Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is the latest choice-driven narrative adventure game from developer Don’t Nod, the studio responsible for the likes of Life is Strange, Tell Me Why, and Vampyr. This time around, the crux of each decision impacts the outcome of two separate worlds, meaning it feels like there’s twice as much to consider. It’s a lot of responsibility, and the game helps you along by giving you the gift of prophecy, allowing you to see glimpses of the branching timelines of fate in an effort to avoid undesirable outcomes. And yet, despite this apparent advantage, the game does a marvelous job of surprising you with unforeseen outcomes of your choices anyway, curating an experience that can feel more akin to the sinking sensation of Greek tragedy than anything else. My sick little twisted heart really digs it so far.
In The Fall of Reverie, you play as Polly, returning to your hometown in search of your mother, who disappeared weeks prior. The once-popular but small corporation MK has ballooned in the time you’ve been away, controlling most aspects of the community by having a hand in almost every commercial commodity, owning the police, and surveilling the population via drones, cameras, and social media accounts.
That’s not the only surprise in store for Polly, however. Upon arriving home, she discovers a strange necklace that transports her to Reverie, the realm of the god-like Aspirations. The Aspirations–Bliss, Power, Bond, Truth, Chaos, and Glory–inform Polly that she is now the Aspiration known as Harmony like her mother was before her. Using her new gift of clairvoyance, she must guide Reverie back toward balance. Failing to do so will end both the Aspirations and humanity.
The game is gorgeous, featuring a dystopian yet colorful and vibrant world. The Mediterranean inspirations in both the setting and diverse assortment of characters are wonderfully recognizable and bring what feels like new spins to a familiar story of everyday people fighting evil capitalist-fueled corporations. Each character comes to life with charming animations and full voice acting, and each scene is musically captured with the stunning work of composer Lena Raine (Celeste, Minecraft, and Guild Wars 2). I just loved looking at and listening to this game, even as it narratively destroyed me.
As the game progresses, you regularly hop back and forth between Earth and Reverie, witnessing how your actions inform the fate of both worlds. At every narrative junction, you are able to see the timeline of fate, including its branching paths and how many outcomes will be available to you by the end of each chapter. Not every outcome is immediately apparent, however. Sometimes, all you can see at first is that the story is going to branch and that the first branch on the left is going to branch twice again while the branch on the right is going to branch three times, meaning you get more options pursuing that path.
Like most narrative-driven adventure games, each choice has implications for the story. But Polly is able to see more than that as well. She can tell which choices will act as keys to unlock specific outcomes, as well as how certain consequences will fully remove other opportunities. She can even tell which outcomes will reveal choices for her down the line, meaning oftentimes, you aren’t just deciding which choice is better–you’re weighing whether it’s worth committing to what looks like a bad outcome in hopes it will tease a necessary clue for avoiding an even worse consequence further down the timeline.
All the while, these choices strengthen or weaken the Aspirations. If Polly plows through people’s ideas, then the strength-obsessed and violence-first Power grows stronger, for example. Or you could instead keep the peace and ensure everyone is happy, improving the standing of the carefree and almost-always happy Bliss. Whoever reigns supreme will have the power to shape the destiny of Reverie and provide the most aid for Polly as she grapples with her Earthly concerns like finding her mother, protecting her friends and family, and fighting against MK.
It’s a lot. I have a habit of already agonizing over decisions in choice-driven games, but The Fall of Reverie further exacerbates the process by transforming the mechanic into what feels almost like a game of chess where you need to think three moves ahead. I can see the outcomes I want–or at least what I think I want–at the start of each chapter. But I sometimes found that the journey to get to those choices changed what I most valued in the story, meaning by the time I reached those major narrative-changing points, I regretted some of the choices I’d made to get there. I wished I could go back and change what I’d done. This only made me agonize over the small tidbits of clues I’d get in future chapters all the more. It’s not enough to take the timeline at face value at any given moment; I needed to consider what the story might be between the choices. Based on the general language used to describe each choice, what was the bigger picture?
For example, during Chapter 2, Polly glimpsed that there was a timeline in which her step-sister would blow up at a contact we needed to help find Polly’s mom. I figured such an outcome would be very bad and worked to avoid it at all costs. And I did! The game rewarded my ingenuity and the five minutes of pouring over timelines with a timeline that avoided that possibility. But as a result, when we went to meet the contact, she only half-heartedly agreed to help us. I realized that someone losing patience with her and snapping her out of her funk might have actually made her a better friend. In attempting to avoid my fate of losing a strong ally, I had inherently caused that future to come true. The situation also strengthened Bliss, who I quickly realized shouldn’t be the dominant force for Reverie. She seems to take the idiom “ignorance is bliss” quite literally sometimes–I get the feeling she thinks true bliss is willful ignorance.
I only played through the first two chapters of The Fall of Reverie, but I can already begin to see how this game might balloon in complexity. At the start, you’re only dealing with two or three timelines and only fueling the likes of Bliss and Power. Your possibilities expand when Bond comes into the picture and even more so with Truth. I can’t even imagine how many branches the timeline will have by the time all the other Aspirations come into play.
At least from what I’ve played, The Fall of Reverie feels good. A lot of narrative-driven adventure games reward choice, but not many provide a gratifying payoff for being strategic as well. Being able to see how many choices await you adds an interesting wrinkle to choice-driven dialogue. The game is already telling you how many possible outcomes there are from the jump, but it’s up to you to figure out how to get to the one you want.
We’ll get to see how the whole timeline is able to shake out soon enough. Harmony: The Fall of Revere is scheduled to launch for PC and Switch on June 8. Xbox Series X|S and PS5 versions will then release on June 22.
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