game score

Soundtrack review: Dying light (Pawel Blaszczak – 2015)

dying

„Dying Light” is a 2015 survival horror video game. The game revolves around an undercover operative sent to infiltrate a quarantine zone in a city called Harran. It features a zombie-infested, open-world metropolis with a dynamic day and night cycle. Sounds like a lot of fun. The score was written by Polish composer Pawel Blaszczak. I wasn’t familiar with his music but whenever a new Polish composer name comes on my radar I jump at the opportunity because that country has a great film scoring tradition. „Dying light” was recommended dearly to me so let’s give it a spin.

I can see why from the first two cues. „Harran” and „Horizon” reflect zombie hell with some 80s heaven. The sweet darkness…the magic synth…this is my home. I embrace this darkness and this sound which just echoes back through countless rooms where I keep my memories. I am hypnotized and if I were playing this game I think I would sacrifice a few turns just to enjoy the music. The synth sounds are right on that delightful edge between metallic cold and melodic. It’s “Terminator” meets “Neverending story” if such a weird blend would ever be possible. The atmosphere is there, perfectly crafted from the first seconds. The music lures me in and then it’s alert enough to make me forget my way back.

“Passage”…this is a perfect cue because besides the synth and the haunting vocals in the background it also has a string section that just leaves me in awe. “Revival” is all about the strings and keys and it’s an elegy which makes me think of quiet moments in the game, or a room where the player finds something that makes him remember…This is ambient music at its best. Between the synth and the violin which plays like an echo, this is a room I wouldn’t want to leave. It ends with soft piano key sounds which leave something lingering behind.

The music sometimes has that sound as if everything was heard through a broken radio which brings news from far away. The transmission breaks from time to time but the echo is still there. “Departure” is stripped of all emotion and gets down to the bear nakedness of a metallic sound. “Invitation” brings a little more life and it’s as brilliant as it is simple. “Now they are coming” brings the suspense and an almost unbearably tense pulse in the background. I sense the danger, I want to run and that feeling just multiplies as the cue advances. There is a sense of inevitability in this piece.

Pawel Blaszczak keeps it interesting be alternating tension with melody, reflective with active and a cue like “On the edge” stands out because it’s just beautiful. It shows the versatility and intelligence of this composer because he could have kept the same pace all through the score and the gamers wouldn’t have minded.

The more I advance through this score the more exciting it gets. I want to know what’s waiting for me around the next corner and I want to hear what surprises the composer still has in store for me. “Destination” keeps the general sound but moves it in chase cue mode. I love it. “Choices and decision” forgets the electronic elements almost completely and only keeps the strings. “Strife” is the most “Terminator” like cue from “Dying light”. Also if I had a magic instrument with which to measure the purity of my favorite 80s sound in cues, this one would score very high. I would say try this cue to see if you will love the score. For me it’s the center piece.

“Loose ends” is insanely gripping and addictive. It plays at a relentless pace and I will use it for running. Will I be able to focus though, when the music goes so deep? “Decline” is anything but and makes me take out that invisible purity indicator again. Those sounds just get to me. This is where it all began for me and this is where it all comes back to. The synth. I will never lose this connection I have with it or the way these sounds squeeze my heart for nostalgia. And when this is mixed with those piercing, raw strings it’s almost too good to be true.

“Dying light” is 70 minutes long but it’s 70 minutes of pure delight for me. I could have listened to three hours of this without getting bored. I would have just enjoyed the melodic 80s throwback and the exciting and interesting sounds Pawel Blaszczak put together in this amazing score. 2014 was an almost miraculous year for game scores and 2015 is off so a similar start with this one. The bar is set very high. Will another score manage to reach it this year?

Cue rating: 99 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 66 / 70

Album excellence: 95%

Highlights:

Harran

Horizon

Passage

Runaway

Revival

Demolition

Invitation

Now They Are Coming

On the Edge

Destination

Praise the Sunlight

In the Cage

Choices and Decisions

Strife

For the Greater Good

Loose Ends

Decline

Breakdown

Despair

Extent

 

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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