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Don’t Nod Games is best known for its choice-driven adventure games — Life is Strange, Vampyr and Tell Me Why all feature player-made choices. It’s become something players expect from their titles. The studio’s latest title, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie, brings those choices to the forefront.
We got the chance to play some of the game in a preview. The decision-based mechanics are augmented 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 childhood home to another dimension called Reverie. There she meets deity-like personifications called Aspirations. She learns that she is actually the goddess Harmony, the only one who can restore balance between the two realms with her powers of clairvoyance.
The game follows two intertwined stories: Harmony’s efforts to empower the Aspirations and save the decaying Reverie, and Polly’s attempts to find her mother and investigate the evil megacorporation exploiting Brittle. Each 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.
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The story and character design are the highlights of Harmony. Each of the characters has a distinct look. The Aspirations look bright and stylized, while the humans have a more realistic vibe. Reverie and Brittle are beautiful settings to this story. Reverie’s otherworldly physics contrasts Brittle’s urban decay.
The story is intriguing — ironically, despite the clairvoyance of the player character, I was not able to predict its beats.
Asking players to make story-altering decisions comes with trade-offs. Players aren’t precisely sure how their choices will affect the narrative. A choice you make early in the game can dictate your end-game options. There’s no way to know until after you have reached the point of no return, which can be frustrating. On the other hand, this adds replayability to a game and it makes the choices feel organic.
Harmony, on the other hand, presents choices with absolute transparency. The Augury shows you which outcomes your choice will affect, who benefits and the likely outcomes. It shows you how many “points” your choices earn with each Aspiration, and how many of those points you’ll need to achieve your desired endings.
As refreshing as it is to see the outcomes of your choices, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re looking at a game design document rather than an actual game. The Augury literally looks like a fancy Twine board, especially as the story and choices become more complicated. Yes, it saves you a lot of guesswork, but it also feels a bit clinical. If what you liked about previous Don’t Nod titles was the mystery behind how your choices worked, then Harmony might feel empty.
Also, the way the Aspirations respond to Augury choices feels different to how they interact with the player. For example, most of the Aspirations present their cases to Harmony (in-story) in a straightforward fashion and they don’t, at least at first, begrudge you if you don’t follow their paths. However, within the Augury, if you don’t choose they way they wish you to, they become passive-aggressive and sound annoyed. It makes them seem weirdly 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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