year’s E3, especially Nintendo’s, may come as a shock to the gaming community, but it's not such a surprise when looking at the past few iterations of E3. Even before the pandemic locked everyone down in 2020, Sony and Xbox had been hosting their own E3-style livestreams, so it was more likely they would do it again this year anyway. Nintendo, on the other hand, managed to show off its upcoming games via Nintendo Direct streams and at its booth, console kiosks and all.

Read more
The Spawnies are reimagining what a video game awards show looks like
The Spawnies logo appears on an orange background.

You can’t have an awards show without a little drama. While institutions like the Oscars can shine a celebratory spotlight on artists and their craft, they also tend to bring out the peanut gallery. Everything from nominations to production choices gets skewered as viewers debate the right way to recognize the art they love. That attitude has spilled into video games in recent years, as shows like The Game Awards have opened conversations about how the medium is celebrated, whether or not enough games are getting the shine they deserve, and who should be the arbiter of those decisions. Those discussions have left some hungry for a fresh approach to the standard awards format, one that better represents the way they view video games.

Content creator Kahlief Adams saw a similar need when looking at the current awards landscape. Best known as the host of Spawn On Me, a popular gaming podcast that focuses on lifting up people of color in the gaming industry, Adams began to see how his overall mission naturally dovetailed with the idea of an awards show. With the right approach, an awards show could give him another platform to spotlight underrepresented voices while celebrating a diverse array of games released every year.

Read more