In its earliest hours, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie seems like a very well-constructed narrative adventure that places the flow of the story in the hands of the player. It offers a deeply interesting world, and combines sci-fi and fantasy in its dystopian tale. However, for such a narrative-heavy game, its characters and plot do not live up to its system and lore in an early build.
Editor’s Note: The previewer played a portion of a pre-release beta build of the game and things might be different in the final version.
The story of Harmony: The Fall of Reverie focuses on Polly, who returns to her hometown of Atina following the mysterious disappearance of her mother. At the same time, she discovers that she has the power of clairvoyance. She accomplishes this through the Augural. She also gains access to another world called Reverie. In Reverie, personified Aspirations like Bliss, Power, and Truth reside. They give her advice on how to act in Brittle–the human world–in order to find her mother. At the same time, there is an ongoing conspiracy surrounding the mega-corporation MK and its plans to control the population of Atina, and it might be behind the disappearance of her mother.
All of the above information is just the lore behind the basic setting. There are background details about Polly’s family and the people she meets along the way. There are a lot of bases the game needs to cover before it gets into the thick of it. Each Story Node on the Augural feels woefully short for how much information the game needs to give you though. While it does do a remarkable job of conveying everything solely through text and not having me rifle through the Codex to catch up, it leaves little room for everything and everyone. As a result, the story feels like it moves at a breakneck pace in its introduction. As a result, I do not actually feel a connection to anyone, including Polly, nor do I care about the world or its plight.
The story moves very fast at the start, and it throws lots of terms and twists at you. It got to the point where I forgot basic information like Polly’s relationship with her mother Ursula, because I was trying to remember what egregore is. Such a narrative-heavy game is most effective when the player actively cares about the outcome, but I found it difficult to do so. The pacing really needed to be slower to allow for more organic conversations. Polly didn’t say anything of substance to Laszlo, but she managed to convince him to open up to Nora? Those scenes felt like they were missing lines or conversations. There is so much telling, rather than showing, that the characters barely feel like people. Granted, this is a preview, so the final product might let us spend more time with them.
I found an initial issue with inconsistency that added to the apathy-inducing vibe. It is hard to believe Polly cares much about her family, and I don’t think it was intentional. When you first meet Bond, her sister Nora is in the middle of telling you something. But Bond sweeps Polly away to Reverie. He asks if he interrupted something and she said he didn’t. After, ironically enough, insisting to Polly that relationships are important, he plops her back into Brittle. When you see Nora again, she’s wrapping up the story that Polly completely missed. A later scene shows Nora crying because she’s scared for everyone (including Ursula). However, Polly’s immediate emotion was relief that Nora didn’t say anything about Reverie. It really didn’t feel like she cared much for her sister or her missing mother at all.
Minor narrative inconsistencies crop up as well. An example is when Jade tells the group that the community of Alma notices when people go missing. But when Polly asks if there’ve been other disappearances, Jade says she doesn’t know because people go missing all the time. So which is it? Though I really enjoy the worldbuilding, it initially doesn’t match the quality of the actual plot. It’s too much, because the writers seem to have a hard time balancing and remembering everything. The much more contained and focused narrative, such what was in the previous Don’t Nod game Life is Strange, felt a lot stronger.
It’s a little unfortunate that the writing is all over the place in this early build, because the game looks really good. The Augural system is super easy to navigate, and it’s a neat concept with a clean execution. I like how there are so many future consequences depending on your choices. The UI is very clean, though I think that it doesn’t need separate tabs on the side to open up your Notifications. They all lead to the same menu, so it’s redundant. The Codex is also very well-organized, with lots of interesting tidbits about the world and characters. The sprites and animations are all amazing to behold as well. From a technical standpoint,
Harmony: The Fall of Reverie seems like it will be an exciting title to watch. But in this early build, its many moving parts from a narrative-standpoint might be too much for even the strongest of foundations.
Harmony: The Fall of Reverie will come out in June 8, 2023 for the Switch and PC and on June 22, 2023 for the PS5 and Xbox Series X.