The announcement of Baldur’s Gate III aroused strong emotions fueled by nostalgia. There were numerous theories, doubts, but most of all questions: will the camera have an isometric view, will the party consist of six characters, will the favorite characters return, will the creators employ Michael Hoening to compose the music and so on. I had mixed feelings myself, but not out of fondness for the series, I just love the cRPG genre. This is because I got my computer quite late and missed a lot of games including the Baldur’s Gate series which I finished recently.
I must admit that for this reason I waited for early access with a negative attitude.
I am not a fan of the musical style of Divinity: Original Sin II, and the same composer, Borislav Slavov, is responsible for the music for Baldur’s Gate III, which raised my biggest doubts. I must admit that for this reason I waited for early access with a negative attitude. What I don’t like about Original Sin II? The variety of tracks in the gameplay itself is small, although the official soundtrack is quite extensive and there is really a lot to listen to. None of these songs caught my attention for longer, let alone are remembered. The main theme comes up too often, which in my opinion spoils its uniqueness. However, I must admit that Slavov’s work has to offer a great variety of musical styles and an interesting system of interactive music, although I am rather a supporter of the traditional school of composing for video games.
October 6th finally came, and I was finally able to see for myself what the third installment of the legendary series has to offer. I criticized the song on the menu right away because it seemed to me another repeat of all those Viking soundtracks with low, husky male vocals. I was also unable to catch the leitmotif, but as I mentioned, I was negative from the get-go. Over the time, I started to appreciate the track, mostly because it tries to maintain the atmosphere of an epic adventure without duplicating the patterns of its predecessors. The orchestra seems to have receded into the background, giving way to percussion, ethnic instruments, beautiful female vocals and, above all, the phenomenal choir, which I judged too hastily. Also, after listening to the leitmotif again, it caught my ear and will be permanently remembered.
The music in the character creator stole my heart, because it’s not just one looped track, but several consecutive. Each is calm enough not to be irritating while creating our hero, it is a pleasant and relaxing background with Vesela Delcheva’s delicate vocal. I liked exploratory music as well, especially typical ambient pieces featuring solo instruments and vocals and sometimes a string section. I must admit that I love the combination of ambient and live instruments. Of course, fans of a more symphonic sound will also find something for themselves, because the orchestra, although it does not dominate, is still present in the soundtrack.
In my opinion, battle music is the most interesting in comparison to other types, because it is where we hear the choir most often. It is easy to judge that there are rather few vocalists, but it makes their vocals more detailed. However, one detail caught my attention – that they sing in an imaginary language that sounds as if it really existed, instead of using over exploited Latin. It is also worth mentioning that this music is not aggressive and loud like in previous games (not counting Siege of Dragonspear), but toned down and rich in interesting sounds, adapted to long, turn-based battles.
I think that over time we will learn much more from Borislav Slavov himself.
Unfortunately, opinions about the soundtrack are divided. Many players, especially veterans, would prefer to hear Michael Hoening’s music or wish Borislav Slavov would stay true to his predecessor’s musical style, including the musical themes of the previous installments. However, I believe that the creators made the right decision, opting for a new sound, instead of copying the soundtrack dedicated to the character whose story is finished. I would also like to remind you that what we have heard so far is only a foretaste and it is worth waiting with the verdict for the final product. I think that over time we will learn much more from Borislav Slavov himself, but in the meantime I have answers to three questions that I had the opportunity to ask him.
Daniel Wójcik: What was your main goal when creating the music style for the game? I admit that I was surprised already in the main menu when I heard a small choir with an orchestra accompanied by various other instruments and vocals. In the gameplay, the orchestra does not dominate at all, giving space to vocals, ethnic instruments and ambient sounds?
Borislav Slavov: The main goal was to underline the narrative design of the game. In BG3 you are basically playing D&D in the form of a video game. For me this is the deepest and most detailed adaptation so far. Having such freedom, tons of possibilities and options needed not just one-dimensional style, but a multi layered, adaptive musical experience. Regarding the choir, I decided to step aside from the traditional choirs used in fantasy scoring, like huge choir textures, or the typical gregorian choir.
What you hear is a custom choir ensemble which I have assembled specially for the soundtrack of Baldur’s Gate 3. It is intentionally not big and every single voice is unique. This gave the music a more personal feel – You are infected by the new thread in the world – the remaining Mind Flayers and will soon turn into one of them if you don’t find a cure in the course of the next few days.
Daniel Wójcik: Baldur’s Gate III’s musical style is clearly different from that of its predecessors. Why did you choose to go in a different direction? Did you still get any inspiration from these predecessors?
Borislav Slavov: We all at Larian love the BG classics. And I did make a connection in fact, using singinture elements in the soundtrack like male choir, heavy brass alternated by Harp. The thing however is that the amazing scores in the previous parts were written to reflect and support the Bhaalspawn Saga.
I’ve decided that the musical styles in BG3 should be driven and reflective of the new narrative design. – Borislav Slavov
Today, 20 years later we are revealing a new chapter with new story arcs. When I experience a story in a video game, it is the music that makes me relive this story after I finish the game. So, I’ve decided that the musical styles in BG3 should be driven and reflective of the new narrative design and characters in the world now. Music is shaping to your new adventures today.
Daniel Wójcik: I love that the choir (especially in battle music) sounds like it’s singing in real (Scandinavian or Slavic) language, instead of repeating boring Latin words. Have you created a kind of language mimic or pattern to make the choir sound more lively?
Borislav Slavov: I am happy to hear you like it. The choir is unique as it was formed and mixed specifically for Baldur’s Gate 3. The warm reception makes me feel confident and you are going to hear a lot more of it in the final game. In many different moods and situations – from a complete darkness to epic battle hymns. The choir sings on an imaginery language, invetnted and performed in a specific way to support the feel of the new thread, the drama and story in BG3.