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Eternal Sonata: The Music Of Pillars Of Eternity

Writing music for an RPG must be such a tricky thing. Especially when you’re working with a project as potentially massive as Obsidian Kickstarter darling Pillars of Eternity, you’ve got to breathe life into lilting melodies that rise and crash at the perfect moments, but drift and meander gently throughout. I mean, these songs are going to be on loop for upwards of 50-60 hours. If one is too loud or too fast or too insistent on taking center stage in an area where the player’s just doing their thing, it can easily break the whole illusion. Fortunately, Obsidian’s got plenty of experience with this conundrum, and it’s debuted a region’s entire song as a proof-of-concept.

Slight yet powerful when it needs to be, that song certainly establishes a mood. I doubt it’ll win a Grammy or anything, but I could see myself taking in idyllic sun-kissed vistas and chatting up villagers to it.

If you’re especially interested in how this stuff gets made, Obsidian audio director Justin Bell wrote a nicely detailed post about his process, and it’s enlightening reading, to say the least. The big takeaway for those without an eye for ear stuff, however, is that Obsidian is very much drawing on old Infinity Engine soundtracks for inspiration. Bell explained:

“Making Pillars of Eternity feel like a modern day Infinity Engine game is important to us, and music plays a big role in achieving that goal. But what does that actually mean in practice? Well if you were to loosely analyze the music from Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2 and Icewind Dale 1 & 2 for example, you would find a number of stylistic similarities between them. Without getting too technical, their music combines tropes found in European folk and pre-Renaissance modal music, and mashes that together with modern day orchestration techniques and film music aesthetics.”

However, it’s more than just a lukewarm regurgitation of genre and technique. Bell noted that this is merely an organizational “model,” not suffocating creative constraint. Eternity’s soundtrack will have its own unique flavor, though it’s not hard to detect notes of the classics in it.

What do you think? Is this up your alley, or are you disappointed that it’s not entirely dubstep punctuated by Inception noises and a kindly old man intermittently reading off a list of Game of Thrones spoilers?

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Nathan Grayson

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