Music was a vital a part of what made Horizon Zero Daybreak so particular to me. The sport didn’t simply look nice, run effectively, have an excellent story, and star a unbelievable main girl; it additionally had a beautiful, atmospheric soundtrack that instantly stood out from virtually the primary cutscene to the ending credit. Listening to that Horizon Forbidden West would come with the identical sound group, with an extra member even, was a substantial hype issue. I knew the aural expertise could be as nice as the primary sport. However I used to be improper. The music in Horizon Forbidden West is not only “as nice” as Zero Daybreak. It’s higher in virtually each manner, very similar to the sport itself.
Let’s begin by speaking about that venerable sound group. Joris de Man, Niels van der Leest, and The Flight all return to compose for Horizon Forbidden West, and their involvement signifies that the sport’s music feels like a pure continuation of the music in Zero Daybreak. Becoming a member of these three (effectively, actually 4 — The Flight is a duo) is Oleksa Lozowchuk, whom you would possibly know from the Lifeless Rising collection. Lozowchuk is accountable for a little bit over a 3rd of the soundtrack, and I have to admit, I wasn’t initially certain about his involvement. However after listening to his work within the full soundtrack, I spotted I used to be improper to fret. Actually, he’s accountable for a few of my favourite items on the album, and his work matches in completely with the returning group. So now I discover myself hoping that he’s on board for the subsequent sport within the collection.
However it’s not simply composers that we have to speak about. Julie Elven returns along with her ethereal, haunting vocals, and several other different performers who every convey one thing stunning to this soundtrack be part of her. First, there’s Melissa Kaplan, featured on a handful of tracks, generally on her personal however usually with Julie Elven. With out spoiling issues, these two vocalists every symbolize a significant character in Horizon Forbidden West. When these two sing collectively, resembling within the unbelievable “Trinity,” the soundscape they create is so highly effective that the music itself tells a narrative. The truth that they selected to have these two characters represented by vocalists who sound related however are nonetheless distinct just isn’t solely a superb sound design selection but additionally an instance of how music is really a core element of this sport.
One other vocal efficiency that deserves point out is the Canadian group Musica Intima in “As Earlier than, We Are.” That is an a cappella piece that performs within the agrarian Utaru tribe’s capital metropolis up till a sure level in the primary story. It’s a stunning, soothing track with in-game lore behind it, however even when it didn’t, I nonetheless assume it’s extremely cool to have a bit like this. A cappella is such a enjoyable approach to sing, whether or not a track is authentic or a canopy, and it’s not one thing you usually hear in video video games.
Lastly, Horizon Forbidden West contains a fascinating opening track, “Within the Flood.” Carried out by Ariana Gillis, this piece brilliantly combines a somber tone with evocative, significant lyrics and an understated but highly effective accompaniment. I used to be so entranced by this track that I needed to rewatch the opening credit a number of occasions earlier than transferring on once I performed the sport. Nearly as good as this piece is, I believe I just like the closing credit model even higher. “Within the Flood (Lovisa’s Model)” is the unique model of the track, composed and sung by Lovisa Bergdahl, a sound designer at Guerrilla Video games. The decrease key, acoustic accompaniment, and private lyrics rework the track from a personality anthem to one thing that feels intimate and unhappy, and I can’t get sufficient of it. It’s additionally very cool that Guerrilla selected to characteristic one thing created by their very own group and that they showcased the composer’s personal voice.
Now that we’ve that out of the best way, let’s speak about the remainder of the music. As talked about above, this can be a very atmospheric soundtrack, similar to Horizon Zero Daybreak. You’ll be able to anticipate to listen to numerous pure devices like strings and woodwinds, however there are additionally extra obscure musical implements and even some authentic contraptions the music group used to assist in giving the rating a way of place. It’s not all natural devices, although. Given Horizon Forbidden West’s heavy sci-fi affect, there are many digital sounds and synthesizer work. A few of it’s featured in areas the place it might make sense to listen to extra synthetic music, such because the cauldrons and numerous old-world ruins. (See items like “Restricted Entry” and “The Sky Remade.”) However you may clearly hear it all through the soundtrack, weaving out and in with natural devices in ways in which create attention-grabbing textures and remind you that this can be a world populated by big machine dinosaurs.
There are three primary classes of music on this soundtrack: cutscene, exploration, and battle themes. Cutscene music is plentiful, wealthy, and beautiful. That is an space the place Oleksa Lozowchuk’s work actually captivates, as his contributions are pretty, emotional, and thematic. For example, when the primary story sends you into Utaru territory, many of the cutscenes reference motifs from both that gorgeous a cappella piece or one other vocal piece sung by one in all Aloy’s new companions.
One other intriguing ingredient of Lozowchuk’s cutscene music reveals up in “Misplaced within the Keg” and “Gravesinger.” These items play throughout two dialogue sequences with a few of Aloy’s companions, however as a substitute of 1 single melody that loops in the course of the dialog, every dialogue possibility has a definite mini melody, and every mini melody connects to the others in a very pure manner. Listening to the soundtrack by itself, you wouldn’t even know that that is occurring, and also you won’t even discover within the sport until you’re paying shut consideration. It’s such a cool, cinematic approach to compose online game music, one which I’ve by no means actually encountered earlier than. I’d like to see extra of it in future video games.
After all, Joris de Man and The Flight aren’t any slouches both. “Mom of All” is a good piece with some emotional callbacks to the primary sport, and “Figments of Time” is a unbelievable mix of classical-esque melodies and sci-fi synths. The endgame tracks on Disc 5 are additionally a lot epic, notably “Unshackled” and “Breached.”
Shifting on to exploration music, there are some great items to take pleasure in. Dozens of tracks accompany Aloy’s journey in Horizon Forbidden West, they usually effortlessly seize the magic of the sport’s setting. “Riddles in Ruins” is one in all my favourite items throughout all the album. As you would possibly anticipate, it performs in a number of the ruins you encounter, however you first encounter it in a flooded mine, the place the mysterious, echoey nature of the music stands out. Sticking with the water theme, “Rusted Sands” is an totally attractive string and guitar piece that performs in a sunken metropolis surrounded by desert. The music is exceedingly peaceable and enjoyable, making it the right companion for exploring an underwater destroy illuminated by holographic mild.
Horizon Forbidden West additionally has a number of mounts you may journey to hurry up traversal, and in contrast to the primary sport, there may be now a number of music that performs while you journey through your trusty steed. Eager listeners would possibly acknowledge the opening portion of “In All Its Splendor” from the 2021 State of Play demo, however Guerrilla saved the very best elements of that monitor for the complete sport, particularly the stunning strings at a few minute in and the pulsing low tones across the three-minute mark. “No Footfalls to Observe” is one other standout piece, with extra pretty however melancholic strings that dance by means of a key shift and a synth-assisted crescendo. In some respects, it’s virtually a disgrace that these tracks are relegated to mount using since you find yourself not listening to them as usually as the remainder of the exploration music.
When Aloy just isn’t braving the wilds or delving into ruins, she’s exploring Horizon Forbidden West’s many settlements, and the biggest ones have their very own themes. Chainscrape, the primary city you come throughout, is especially notable as a result of it has a big brewery cranking out ale for its Oseram inhabitants. “A Wager Over Barrels” performs while you’re inside this brewery, and its percussion-based sound makes it a memorable and becoming piece for the locale. Beginning with the sound of stomping toes or fists pounding on tables to set the beat, the monitor then provides in what feels like barrels and pans struck to create rhythm and melody. The entire piece is a good instance of utilizing natural or discovered devices to create music that feels pure for the world the place it performs, virtually as if it may cross for the everyday sounds of a busy brewery stuffed with rowdy patrons having fun with their booze.
One other settlement monitor that matches its setting properly is “Shelter from the Storm,” which performs in Aloy’s base of operations. Mentioned base is an deserted facility from the outdated world, so it is sensible that the piece begins with a futuristic and otherworldly really feel to it. However simply as Aloy and her companions herald vegetation and decorations to make the place really feel homier, so too do the preliminary synths give approach to heat strings and even a little bit piano work towards the tip. The synths are by no means completely gone, although, which is becoming each for the general theme of the soundtrack and for an space that’s in the end nonetheless synthetic.
Final however definitely not least, we’ve battle themes. That is maybe the most-improved facet of the soundtrack in comparison with music from the primary sport, which I described as a “weak hyperlink” and “pretty forgettable” in my overview. There’s nothing weak or forgettable about “Guardian of the Deep,” a pulse-pounding boss theme that includes swirling, virtually classical-like strings and vocals from Julie Elven. The classical strings, as I name them, are a component that Oleksa Lozowchuk likes to make use of in a whole lot of his tracks, truly. “Shoulders of Giants,” which performs when preventing Thunderjaws and Stormbirds, has an identical sort of sound that makes the monitor memorable, even while you’re listening to it by itself.
I believe that’s the key distinction between the battle music in Horizon Forbidden West and its predecessor. A lot of the battle music in Horizon Zero Daybreak wasn’t pleasurable to take heed to when separated from the sport, however right here, it’s an actual deal with. “Storm on the Rise,” featured within the 2021 State of Play and utilized in smaller encounters in sport, has such nice vitality and a determined melody excellent for frantic encounters in opposition to a number of aggressive enemies. I like the strings in “Far From Relaxation,” and the primary melody in “The Fringe of Battle” caught with me lengthy after I completed the encounter the place it performs.
A few of these tracks reveal how even battle music can mirror and contribute to the environment of an encounter. “Coiled Strike,” for instance, performs while you struggle the large snake-like machine referred to as the Slitherfang, and I like that there are such a lot of little components that instantly make me consider a rattlesnake. “Blade on Blade” has a sturdy, pulsing baseline that sounds so totally different from the opposite battle tracks, which is becoming when you think about the enemy you’re preventing whereas it performs.
Considered one of Horizon Zero Daybreak’s weakest moments was its disappointing last boss battle, and the music that performed throughout this sequence was additionally nothing particular. Horizon Forbidden West improves in each areas. I gained’t spoil the encounter, after all, however the boss theme, “Second Probability,” is a wonderful mixture of a number of character themes and what virtually seems like a reference to “Maintain the Ridge” from the primary sport. “Second Probability” isn’t my favourite battle theme, just because the remainder of the battle music is so sturdy this time round, however it’s nice to have last boss music that truly feels like, effectively, last boss music.
Now I’ve been gushing rather a lot about this soundtrack, and it does certainly deserve the reward general. However as a lot as I adore it, there are just a few points that I believe are value mentioning. The primary drawback is that, similar to the soundtrack for the primary sport, the group of Horizon Forbidden West’s soundtrack is…effectively, I’ll be charitable and say actually bizarre.
The primary disc “essentially the most iconic themes” from Horizon Forbidden West. This contains music from the entire three classes I simply went over, they usually undoubtedly are a number of the most memorable, standout tracks on the album. Disc 2 is essentially exploration music. Discs 3–5 principally embody cutscene music in chronological order, interspersed with some exploration music. And Disc 6 is essentially battle music, with just a few exploration themes.
Similar to the primary sport’s soundtrack, this can be a peculiar approach to arrange the music, however at the least the Zero Daybreak album was a bit extra internally constant. It seems like both the exploration music ought to have been grouped collectively, or they need to have simply interspersed all of it with cutscene music as in discs 3-5, as a substitute of placing most of it on one disc after which scattering the remaining across the album.
The primary disc is the true outlier, although, and the oddest factor about this soundtrack. First, its very existence as a kind of pattern platter of crucial themes is simply odd contemplating the best way the remainder of the soundtrack is organized. All of this music may have match into the opposite discs, so why is it pulled to the entrance of the listening expertise? Second, the monitor order inside the disc itself feels extremely random. For instance, monitor 5, “Echo of You,” performs earlier than the ultimate boss. The subsequent monitor, “Unity,” performs a lot earlier within the sport, across the midpoint, and the monitor that follows it, “Mom of All,” truly performs even earlier within the sport.
Lastly, there are two tracks on this disc — “Look Deeper” and “This Place, This Second” — which can be primarily abridged variations of cutscene music repeated in a while the soundtrack in full “prolonged” variations. That is complicated as a result of it’s not just like the abridged variations play anyplace individually from the complete variations within the sport, so why not simply have the complete variations on this disc and be finished with them? Lest you surprise if it could possibly be a approach to save area on the disc, it’s not. That is a wholly digital launch. There isn’t any bodily model of this soundtrack, so there’s no want for the writer to think about storage constraints.
The one actual rationalization I can conceive for this oddity is the discharge construction of the soundtrack. The primary two discs had been launched solely to streaming companies on February 25, 2022, after which two extra discs had been launched (once more streaming solely at first) each two weeks till the complete album turned obtainable commercially a month later. As a result of the soundtrack was launched piecemeal, I assume the thought was that the primary disc ought to comprise crucial tracks to tide folks over whereas ready for the remainder of the album. However this can be a “resolution” to an issue that Sony itself created by releasing the album the best way they did, and on condition that it solely took a month to launch all of the music, I simply don’t see why they thought this was a good suggestion.
Quibbles apart, this can be a nice album to have in your assortment. There’s a lot stunning music on provide right here, even when the presentation is a little bit bizarre. When you’re a fan of the soundtrack from Horizon Zero Daybreak, you’ll love the seven and a half hours of music from Horizon Forbidden West. I’d go as far as to say that even folks unfamiliar with both sport will take pleasure in this soundtrack. It makes for excellent atmospheric accompaniment to studying, learning, or simply plain enjoyable. Right here’s hoping that the subsequent sport within the collection isn’t far off and that the entire expanded sound group will return for a 3rd outing, as a result of I would like extra!