Fortune tellers are cursed to be blamed for the prophecies they speak. The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood's demo, part of Steam's Next Fest, has already left me yearning for its melancholy world. I'm certain it's going to snap my heart in two and then mend it with gold, much like the kintsugi-healed demon you'll spend much of its runtime with.
The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is a narrative tarot game where you design your own cards and are saddled with the power of prophecy. The demo hammers this home with an ill omen at the save creation screen: "This game autosaves and overrides your progress as you go. You can't change slots mid-story to try different options," it warns. "After all, this is a game about fate."
You play as Fortuna, a witch exiled to a rock in space for the crime of warning your coven about their demise. It's a blend of modern and mystical aesthetics: one moment you're conversing with an enormous demon at the end of the world, the next you're driving a food truck on a roadtrip with your friends.
You enter into a pact with Abramar—a three-eyed behemoth as old as time itself—who empowers you to make a new deck of cards. The meat of the game revolves around making narrative decisions. What are you willing to sacrifice to escape your isolation?
You're able to design a bespoke deck with which to read the future. Seeing as your usual tarot has been swept away as punishment, the game allows you to kitbash together your own deck, spending energy—wind, water, earth, and fire—to assign meanings to them. You can then assemble your chosen images—a background, a figure, and an item—in a charming little editor. The game even has functionality for exporting your decks and cards to share with others.
Once you've made a card, it can show up whenever you make a reading. The tricky part comes when you're asked to interpret them: do you portend doom, soothe worries, or jab at your visitors with difficult questions? I already went soft on Fortuna's first visitor, given a choice between warning them of a violent injury and reassuring them it was all going to be alright. I'm still not sure whether I was being honest with myself, or with the card, and I get the sense that's the point.
What has me worried about weeping, though, are the implications at play here. Fortuna has never been wrong about the future, not even once, so every interpretation you make etches your friends' fate in stone. It reminds me of Papers, Please, which forced you to make life-changing decisions while staring into pixelated, hopeful eyes.
I already love the cast, despite how little time I've spent with them. Abramar in particular is a delight—oddly candid for a demon who has lived for millenia, yet clearly wounded by their past pacts. The writing is excellent, which isn't surprising considering the reception of Deconstructeam's past works such as Gods Will Be Watching and The Red Strings Club. They're in their element here.
Waiting for the full game has me bracing for impact. I know I'll grow far too attached to The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood's characters, and I know I'll be forced to seal their fate. You can play the demo on Steam right now, and I highly recommend giving it a shot.