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Side Quests: Harmony: The Fall of Reverie Review

Seeing the future of visual novels

Victoria Rose Posted:
Reviews Side Quests 0

Having a glimpse at the future would solve so many conundrums… right? 

In Harmony: The Fall of Reverie, you play as Polly—or Harmony, as she’s known in the parallel world of Reverie, where human values take form as Aspirations. Her powers as Oracle allow you to peer into the near future as you make your decisions, and through her Augural, an actual game board viewable by the player, you can craft a path based on desired outcomes. But as her life collides with the Aspirations’ world, is this power enough to shape the future you want? 

Dev studio Dontnod has treaded the territory of empathy-driven games since its inception, starting with the beloved high school fantasy drama Life Is Strange. Harmony continues that legacy, this time in a pure visual novel form that permits the studio to tackle its narrative strength. So how does this approach, and its experimental branching-narrative gameplay feature, work out—has Dontnod created another deeply-engaging experience, or does its intentions get stuck in high fantasy? 

Peering Through The Gameplay 

From the outside, there are two major draws to the game: the Augural, which is Harmony’s core gameplay system, and working to appeal to “Aspirations,” which plays out similarly to other visual novels. These intertwine well with the story of Harmony as its science fiction and fantasy story plays out for Polly and her community. 

The “Aspirations” are demigod-like figures that exist in the parallel universe called Reverie and represent core drives of humanity—Chaos and Power, Bond and Glory, Bliss and Truth—while subtly influencing Brittle, the human world. Each has fitting personality and motives, strengths and flaws that are easy to parse without giving too much away all at once. 

Harmony: The Fall of Reverie

In short, to get into minor spoilers–like, you’ll be learning about this 20 minute in–Polly is the Oracle that links Brittle and Reverie, and with it, she can also see a vague version of each future that she puts her influence towards. This emerges in the form of the Augural, which allows you to literally see a narrative “tree” of certain outcomes through the end of a chapter—and even the unlock conditions for this. You open up certain paths through not only choices, but by gathering “crystals” representing each of the Aspirations as rewards for your choices, which carry through to the end of a Chapter. 

It’s hard, then, to argue this isn’t a “game,” as Harmony seems to want you to cheat a bit, as the Augural offers glimpses of paths that unlock others and reward you in certain ways. Especially in the context of the game’s premise, I found it compelling throughout; I backtracked quite a bit, starting chapters over to try to achieve certain outcomes. It’s also used for subtle, clever narrative effect throughout Act 3. 

My primary (and perhaps only) frustration with the Augural is the choppiness it creates as you move between it and the scenes themselves. While I was personally engaged with the story even within this menu, it came pretty close to immersion-breaking at times, especially as smaller mechanics start to pile on. If there were a better way to integrate it into the scene, to offer that middle ground similar to Polly’s where she exists between and yet within worlds, I would find this to be one of the most compelling visual novel features in a long while (since, I’d argue, a certain western NSFW queer VN that made waves something like half a decade ago). 

Harmony: The Fall of Reverie

Throughout this experience, moving towards an Aspiration exists spiritually at an intersection between a romantic visual novel and a traditional choose-your-own-adventure story. Chances are you’ll be moving towards them because you’re interested in unlocking what they have to say, or because they appeal to you more personally. Once things unfold with each, though, it becomes a deeper reflection on what it means to cherish the Aspirations’ values for Polly, the people around her, and even yourself as a player. 

It’s common for any media to get heavy and pessimistic about the state and values of humanity, but I found that Harmony: The Fall of Reverie has an optimistic nuance to it. It doesn’t discount the worth of concepts such as Glory’s selfishness, because taking time for oneself can be healthy, nor Chaos’s spontaneity because this is where ideas spur from. Instead, these ideas emerge in healthier contexts—even if it takes some time. 

This plus the fact that the Aspirations influence the human world of Brittle means that your journey to choosing your final Aspiration is a nuanced one. Power can make you a leader amongst peers, Bond can bring a community together, and Truth, hard and cold as it is, will lift the veil off others’ eyes and secrets. It’s not merely about value and virtue alone, but about their consequences. It’s a likely-accidental metacommentary of the romance/CYOA genre as a whole, and if it was intentional, it feels effortless. 

Reveling In A Compelling World 

With vibrant art and punctuated by brief, animated cutscenes, the world of Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is as compelling and beautiful as one would hope for a premise like this. 

Polly returns to Alma, a small coastal village on a larger Mediterranean island, in search of her missing mother, but immediately is transported to the world of Reverie and told she is the Oracle, the key between worlds—and to saving both. She must drift between the stunning, whimsical Reverie and her own beautiful but tense home of Brittle, as it seems her life and the other dimension are more intertwined than it seems. 

While a new magical world is overwhelming, so is seeing old faces and how much has changed in the five years since she left. A massive corporation looms over the day-to-day life of Alma’s residents while everyone struggles to survive, and finding Polly’s mother may just be the key to figuring out the corporation’s true intentions. 

Harmony: The Fall of Reverie

In Harmony: The Fall of Reverie, tension and peace exist not as a contradiction, but a complement to its memorable characters. At its core is a family dynamic that’s finally amicable without being perfect, a balance that’s often hard to strike in any medium, through a selfish and ambitious mother, a kind but overly giving father, and a sister who was once fiercer but is struck by hard times. The characters, human and Aspiration alike, are just deep enough for their revelations to feel satisfying, but not so much that one would easily lose them in the game’s decision-making. 

This cast is just strong enough to carry a relatively predictable, but still timely, science fiction premise. (I’m sure you could guess from a few paragraphs ago the gist of what happens.) The values represented by the Aspirations do feel a little forced at times as things unfold, but in a way almost necessary to this type of genre and premise. After all, we don’t want a “wait, I really meant this” situation caused by Bioware’s titles. 

In return, Harmony rewards you for both empathetic thinking and strong commitment to your values. Playing with that balance of kindness and fortitude is a recurring theme of Dontnod’s works, especially their Life Is Strange series (though ironically, the game closest to this rewarding approach, as I reviewed, isn’t technically theirs). The game even directly reminds you that not every decision will be easy, and a few times I found myself in some conundrums that I would sit on—did I want to appeal to an Aspiration, or ground Polly in her humanity and her duty towards her world? 

Interestingly, by the end, once I felt I was tired and wanting to reach the endgame, it almost seemed like the writing team felt the same. Without going into spoilers, they literally write this into Polly’s story, pushing the player into a grand-picture overview of their consequences without getting too into a dragged-out nitty-gritty. 

This decision in writing made the spectacle of a grand series of events feel more like history than a personal story, and the choice to engage in interpersonal matters was what drove much of the story to begin with. Whether intentionally or not, the ending’s zoomed-out perspective feels like it gives a framing for the Aspirations’ point of view—an omnipresence and omnipotence where we feel our guiding hand pulled into the river by the same currents we set to flow. 

Harmony: The Fall of Reverie

For me at least, in an artistic medium in which we’re used to witnessing and feeling tangible challenging consequences, it makes the climax go by almost too gently. More than that, it’s a very “mileage may vary” storytelling decision in a way that can and should cause discussion, and I have to at least recognize the process and fortitude it takes to fully lean into a decision like this. 


At the end of my first play-through of Harmony: The Fall of Reverie, I’d sided with Glory: aspirational but daring, selfish but self-sufficient, and, most importantly, ever forward. I was hoping for Chaos, but worked to appease Bond as well. The former two were often directly contradictory to the latter, but I suppose it makes sense for me, as I’m the sort who’d definitely gather a group for what one would call “shenanigans.” (And as a roleplayer, that’s really on the nose.) 

I was fairly satisfied with the outcome, though I’d like to play again and re-explore both the options I chose and the beautiful worlds I journeyed through, both home and beyond the rift. I left wanting to know more about the characters, what happened if I pushed buttons, what happened if I left Aspirations behind. Would I have felt this way if the game weren’t so transparent about letting me explore through the Augural? 

Harmony: The Fall of Reverie won’t be for every player, but it’ll enthrall those looking for a relevant, gorgeous game at the intersections of genres: science fiction and fantasy, the interpersonal romance visual novel and the choose-your-own-adventure books of childhoods. If you like visual novels as a genre in specific, the Augural is also a neat little innovation that I think should be played through at least once. I’m sure in time, much like the world of Glory I made, ambitious developers will take this approach and build upon it in exciting ways—for now, though, Reverie is certainly worth a visit. 

Full Disclosure: A copy of this game was provided by PR for the purposes of this review. Reviewed on PC.

8.0 Great
  • Branching choice system integrates well into story
  • Transparent choices makes them feel impactful, increases replayability
  • Story hits ground running with solid pacing
  • Memorable characters with perfect depth
  • Climax felt washed out
  • Dragging transitions between scenes and choices
  • Kind of a downer to see locked-out choices too late
  • “Aspect” introduction drags out through story too long


Victoria Rose

Victoria is a FFXIV player who's been writing about games for over seven years, including formerly regularly for Polygon and Fanbyte, and also spent some time in The Secret World, mostly roleplaying. You can find her head-deep in roleplay campaigns on Balmung, or on the ground after hyperfocusing on her Black Mage rotation. Come visit her estate: Diabolos (Crystal DC), Goblet, Ward 4, Plot 28.