27.02.2024

REVIEW: Harmony: The Fall of Reverie – a look into the future

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Although the games in the Life is Strange series are third-person adventures, they are loved primarily for the stories, not for the gameplay. Apparently, that’s why the Don’t Nod team decided to make their new project a visual novel, where there is even less gameplay, but noticeably more attention is paid to the narrative. The story in Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is not just exciting – it also encourages you to replay the game, as the unique choice system here offers so many story paths.

  • Developer: Don’t Nod Entertainment
  • Publisher: Don’t Nod Entertainment
  • Release: June 08, 2023

We play as Polly, a girl who arrives on her native (fictional) island in the Mediterranean Sea ten years after leaving. She is busy searching for her mother Ursula, who has disappeared and left to the mercy of fate a huge residence where all the creative people in the area once gathered. In one of the rooms, the heroine finds a luminous necklace that flies away towards the bathroom – Polly decides to follow him and is transported to a mysterious world called Dream.

It turns out that Polly has become an oracle, able to move between the two worlds and act as a kind of link between them. The dream is in great danger – the locals say that it is on the verge of destruction. And, apparently, the disappearance of Polly’s mother in the real world has something to do with it. The so-called Aspirations live in the Dream – deities that push Polly (they call her Harmony) to certain decisions. With their help, as well as thanks to friends and relatives in reality, we will try to find out what happened to Ursula and how the MK mega-corporation that everyone is talking about is involved in this.

It all starts simply: in the first chapter, we are not so much explained the essence of the game as they are told about the characters. They pay enough attention to both Polly’s loved ones and Aspirations, of which there are only six. Among them is the cheerful girl Happiness, the gray-haired thug Sila, Chaos, who outwardly fully corresponds to his name. Polly feels uncomfortable around these deities, because she does not immediately understand her purpose, but rather quickly begins to join the company – also due to the fact that she has no choice, since the deities can return to reality with her.

After the first chapter, when the exposition is more or less over, the game begins to open up better, and its key gameplay mechanics acquire new “chips”. The bottom line is that decisions here are not made in the middle of dialogues, as is the case in many visual novels – in such episodes you just click on the lines and cannot influence anything. The choice of actions occurs in between dialogues, and the tree of decisions and consequences in each chapter grows larger.

As soon as the next conversation ends, the player is transferred to a menu with a beautiful scheme, consisting of dozens of circles connected to each other. You point the cursor at one of them – and the title of the episode pops up on the right, giving a hint about the content of this or that fragment. If other similar games have the so-called “fog of war” that does not allow you to see the future, then here the main character sees it – so you make decisions at the beginning of the chapter based on what consequences you want to come to in the future.

Of course, it is impossible to study absolutely the entire decision tree right away – some circles are blocked. But many of them are visible, and the structure of the entire tree of a particular chapter can be seen. Therefore, players will approach the “creation” of their story in different ways: someone will look for hints of the ideal development of events and strive for them, someone will choose the longest branches to stretch the passage. Sometimes you want to change the plan if the decisions did not lead to the result that you expected, but this does not happen in the first chapters, but closer to the middle of the game.

It’s all about striving. Most of the decisions you make are related to the deities, whose crystals you get for choosing certain circles on the tree. Sometimes you are simply given these crystals for a certain choice, and sometimes the desired decisions cannot be made, because they require you to spend some kind of crystal, and you do not have it. This is why exploring all the branches of the tree instead of blindly clicking is so important. For example, you want to get to the far circle, for the activation of which you need a crystal of Strength – you need to see which path to follow in order to get at least one such crystal. Or you need to have several crystals at once, a couple of which you will have to give forever.

Which crystals you get and which ones you need to advance in a certain branch is closely related to the ways to solve problems. If a crystal of Strength is visible on the circle, then the heroine will use assertiveness in a conversation. Happiness, being a funny girl, tries not to enter into conflicts and resolve everything in the most peaceful way possible. True, obviously, he prefers not to keep any secrets and achieve the desired frankness in conversations. Ultimately, the Aspiration you will call upon most often will become the so-called heart of humanity. Therefore, those who want to get to the ideal (for them) ending need not only to lead the story in the right direction, but also to monitor which Aspiration will emerge victorious in the final.

All this sounds very complex and cumbersome, and constantly popping up windows with hints only reinforce this opinion – sometimes circles with timers, sometimes some obscure icons, sometimes you are often scared that some branches will forever cease to be available. But you understand all this very quickly, studying the trees and choosing the most desirable paths. And if the chapter does not end the way we would like, at any time before its completion, it can be completely restarted and replayed. The only thing that tires such an interesting game mechanic is the regular jumps from story episodes to the decision menu. Still, too often you have to choose what to do next, and by the end you get a little tired of it.

However, the story still never ceases to be fascinating. And there are interesting twists and turns here, and the topics covered are very different – from family problems to criticism of corporations – and the characters are likable. In the real world, Polly is surrounded by kind, sympathetic people with whom she wants to develop relationships. And in the Dream, the heroine encounters deities who are completely different from each other, solving problems in different ways. So the desire to replay the game and make other decisions arises immediately after the final – unless, of course, you restart individual chapters.

The Harmony looks good too, although the modest budget is hard to miss. The backdrops for the most part are used the same – the second chapter, for example, almost entirely unfolds in one location. And the characters are well drawn. These are not just static images that switch depending on emotions, as is the case in many visual novels – here the poses and facial expressions change smoothly, which makes the characters a little more alive. Well, you can’t help but praise the game for full dubbing – even if not all those involved sound like professional actors, they at least try.


Judging by how quietly the release of Harmony: The Fall of Reverie happened, not everyone was able to appreciate its innovative decision tree system. The game turned out to be imperfect, and in terms of gameplay, even Life is Strange fans may not like it – there is nothing in it except for choosing the next actions and clicking on the replicas. However, if the story is more important to you than the gameplay, in Harmony you will probably disappear for a couple of evenings – you will look with interest for answers to the questions that arise in each chapter, and try to figure out what to do with these answers.


PROS

  • Captivating story with cute characters from two different worlds
  • A sprawling plot tree with many forks
  • The ability to look to the future and plan how to get to the desired results, although this is not always so easy
  • An interesting solution with animated portraits of characters, making them more alive

CONS

  • Switching between story sequences and decision trees gets annoying towards the end of the game
  • There are not enough unique locations – often the action takes place for a long time in the same scenery

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