Harmony: The Fall of Reverie review

Don't Not
Don't Not /

Game – Harmony: The Fall of Reverie
Publisher – DontNod
Developer – DontNod
Consoles – PS, Xbox, Switch
Release date – June 8, 2023

Harmony: The Fall of Reverie utilizes a new approach to the narrative game genre. DontNod takes a step back from the usual formula and shows you the consequences of your actions before you act. The game’s voice acting and animations give it an appearance of being an in-depth and organized narrative adventure. But becomes quickly apparent that this is not the case, and we are left with a bland and slow-paced story.

As the main character, Polyhmnia (Polly for short), we return to our home town of Atina in order to find our lost mother Ursula. We find a magical necklace that reveals we are the oracle of a mysterious land called Reverie. Six embodiments of human aspirations reside in Reverie; Power, Chaos, Truth, Bond, Bliss and Glory. Polly represents the 7th aspiration of Harmony. It turns out the human world and Reverie are connected, and it is up to Polly to find out what is destroying the heart of Reverie and how to stop it while also saving her mother.

There is no movement in Fall of Reverie. Unlike game’s like Life is Strange and The Quarry, where your character walks around and interacts with other objects and characters, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie opts for something completely different. Instead, the entire game is played via a click through text style with flip book like animations. The scenes in the game are played out after choosing an option on the Augural. This is a flow chart like choice system that shows the player the choice as well as the outcomes of actions.

A typical narrative adventure would have you wondering if you tell someone the truth or lie to spare their feelings and hope for the best with the outcome. Fall of Reverie tells you what the outcomes will be for each choice as you move further down the chart of nodes on the Augural. As you make choices, you utilize and form bonds with the different aspirations. A choice may allow you to earn a bond crystal with a certain character. On the other hand, that same choice may cause you to lose a truth crystal and remove certain options from being playable with another character.

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Where Fall of Reverie adds a level of intrigue to this new setup is with the blind nodes. You can see where you are, the end result and SOME of the choices you’ll make during play. Other choices are blocked. Each choice also reveals requirements needed to select it as well as consequences of that choice. You may see a choice you believe is the correct path, but a requirement of that choice is a terrible decision. What do you do? At the game’s end, your choices will have forged a path to create a bond with one of the aspirations that will eventually take over and lead Reverie. Whether it’s Truth or Chaos or something in between is entirely up to you.

The concept is exciting. I was sitting on my couch playing the game on my Switch in handheld form. When I saw this explained to me, I sat up straight out of my lounged, relaxed position, excited for the sense of in-depth involvement with the game’s story and connection to its choices. Imagine playing DontNod’s Life is Strange (the best game ever made bar none and it’s not even close) and knowing the outcomes of your choices. The entire point is the concept of the future changing simply because you see it and now know what it is. It’s an awesome concept for a narrative game, but unfortunately that’s where the excitement ends.

The voice acting in Harmony: Fall of Reverie is top notch. Each of the characters have their own personality and the aspirations embody their true ideals. The game views them as completely separate from each other. For example, you may have to make a decision at work that requires you to stand up for yourself while asking for a raise. In doing so, you would think it through and tell yourself to be firm and confident yet not too heavy-handed allowing yourself to form a bond with your bosses. Fall of Reverie makes it one or the other. You would have to choose between say the Power aspiration and be straight forward “this is it take it or leave it” mentality or Bond aspiration and be mushy, emotional at the expense of standing up for yourself. Now, you may get the raise this way but a consequence of your action would be that your bosses know they can walk all over you in the future. It’s this type of setup that’s used in Fall of Reverie.

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One of the most important aspects that’s needed in a narrative adventure game is an emotional bond to the story and character due to the lack of action. Life is Strange, The Quarry, Man of Medan and those anthology games all had this. Harmony: Fall of Reverie doesn’t have any of this, and it’s due to the game’s flip book style gameplay. You see, playing through Life is Strange and exploring with Max allowed you to spend more time with and really forge an emotional bond with her.

As a player, we experienced everything with Max. We saw the deaths, the tears, the heartbreak and were able to go through every second of the game as if WE WERE the character. Now, imagine playing Life is Strange as if you just read the script of the game and did nothing else. You would in no way be as emotionally invested. It’s simply not possible. I found it ironic that a game that tries to have you make choices using 6 of the main aspirations of being human completely removes the aspect of emotional attachment from the game.

I didn’t feel any attachment to this game world or the characters in Harmony: Fall of Reverie. The concept is great, as I’ve said, and I hope more games use this in the future. I just can’t understand why DontNod would take this concept and remove the main thing needed to form that emotional connection – Time.

The more time you spend with characters in narrative games, the more immersed you become in the game’s story. Being a flip book, click through text style game, each scene takes no more than 30 seconds to play out. With a new choice coming every 30 seconds, the game loses its immersiveness and emotional impact as there is no real time for the player to become invested in the characters’ lives. I found myself very bored and clicking through the text as I could read it faster than listen to the characters. As a result, I missed out on a lot of the voice acting (which was very good). Even listening to the actors ups the amount of time needed for each scene to about a minute.

The story behind Harmony: Fall of Reverie is unique and intriguing. The concept of its narrative setup is exciting and brings a new avenue of delivery with its Jeopardy style of “here’s the answer, what’s the question?” setup. The execution, however, was where it all fell apart. There was so much potential with Fall of Reverie, but the choice to go text style, click through is the antithesis of what’s needed from a game utilizing the choice set up it does. As a result, we’re left with two completely separate entities that end up working counter-intuitive to each other instead of you know, in Harmony.

Harmony: The Fall of Reverie (Nintendo Switch) Score 5 / 10

An intriguing and exciting concept that is completely removed due to its monotonous and repetitive execution. Fans of the narrative genre will appreciate the game and its new approach, but quickly realize where it falls short. As a result, we go from a revolutionary concept for the genre to an average title overall that can only be improved upon with future titles.