On paper, Life Is Strange developer Don’t Nod pivoting to the visual novel genre makes sense given its penchant for twisting, choice-based narratives. In practice, Harmony: The Fall of Reverie is an underwhelming first foray into the space, lacking the world-building necessary to truly sell a story told almost entirely through words, featuring choices that evoke little more than a shrug.
The story begins with Polly returning to her home town in the wake of the disappearance of her mother. While looking for clues, Polly finds a magical necklace among mum’s possessions, and upon touching it she’s spirited away to the fantastical land of Reverie, which is inhabited by personifications of human aspirations, such as Power, Glory, and Truth. Polly — or Harmony, as she’s known in Reverie — is perhaps key to saving both realities, and the only being capable of bringing the disparate aspirations together.
This is a visual novel through and through, and you’ll spend most of your time listening to characters talk over static backgrounds until you’re given a decision to make. The artwork is often beautiful, with striking locales and character designs, and the voice work is fine throughout, complemented by a sparse but pleasant soundtrack.
You’re quickly introduced to a mechanic in which Polly can kinda see the future, with the story laid out before you in the form of a flow chart, similar to ones seen in Detroit: Become Human or Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, although some nodes on the chart are hidden until you progress further through the tale. It’s helpful, but it leaves the game feeling more like you’re simply working towards a specific goal than organically shaping a world through heartfelt, honest decision making.
Another double-edged sword is the brevity of the game. While we’d argue that a lot of visual novels pad out the running time and get a little long in the tooth, the eight hours we spent with Harmony weren’t enough to effectively flesh out the world or the characters. That said, the story moves at brisk pace, and we never found ourselves bored even if we were sometimes a little confused.