Thursday, July 7, 2016

Addendum | The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt | Music



Turn The Music Off, At Least Sometimes

“The soundtrack in Wild Hunt is often cloying and overwhelming. At times—usually in cutscenes—it can be just right, but when I explored the open world I sometimes wanted the damned cello solos and wailing combat-vocals-lady to chill the hell out. Try going into the menu and turning down the music entirely. The game feels different; there’s more space as you explore. Every time I do it, I almost immediately stop noticing that there’s no music. I usually turn it back on for main story missions. The problem isn’t really the game’s score but its implementation. Hopefully, someone will come up with a small mod that makes exploration music trigger much less frequently.”

Kirk Hamilton, Tips For Playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt[1]


I had quite a bit left over from my last post, passages and topics I wasn't able to fit in for some reason or another. After looking though all of them, this was the one I chose to refit as a smaller post. I really enjoyed the music in The Wild Hunt, but I very much agree with the above quote. The music can more than often be overbearing and intrusive to plenty of the game's best moments. More often than not, its usage reminded me of a meal’s ideal spice container breaking and pouring all over everything.

To restate a very important point from my last post, the Witcher's ability to make the mundane/microcosmic horrors and beauties of its world are where it shines best. This is a big part of why the music often resembles that Koolaide asshole bursting through a wall. Even when its music fits a certain context, it's overbearing and counteractive to whatever atmosphere and ambiance the game is currently trying to evoke. I love "Silver's for Monsters..." but the manner in which it fades in and out is too often beating me over the head too hard to enjoy it so I very rarely like hearing it in combat (i.e. its primary implementation). 

No doubt some of that is cultural on my part given how potent this game's Polish flavor is, but there's still some very jarring implementations of it at times. That being said, there are quite a few tracks in the game I couldn't help but fall in love with, despite the fact that they also tend to obey these very same tenants. When it conntects, the game absolutely smashes it out of the park.

So, here's a pick of one track from the main game, Hearts of Stone, and Blood and Wine.


There's no better representation of the main game's strongest act than this song. The Ladies of the Wood are a trio of depraved witches that serve what could be argued as the lesser evil in Crookback Bog. They initially appear as three beautiful and ominously demanding deity-like women in the swamp and are quickly revealed to be a group of hideous and extremely dangerous witches whose acts across the game cover everything from cannibalism to kidnapping[2]. You can almost hear all of that here. The song is persistently haunting, staying with the player long after the sequence in which it makes its most prominent appearance. The best songs in this game also tend to make great use of various remixes and generative progression and this is no exception. At first it's just an eerie violin stuck in the back of your head. At its most aggressive, it's complete with some ferocious vocals and supplementary guitar work.



The leitmotif of the Man of Glass, Gaunter O'Dimm. It could be said this is also the theme of the entire DLC since it's embedded into nearly every prominent track from it. It's definitely most-associated with O'Dimm though, and it's probably my favorite of the three I'm posting today just from the sheer amount of range it achieves. Its progression is laid across the entire ten hour quest and it takes many forms during that time, but all of them follow this specific melody, which is probably my favorite form of the song. Hearts of Stone in particular makes the best use in its buildup with the music[3] (very fitting given the pace of the DLC as a whole). One of the initial times this theme is exposed to the player is diegetic, with a group of children singing the song's accompanying nursery rhyme in the vicinity of an area the player will be required to cross over the course of the story. The theme's usage continues on a subtle incline, climaxing in a very specific scene, which is the version posted above where it's damn near pulsating in the player's ear as a backdrop to discovering how dangerous the character they're dealing with actually is. 

“That’s a dangerous man you’ve chosen to deal with, Witcher….“


On the Champs Désolés is not very subtle in communicating Toussaint's overall French theme; its certainly the most overbearing of this bunch and the only one in which I had a contextual hand in playing alongside of (at least at the point where I originally made note of it personally). Even though the prior two appear in playable game sequences, they're too wide-reaching to gain the precise benefits this track affords itself, which is very much associated with combat, particularly monster contracts. The manner in which I first heard it was also relevant in my choice as I didn't do any contracts in Blood and Wine until finishing the main narrative (where I don't recall hearing it). I didn't hear it at all until I began wandering afterwards, exploring and engaging in sidequests. My first exposure to it revolved around a contract regarding an endangered basilisk. As high-octane as it is, there's a very subtle sense of melancholy in the song, which made the quest resonate that much more effectively. This is doubly so considering how clues and context can lead the player to outright slaughter the creature on principle when a single note found afterwards implies the creature was more playful than malevolent (and more importantly, innocent of the crimes it was accused of)[4].

On every pass I make over this game I always look forward to the sequences in which these play. In a game full of abundantly over-inspiriting music, these were always the ones that constantly fed back into the game properly, oscillating with the play itself in an admirably elegant manner.





[2] Not to mention the very distinct scent of sexual violence constantly circling their dialouge and actions.

[3] Shoutout to "Mystery Man" and "You're...Immortal?" as well, both of which are fantastic in their respective presentations.

[4] Yeah, I fuckin' killed it, and I'd do it again.