• Fri. May 24th, 2024

Harmony: The Fall of Reverie spotlights Don’t Nod’s choice mechanic


May 18, 2023
Harmony: The Fall of Reverie spotlights Don't Nod's choice mechanic


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Don’t Nod Games is best known for there 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. Their 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, and the decision-based mechanics are augmented by interesting visual and a good story.

Harmony follows a woman named Polly, who lives in an Earth-like world in a dimension called Brittle. Having returned to her childhood home to find her mother, she instead is transported to another dimension called Reverie, where she meets with deity-like personifications called Aspirations. She also learns that she is actually the goddess Harmony, 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 those in 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 distinctive and interesting design. The Aspirations look bright and stylized, while the humans have a more realistic vibe. The story is intriguing — ironically, despite the clairvoyance of the player character, I was not able to predict its beats. And both Reverie and Brittle are beautiful to look at, with Reverie’s otherworldly physics contrasting Brittle’s urban decay.


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Decision fatigue

One of the main factors of choice in their games is that the players aren’t precisely sure how their choices affect the narrative. A choice you made early in the game could dictate your end-game options and you wouldn’t know until after you’d reached the point of no return. While this is a major appeal of this type of game — it adds to replayability and makes the in-game choices seem more organic — it can be frustrating.

Harmony, on the other hand, uses choice with absolute transparency. The Augury shows you just which outcomes your choice will affect, who benefits from those choices and what’s likely to happen if you make them. It shows you how many “points” your choices win you with the other Aspirations, and how many of those points you’ll need to achieve your desired endings.

Still, 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 behave in 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 sound passive-aggressive and 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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