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Don’t Nod Games is best known for its choice-based adventure games: Life is Strange, Vampyr, and Tell Me Why all feature player-made choices. It has become something that gamers expect from their titles. The studio’s latest title, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie, brings those options to the fore.
We got a chance to play part of the game in a preview. The decision-based mechanics are enhanced by interesting visuals and a good story.
Harmony follows a woman named Polly who lives on an Earth-like world in a dimension called Brittle. One day she is transported away from her mother and her childhood home to another dimension called Reverie. There she meets deity-like impersonations called Aspirations. She learns that she is actually the goddess Harmony, the only one who can restore the balance between the two realms with her clairvoyant powers.
The game follows two intertwined storylines: Harmony’s efforts to empower Aspirations and save the decaying Reverie, and Polly’s attempts to find her mother and investigate the evil mega-corporation exploiting Brittle. Every choice she makes affects both worlds and tips the balance of power in favor of certain Aspirations. Ultimately, Polly/Harmony will decide the fate of both worlds and who will control them.
The story and character design are the highlights of Harmony. Each of the characters has a different appearance. The Aspirations look shiny and stylized, while the humans have a more realistic vibe. Reverie and Brittle are beautiful settings for this story. The otherworldly physics of Reverie contrasts with the urban decay of Brittle.
The story is intriguing; ironically, despite the player character’s clairvoyance, I was unable to predict his heartbeat.
Asking players to make story-altering decisions comes with trade-offs. Players aren’t exactly sure how their choices will affect the narrative. A choice you make early in the game can dictate your options at the end of the game. There’s no way to know until after you’ve reached the point of no return, which can be frustrating. On the other hand, this adds replayability to a game and makes the choices feel organic.
Harmony, on the other hand, presents elections with absolute transparency. The Omen shows her what outcomes her choice will affect, who benefits, and the possible outcomes. She shows her how many “points” her choices gain with each Aspiration, and how many of those points she will need to achieve her desired ends.
As refreshing as it is to see the results of your choices, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re looking at a game design document instead of an actual game. The Omen literally looks like a fancy string board, especially when the story and options get more complicated. Yes, it saves you a lot of guesswork, but it also feels a bit clinical. If what he liked about previous Don’t Nod titles was the mystery behind how his choices worked, then Harmony might feel empty.
Also, the way Aspirations respond to Augur’s choices feels different than how they interact with the player. For example, most of the Aspirations make their cases to Harmony (in the story) directly and, at least at first, don’t envy you if you don’t follow their ways. However, within Omen, if you don’t choose what they want, they become passive-aggressive and sound annoying. It makes them seem strangely two-faced.
Harmony: The Fall of Reverie launches on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Switch, and PC on June 8.
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