Harmony: The Fall of Reverie PS5 Review – If there’s two things that Harmony: The Fall of Reverie effortlessly proves it’s that the visual novel genre neither has to be stale, nor devoid of player agency. Brought to vivid, colourful life by cult favourite Parisian studio Don’t Nod, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is as much a departure from the likes of Twin Mirror and Life is Strange, as those games were from Vampyr and Remember Me before it. Yet despite that, Don’t Nod has clearly taken meaningful lessons from those games forward and in particular, the studio’s penchant for emotional, compelling storytelling and it’s this that serves as the bedrock for one of the best visual novels I’ve played in years.
Harmony: The Fall Of Reverie PS5 Review
Don’t Nod Delivers A Stellar Visual Novel That Shouldn’t Be Ignored
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is the scope and sweep of the tale that it unfurls. A heady tale of a diverse group of regular folks rebelling against a tyrannical mega corporation, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie expands the breadth of its story by introducing Aspirations (essentially demigod like beings that each influence an aspect of humanity’s behaviour) and forcing the player to be at the centre of it all, attempting to maintain the balance between the physical realm and Reverie, the world that is inhabited by these Aspirations.
Despite the high concept of its overarching plot, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is resolutely grounded in things like familial conflict, relationships and social issues like political action. Viewed from the perspective of Polly, a troubled woman who is surrounded by friends on Brittle (an alternate version of Earth) but who finds herself deeply disturbed by the absence of her mother, it isn’t long before Bliss, one of the Aspirations, begins to whisper in her ear, setting the stage for a multi-realm visual novel epic the likes of which we just haven’t seen before.
Don’t Nod’s experience with Life is Strange whereupon the studio learned how to really infuse complex narratives with a beating emotional centre, is brought to bear here with verve and aplomb. Even when you’re not dealing with the whims of supernatural beings, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie strikes home with some brilliantly written characters dealing with relatable issues like separation from their siblings, mental health issues and so many more besides (the game actually signposts the sort of heavy themes that it deals with as soon as you boot it up).
Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is also a meditation on corporate greed and citizen action too, providing a disturbingly palpable look at how a company of that size might bend and break people to its will. Interestingly, the big bad megacorp in question (titled ‘Mono Konzern’ – or ‘singular concern’ – greed, if you read a little deeper), is never given a face, which I suspect is by design. Though some people within the company can, depending on your choices, rebel against Mono Konzern, the corporation is generally a monolith of Bad Dudes doing Bad Things, so humanising the company in its entirety would feel off to say the least.
Deftly supporting the multi-layered, emotional and nuanced story that spills out of every creative pour of Harmony: The Fall of is fantastic voice acting from a cast of performers that each do a great job of not just investing you in their struggles, but their lives at large too. You want these folks to be happy and when they aren’t, it can be absolutely gut-wrenching.
Which brings me to an omission – I’ve somewhat buried the lede when it comes Harmony: The Fall of Reverie’s greatest achievement and it’s something that no other visual novel has been able to pull off to this extent. A genre effort that prides itself on a lack of linearity, when Polly begins engaging with the Aspirations of Reverie our protagonist realises that gains access to the Augural – a map of nodes that contain future events in time – to see into the future and pick one of a number of different paths forward.
Though Polly can see some of the nodes (fragments of the future) that lay ahead, many are hidden from her – providing a tantalising tease of her fate to come. There are distinct layers to the functionality of the Augural as well. Not only are certain nodes essential for progressing the story, but many others will only become available if you’ve chosen certain paths from previous chapters and acts – lending Harmony: The Fall of Reverie a whole heap of extra replay value above and beyond what its initial 8-10 hour playthrough time suggests on the surface.
It’s also within the Augural that the influences of the various Aspirations come to bear too. Part of the reason why nodes are closed off is because depending on Polly’s choices, she’ll gain favour with each Aspiration which is manifested in turn for crystals which belong to that particular being. So for example, if Polly is presented with a number of choices but elects to pick a path that embraces partnership and bonding, she’ll gain Bond crystals which can then be used to gain access to future Bond nodes, or can be swapped for other Aspiration crystals to permit her access into other nodes and situations that are off the beaten path.
And the Aspirations themselves aren’t just avatars of choice either – each of them has their own personality, their own friendships and conflicts and of course, their own motives for steering Polly in one direction or another. Quite simply, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie offers up a stupendous amount of non-linear storytelling that makes itself irresistible for repeat playthroughs and again, this goes all the way back to the world that Don’t Nod have created here – one that is overflowing with interesting characters and enticing storylines that you’ll want to be a part of.
Elsewhere, while the substantial world building of Harmony: The Fall of Reverie can be overwhelming, a handy codex keeps you up to date on all of the myriad terms and lore within the game – ensuring that you’re always cogent of exactly who is who and what is what. Audiovisually, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is also something of a triumph. While the quality of the voice acting is well established, the visuals too are similarly impressive. With sharp, colorful and vibrant static and animated scenes that are occasionally punctuated by the odd pre-rendered video sequence, together with some great and sometimes understated character designs, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is one of the best looking visual novels that money can buy.
Overflowing with replay value, engaging characters and great writing, the end result is that Harmony: The Fall of Reverie offers up some of the most compelling storytelling Don’t Nod has ever come up with and in doing so gives visual novel fans a superlative offering that is without peer.
Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is out now on PS5.
Review code kindly provided by PR.