New IPs like Harmony: The Fall of Reverie don't have the easiest time in the modern gaming landscape. They need to not only live up to the expectations of those who have experienced their developer's existing titles but also impress newcomers looking to find out whether or not this new offering can stand among the slew of existing properties.
I was definitely among those who weren't sure what to make of Don't Nod's newest title prior to my preview back in May, but the brief time I spent with the game had me excited to check out the full product. Now, a few dozen hours later, I can safely say that Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is an excellent new offering from the hallowed developers and stands among their other works as one of the most impactful narrative experiences around.
As is usually the case with Don't Nod games, however, the game isn't a straightforward story set firmly in reality. Instead, it follows Polly, a young woman who has returned to her hometown following the disappearance of her mother. While investigating, she is drawn into the world of Reverie, a plane of existence that runs parallel to our own and is inhabited by Aspirations - godly beings shaped by human desires and drives.
Polly then learns that her mother's disappearance is closely tied to a cataclysm set to impact Reverie and that she is the only one who can set things right in both worlds. How she does this, and which Aspirations she turns to for help in her endeavors, is up to her, and she'll have to decide for herself what is most important to her before her journey's conclusion.
It's a fittingly dramatic and fantastical plot, and the fact that it's told in the form of a visual novel works wonders for it. Each small character tick, and the minor details that might be lost by using visuals alone, are brought to the surface thanks to the stellar writing.
The gameplay of Harmony: The Fall of Reverie, meanwhile, is about what one would expect from a visual novel, but with some worthwhile twists. Though the majority of the game is made up of clicking through dialogue, the rest is made up of mechanics meant to enhance the feeling of choosing one's path toward the title's different endings.
In-between story segments, players will be tasked with working their way through a map of potential choices and outcomes dubbed the Augural. This is done by selecting different nodes along the map which offer different views or segments of the story, and determine how the rest of the plot will play out.
This isn't always as simple as choosing a path to go down though. Sometimes, players will need to activate every available node up to a certain point to progress the story further. Other times, they'll need to choose one node over another and determine how the rest of their story will play out. Other times still, they'll need to advance down a certain path by a given amount before a Node further back will open up, forcing one to go through whatever they've already experienced but from a different angle.
Certain nodes will likewise net the player Crystals tied to certain Aspirations or remove Crystals for others. Doing so means opening up or closing off certain choices though, resulting in the scales of Reverie being tipped toward a given outcome for each chapter and even the game's ending.
If this sounds a little intensive, it's because it can be; or at least, it is at first. Harmony: The Fall of Reverie tosses a lot of information at you early on, and it can be difficult to see exactly how it all fits together in the first couple of chapters. And yet, once one gets the chance to test out each of the different Nodes and see how they impact one's progression through the plot, the handful of mechanics become far less intimidating than they might have seemed initially.
Gaining the ability to see further along the map of potential choices also helps substantially, with the consequences of one's actions becoming much clearer and more measurable. This likewise makes it easier to plan out one's choices, carefully weighing how you would like to proceed before ever activating a single Node. This can be a godsend when one is working toward a specific ending and can prevent an ill-advised choice from throwing off an entire playthrough's worth of work.
All of these mechanics proved to be worthwhile additions to the visual novel framework and made the choice-driven gameplay feel impactful. I was regularly left impressed at how varied the potential approaches to a problem in the story were, and how different the endings I could achieve for each chapter were. I felt much the same about the game's potential endings, with the one I earned feeling like a logical end based on the choices I made but also one of many potential outcomes.
Rounding out the experience were the game's visuals and the sound design, and believe me when I say Harmony: The Fall of Reverie might just be one of Don't Nod's best titles to date. The game goes all in on the visual novel motif via a 2D art style and an array of models for all of the characters, which cycle out from scene to scene based on what's occurring and the emotions the characters are trying to convey.
Despite the fact that this leaves the title feeling more flat than the developer's other titles in a very literal sense, each and every member of the cast stands out more than most any character from Life Is Strange. This is largely thanks to their fantastical and imaginative designs and varied color palette. The Aspirations in particular are exceptionally well done, with each of them perfectly exemplifying their namesakes through their color palettes, accessories, and everything else about them.
This remains true whether the player is immersed in the real world or Reverie too, ensuring they're never wanting for visual stimulation or hints of life in the title's cutscenes.
This in turn is bolstered by the sound design. In addition to a soundtrack full of both mellow ambiance and spikes of heated emotions, the voice acting is more than strong enough to bring the cast to life. I was almost always fully sucked into the story thanks to the coy confidence of the Chaos aspiration's voice lines, the low bellow of the Power Aspiration, or the varied deliveries made by Polly's voice actors across a variety of situations, and couldn't wait to listen to the interactions between the rest of the cast following each new choice I made.
Harmony: The Fall of Reverie brings some fascinating ideas to the table and manages to make the most of them despite a somewhat intimidating start. Fans of other Don't Nod games will be rewarded with yet another striking narrative experience, while everyone else will be treated to one of the more accessible and streamlined visual novel titles in recent memory.
Harmony: The Fall of Reverie was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the developer over the course of 26 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of review.
- Terrific Choice-Driven Gameplay
- Engaging Narrative
- Striking Visuals and Sound Design
- Great QoL Improvements to Visual Novel Design
- Dumps a Lot of Mechanics on the Player Early on