Deconstructeam is a developer I admire on principle alone. This is a team of people that are committed to building narrative experiences, and using gameplay mechanics as part of the fabric of storytelling. This is, I believe, how games should be, and Essays on Empathy and The Red Strings Club certainly established the developer as a DDNet favourite.
The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is a tarot reading game, with a very Deconstructeam twist. I’ve played through the first part of it for a preview, and I’ve come back intrigued in the extreme.
The basic premise of The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood is as follows: You play as a witch that has been stripped of her powers, and exiled to a lonely asteroid in space. After centuries of this, she has decided she has had enough. She summons a Godlike entity of extreme cosmic power to form a Faustian pact: the being will give her magic powers back… but at some great sacrifice down the track.
Obviously, I’m very early into the game right now, but I am immediately intrigued and invested in it. One of the key tasks in the first part of the game is to make a series of decisions about your desires, and the nature of what you’re willing to sacrifice to get it. So early on in the game, I have no idea what the full impact of these decisions will be, but the Godlike entity promises me that those decisions will have major ramifications for the plot.
The gameplay itself is also intriguing. The main loop (at least, so far), has you using magic power to craft Tarot cards. You even get to design the art on the card, which is a neat creative touch. Then you use that growing deck to tell the fortune of the various characters that will visit you. The thing is… those readings are pretty potent. For example, with my very first visitor, the cards told me that she’d become a political giant (which was problematic, given that she belonged to an organisation that is meant to remain neutral) and that she’d be involved in a major war in some way.
If these tarot cards read true, this could be one incredible narrative arc ahead. It also made me wonder how the game will handle all the permeations and story angles. If the card summoning process gives me a unique set of cards, and the random nature of card draws gives me a distinct set of readings for each character, this could become a truly monumental example of consequential storytelling. If I really am dividing all these fates, then this games deserves to be played many times in order to see the different directions the narrative spins.
Of course, there’s a flip side to this. If this non-linear approach to narrative doesn’t have enough consequences and the divinations are an arbitrary illusion – if the game plays out the same way regardless of the cards you create and draw – it will be really disappointing. I have faith in Deconstructeam, but for now, it’s too early to tell either way. What I can say is that the writing is good, if a little YA in tone sometimes, and it’s all very intriguing.
Aesthetically the game is impressive. The sheer number of cards that you can carefully build for yourself are impressive all by themselves, but the level of detail in the pixel art is also very impressive. The God-being’s facial expressions and behaviour are particularly impressive.
Unfortunately, there’s not much more to say about the game right now. The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood will live or die by its narrative, and not only can I not give that away right now, I’d also not want to. Deconstructeam is the maverick when it comes to indie game narratives, and its work deserves to be experienced for yourself. That way the surprises and beats will truly have the impact that they need to so they can carry the experience. What I can say is that if you liked Deconstructeam’s other works, you’re going to want to jump on this one. Truly, this is one of the rare teams in gaming to have a voice, aesthetic and vision all of their own.