Film scores

Soundtrack review: The banner saga 2 (Austin Wintory – 2016)

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I picked a cue title that represents best my thoughts about this score: “More stars tonight then last night”.

“The Banner Saga 2” is a tactical role-playing video game developed by Stoic and published by Versus Evil. The game was released for Microsoft Windows and OS X on April 19, 2016, with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions due later. It is a sequel to The Banner Saga, a Viking-themed tactical role-playing video game. According to the developers, their aim was to create a “mature game for adults in the vein of Game of Thrones or The Black Company”. Austin Wintory returned to write the music after creating a beautiful score for the first game.

I don’t expect or wish for much to change for the first score; since it worked so well and it was so fitting for the story it’s only natural that the composer follows the same path for the sequel. A game franchise needs a clear identity also from the musical point of view so I am happy to settle once again in that lonely, quiet atmosphere I was so drawn to in the first score. The atmosphere may be cold and bleak but it’s a place I feel very comfortable it. Yet there are subtle differences that tell me this is a new adventure: I hear a lot more percussion here than in the first score and if “The banner saga” evoked Celtic plains and rain, a cue like “Blades yearn for courageous blood” make me think more of the music of Japan. The music of “The banner saga 2” also has louder moments and feels less reflective than the first one. It’s a natural continuation and an evolution or expansion of the musical universe of this franchise.

Can I just pause and remark once again how gorgeous some of the cue titles are? This is poetry and I love to read a good title. It almost makes me create an image or a fantasy before the music even starts. They seem fitted for paintings rather than music cues and I applaud a composer that takes so much care in naming his creations. Since I did this for the first score as well, I picked a cue title that represents best my thoughts about this score: “More stars tonight then last night”.

Even if the music is more subtle than dense I can feel the weight of the solitude it evokes. Austin Wintory does a great job of stripping everything that surrounds me and making me feel as if nothing else but me and my own thoughts exist. Sometimes the outside world interferes when a cue like “Dragons in the mud” storms in. I feel like I have to defend myself with nobody around to help.

The vocal parts feel like flashbacks or memories that try to warm my lonely character in times of need. I feel the need to see the sun after listening to this score and I feel the need for human contact. The composition is intense and so honest and real that once the music stops I am a bit disoriented. I will definitely play the game because I want to explore this atmosphere even more from the inside. If this music has been written for a film it would have been different but since this is a game, I can influence the surroundings and be part of the world. Count me in!

Cue rating: 90 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 34 / 61

Album excellence: 56%

Highlights:

Blades Yearn for Courageous Blood

Promises of Sanctuary

Dragons in the Mud

To the Skies

Children of the Fallen

From the Shouting Rocks, his Eyes finally Opened

Paths Part

Walls like Mountains

More Stars Tonight than Last Night

Threads Unweave

Our Steps, To the Night

A Path Through The Skies

Only Snow Can Shield The Sun

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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