Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is the new narrative adventure game from DON’T NOD, developers well-known for their powerful and immersive narrative games. We’re big fans of theirs, having spent many hours in worlds they have created from Arcadia Bay in Life is Strange to snowy Alaska in Tell Me Why. So we jumped at the chance of exploring a new world in their latest game, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie. We got to play the first two chapters of the game, due to release in June 2023.
Unlike the previous DON’T NOD games mentioned, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie isn’t set in the US. It’s not even set in our world but the fictional island of Atina, which has a vaguely Mediterranean vibe with its sunny, coastal location. It is also not set in our time, but in the near future.
The story starts with meeting Polly, a young woman who is returning home to Atina for the first time in a few years. She’s back because her mother, Ursula, has gone missing. You get to meet the people she calls family, Ursula’s partner Lazlo and his granddaughter Nora, who are in equal parts upset and baffled by Ursula’s disappearance, and start on a quest alongside them to get the truth about what happened.
Things get murky when you take into account the island is run by a megacorporation named MK, which is using its power to control the population. There are drones in the sky keeping tabs on everyone, most people are employed by the company and you get the impression they are not to be messed with. The worry is that Ursula has got on MK’s wrong side, and if this is the case, that something bad has happened to her.
So far, so straightforward. Except – much like in many of DON’T NOD’s previous games – Polly soon discovers that she has a special gift – an ability to enter another dimension called the Reverie, where she becomes an oracle called Harmony. This world is the realm of the Aspirations of Humanity: Glory, Bliss, Power, Chaos, Bond and Truth. Each aspiration is represented by a human form with their own distinct personalities, goals, and opinions on how to make things better. For example, Bliss is a fun, vivacious teenage girl who just wants everyone to be happy and Power is a gruff older gentleman who takes no nonsense.
Narrative games that give you choices to make, and whose outcomes affect the rest of the story are not a new concept, with DON’T NOD having used this mechanic in their previous games. However, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie takes this to a whole new level making it reminiscent of an old ‘Choose You Own Adventure’ book that many of us used to read as a child, with the narrative being split up into short sections, each of which comes about because of a decision you’ve made. The decisions are shown as nodes on the Augural, a visual representation of the paths and nodes that could exist in the future.
For each section of the story, you have a choice of around 2-4 different nodes that lead off into different paths. You can follow each path to see the consequences, giving you direction on what choices to make. Each of the aspirations are there to give you advice as well. For example, Chaos will choose the path that leads to maximum disruption and Bond’s path will help you to make stronger connections with the people around you.
Talking about people, the game features a large cast, and many different locations so things get complex quite quickly. This is where the Codex comes in handy, an encyclopaedia that gradually gets filled as you uncover new information, and which you can refer to to keep you up to speed.
At each choice you can gain or lose crystals from each aspiration, such as pursuing a path that makes everyone happy and at ease will earn you crystals from Bliss. This opens up certain pathways and closes others, and changes the narrative. At the end of each chapter you are shown how many crystals from each aspiration you have earnt, which is important going forwards because Harmony will ultimately choose to work with one Aspiration to rule over Reverie and become the heart of humanity.
To be honest, given the previous form of the developers, we were expecting Harmony: The Fall of Reverie to be a 3D, cinematic experience. What we got was a flatter 2D game, with colourful backgrounds overlaid with animated characters and dialogue. Dialogue is both written and voiced, but we must admit skipping through the voiceovers on more than one occasion, impatient to move the story forward. The cut scenes between chapters offered something more cinematic but we would have liked to have seen the whole game delivered in this style.
Using the Augural as a mechanic for choosing the route of the narrative is novel but takes some getting used to. Quite often during my playthroughs of the opening hours of the game, certain nodes weren’t open, and it took some working out why not, having to look around the board to find previous nodes that should have been played first, or realising that not enough crystals from a certain aspiration had been collected. This led to a bit of frustration on occasion.
Given how much we love DON’T NOD’s back catalogue, we were surprised that we didn’t form an immediate connection with Harmony: The Fall of Reverie. The story just didn’t feel exciting enough, the characters fell flat and even the novel gameplay didn’t make up for this. However, it must be pointed out that we only played the first three hours, so there is the possibility that things ramp up after this short introduction. We’ll be sure to find out in our full review as release comes about.
Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is due to release on PC and Nintendo Switch come June 8th 2023, followed by Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 release on June 22nd 2023.