Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is the latest narrative adventure from Life is Strange developer DON’T NOD. No strangers to games with captivating storylines, the studio aims to outdo themselves this time with a story-driven game that takes player agency to the next level. Like a virtual Choose Your Own Adventure game with an added layer of self-awareness, Harmony is full of narrative twists and turns that will pull at your heartstrings and have you second-guessing yourself in a good way.
Best of both worlds
In Harmony: The Fall of Reverie, players take on the role of Polly, who returns home after years studying abroad to search for her missing mother. While she was away, Polly’s hometown, Atina, has transformed into an unrecognizable, bustling metropolis while under the thumb of the megacorporation, Mono Konzern.
Shortly after arriving back home, Polly discovers a mysterious necklace that allows her to travel to another dimension called Reverie, where Polly is known by the name Harmony and the human world is referred to as Brittle. A series of deity-like beings called Aspirations reside in Reverie, each representing a certain concept: Bliss, Bond, Power, Truth, Chaos, and Glory. Each Aspiration lives in their own individual sanctuary on Reverie that acts as their personal safe-space and reflects their unique personalities. Aspirations rely on humankind for a resource called Egregore, which is generated by humanity’s hopes and dreams.
As the newly appointed Oracle of Reverie, Polly/Harmony must use the necklace to travel between both realms and accumulate Egregore to eventually elect one of the Aspirations to become the leader of Reverie and try to restore balance between the two dimensions. All the while, the Aspirations speak to Harmony through her mind, attempting to influence her opinion while revealing their true nature. The personality of each Aspiration reflects how they would act as the Heart of Reverie, and it is ultimately up to Harmony to decide which direction is best for both worlds.
Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is a unique narrative adventure in that it emphasizes player choice and their ability to control the direction of the story. Harmony controls fate by using the Augural, a visual representation of her clairvoyance depicted as a tree diagram composed of branching choices and consequences. Making decisions charts a course along a path with predetermined consequences and may or may not lead to the desired outcome. The path players choose to take can result in important events that impact both worlds.
The nodes on the Augural represent choices Harmony can make, and most of the time choosing a node will grant crystals pertaining to a certain Aspiration. At the end of a chapter, your accumulated Aspiration crystals determine which story outcomes are available. Your crystals convert to Egregore for the corresponding Aspirations in their effort to become Reverie’s leader. Achieving an outcome involves looking ahead on the timeline into future decision nodes to plot out the choices you must make to get to your goal. While some nodes offer vague details about what to expect, many nodes are hidden or locked behind specific parameters, such as having crystals of a particular Aspiration on hand.
Meeting certain conditions can unlock hidden nodes and reveal alternate paths along the Augural. Certain choices can also cause you to lose crystals or bar you off from narrative paths entirely. Achieving desired outcomes involves analyzing the different Augural pathways to determine which choices to make. Nodes with certain conditions will be labelled accordingly with symbols depicting its requirements. Even with proper planning, however, unforeseen consequences can lead to surprises that throw a wrench in your plans. Nevertheless, most of the decisions you make properly reflect the Aspiration behind it, making it easy enough to lean toward one Aspiration over the others.
While having a hand in how the story unfolds offers its own sense of power, it doesn’t come without some constraints. The Augural is only accessible when you need to make a decision, meaning you can’t refer to it while a scene is playing out. The game saves after every completed node, so there’s no going back once a choice has been made. However, each chapter can be replayed from the start as long as you have not reached its final node, so there is some wiggle room to change your mind during a chapter if need be. Players can also bring up the written transcript of a scene from within the Augural menu to review any details from the dialogue they may have missed.
A balancing act
Harmony’s story is lengthy, spanning multiple chapters across five Acts. The narrative explores a variety of topics ranging from political and social issues to the complexities of romance and the pursuit of knowledge. Although the story is shaped by following the disposition of individual Aspirations, it is a multi-faceted journey that is as compelling as it is extensive. Going off the beaten path to pursue locked nodes becomes part of the fun, as doing so can lead to consequences that may not be felt until several chapters later.
Despite the occasional twist, it is important for the choices players make to feel like the consequences make sense and are consistent with their expectations. So while some parts of the story were predictable, that predictability is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, most of what you’re doing with the Augural is trying to predict the future using limited information.
Vivid, colorful artwork serves as the backdrop for each of the game’s various locations and is accompanied by a handful of gorgeously animated cutscenes depicting major events. The vibrant world is further brought to life by well-written, fully-voiced dialogue and a lovely soundtrack that sets the tone for each chapter. The exceptional voice acting overshadows the mismatched lip animations of each character to the point where such flaws eventually become hardly noticeable.
Perhaps one of the strongest features of the game is its replayability. While the fate of Reverie and Atina ultimately comes down to choosing a single narrative path, there are multiple endings to experience and plenty of branching choices that will be left behind the curtain upon completion. The game encourages subsequent playthroughs by design, even if only to see what happens when siding with different Aspirations.
Despite having predetermined outcomes, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie does a great job at giving players a true sense of agency over the direction of the story. Even when things don’t go as expected, the events that unfold are no less intriguing. The game raises the bar for what can be achieved through player choice, and those looking for a compelling narrative-driven experience have plenty to enjoy here.
This review was based on a pre-release PC review code provided by the publisher. Harmony: The Fall of Reverie releases on June 8, 2023 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Harmony: The Fall of Reverie
- Compelling story that encourages multiple playthroughs
- True sense of player agency
- Interesting characters
- Great voice acting and dialogue
- Facial animations are inconsistent
- Wish there was post-game content