DON'T NOD has a long history of elaborate world building and narrative excellence, whether those talents are applied to adventure games like the Life Is Strange series and Tell Me Why, or sprawling RPGs like Vampyr. But with it's upcoming release Harmony: The Fall of Reverie, DON'T NOD is zeroing in on storytelling with a laser focus, delivering an experience that is much more akin to a visual novel than it's previous offerings.
Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is played out through a combination of beautifully animated scenes and static dialogue scenes displayed over gorgeous backgrounds, with the strong focus on story and character being delivered through a streamlined gameplay experience. Rather than exploring the world of Harmony in the traditional way, players instead explore the story itself, unlocking and discovering scenes on a branching board of nodes known as the "Augural".
This trailer gives a good overview of the Augural and how it works
As players move through Harmony's storyline, they select nodes on the Augural to engage with, which will then trigger the selected scene. But, depending on the player's choices and the reactions of the characters around them, some nodes will lock off certain story paths, while others will reveal entirely new branches to follow. The player isn't tasked with making choices blindly; one of the primary features of the Augural is that it allows players to browse future nodes for hints of what might be revealed, in order to try to plot a course to their desired outcome.
The story in Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is somewhat ethereal, and while it may seem esoteric at first, things become more clear as the player proceeds forward in the narrative. Harmony tells the story of Polly, a woman returning to her childhood home on the Mediterranean island of Atina to find that her poet/artist mother has recently gone missing. Taking up residence in her mother's residence (interestingly, a refurbished Olympic-sized swimming pool), Polly begin gathering friends and acquaintances from around Atina to help with the search. Although there is no immediate concrete evidence, most of the islanders are suspicious of Mono Konzern, a technology business that has quickly become the lifeblood of Atina, often at the expense of its residents.
But finding her mother on Atina is only one of Polly's concerns. Since her arrival on the island, Polly has found herself quietly flitting between our world (known in-game as the "Brittle") and "Reverie", a mystical world inhabited by Aspirations. Aspirations are the personification of humanity's "yearnings, desires, and intelligence". These include characters like Bliss - a young incarnation of the concepts of fun and innocence, Power - a stern incarnation of strength and leadership, and Bond - the personification of the connection between living things. As the first few chapters of the game progress, more Aspirations reveal themselves, complicating Polly's relationships in both Brittle and Reverie.
As Polly attempts to proceed with her investigation into her mother's disappearance, her two worlds intersect more and more frequently, with Aspirations appearing in the Brittle to both help and distract her. Hints strongly indicate that Polly's mother's vanishing act might be closely tied with recent events that have left Reverie in a terrible state, as the two realms share a symbiotic and mysterious relationship.
If all of this world-building and new vocabulary sounds like a lot to parse, relax. It all makes sense in the context of the game, and there's a very handy codex that can be accessed at any time, which defines all the terms in the game and expands upon the lore. Yes, there is a lot of reading involved in playing Harmony (visual novel, after all), but all of the characters are fully voiced, and the animation and artwork help bring the entire Harmony universe to life in a distinct and memorable way. The story moves quickly, the characters are engaging, and the mystery is intriguing.
I didn't have access to the full game of Harmony: The Fall of Reverie, but I did play through the first couple of hours of the game. This was enough to see that there is a sophistication and complexity to the storytelling that one doesn't often see in visual novels. No matter which path I pursued, the story held together, making my choices feel like the "right" way to go. Anyone that has experienced narrative discordance in a game of this nature can attest that the ability to keep it all together is an achievement indeed. DON'T NOD is a champion of interactive storytelling. I'm confident that the full experience will be as fulfilling as the company's past efforts.
I've got my suspicions as to the location of Polly's mother, but I'll have to wait a month like everyone else to find out if I'm correct. I'll be looking forward to jumping back into Brittle and Reverie when the full game is released June 8 on PC (via Steam) and Nintendo Switch and June 22 on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Howdy. My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids. During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories. I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 and PS VR2 to my headset collection. I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.
My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then. I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep. Currently, I play on Xbox Series X, Series S, PS5, PS4, PS VR2, Quest 2, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, (RIP Stadia) and a super sweet gaming PC built by John Yan. While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.
When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect. I also co-host the Chronologically Podcast, where we review every film from various filmmakers in order, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts.
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