A second aspect that has been relevant in my Death Stranding experience is music. To me, music is one of the main aspects in life and in games as well. Almost all of my most memorable experiences with games, movies or series are highly tied to the music that was playing in that moment. I have a tendency to relate songs to experiences in life, to people and to game situations. I exercise this mostly as another source of fun as it gives me great pleasure to find a song with lyrics that fit perfectly the story or moment in a game I’m playing. Death Stranding however, is very particular on its way of using music and, therefore, I think it features an atypical soundtrack design.
Just like in a movie, musical moments in this game are carefully crafted by Kojima (or the designers in general). The game has, in my opinion, an incredible soundtrack. It introduced to me the wonderful band Low Roar which is right in the middle of my kind of favorite music but for some reason hadn’t appeared on my Spotify radar so far. And this incredible soundtrack is meant to be another character in the story. Key songs make their appearance in key moments to create a more deep and lasting memory of those events. “The first time I reached X place this song played…” “When Y happened to Z character this perfectly related song played and it was incredible” (even more so if we consider some end-game spoiler events). This is, of course, a very effective technique for people like me who enjoy relating songs with events. It means however, that all the rest of the playtime happens in absence of music (except for the diegetic music played by the structures, if customized that way).
Obviously the emotional impact of the first time we hear “Don’t be so Serious” would fade away if I played it 24-7 on every moment of my sometimes annoying travels. Also, I guess this aims to help getting a better immersion and a somewhat more realistic feel of the world. As someone in a GDC talk said, when we walk into a room in real life, no matter how dramatically we do it, an orchestral soundtrack doesn’t play that exact moment to enhance the experience (although it could and it would be awesome!)
I learnt to live with this concept in another great game I experienced a couple of years ago: Zelda Breath of the Wild. A lot has been said about this masterpiece and I can only say I really love it. But something that disappointed many and certainly surprised me was the soundtrack choice. Previous titles of Zelda had such incredible soundtracks and memorable songs that it was hard for me to imagine a Zelda game with a soundtrack such as the one BOTW features. However, once you get immersed in that world and you really “breath the wild” it becomes apparent that this was the way to go. I don’t think the players could have felt the freedom and wildness of trekking or exploring such a vast world if a classic Zelda soundtrack had played during the whole time. This is not to say that BOTW doesn’t have great music tracks. Just like Death Stranding, the songs that are really present in the game are so good that they leave you wishing you could hear them in other moments as well, at least in my opinion.
I heard rumors about people eager to build mods for Death Stranding PC version that would include a music player to take with you at all times. I agree and also would love to have something like this, but I’m curious about how this would affect the overall experience.
Are there any memorable soundtracks you always go back to? Are there some games that would have been better without constant music?