Borderlands’ music universe has been one of the most distinctive soundtrack series in modern gaming and for a good reason. The universe’s soundtracks are easily distinguished by their darker tones and very organic blend of multiple styles, which never comes across as eclectic or artificial.
The third entry once more proves that the series has a lot to do, to say and to play.
At this point it’s safe to say the music reflects the games’ many inspirations and how well are those inspirations merged into these great games, which seems even more impressive given the fact that Borderlands music is always co-composed by multiple composers. The third entry once more proves that the series has a lot to do, to say and to play, sounding as great as the previous scores.
It’s a great return to the form and musical roots of Borderlands that I was missing for quite some time.
The coherent style of these type of soundtracks was replaced for B3 by a feat similar to this of Detroit: Become Human: each composer is given a chunk of the game to focus on, producing a sub-soundtrack for a different arc. In this case, it’s planets. Borderlands 3 benefits from this design choice, giving Jesper Kyd, Michael McCann, Raison Varner and Finishing Move Inc. a moment to shine and provide their own interpretation of the universe, refreshing the series with new elements. It’s also worth noting that the soundtrack has multiple layers and works interactively within the game, providing new experiences each time you play.
The one person that always stays when music team changes is Jesper Kyd, who composed major parts of the three previous Borderlands soundtracks. Here, he did music for Eden-6, a jungle-like planet, once more proving that he can merge multiple polarizing styles into interesting pieces, from melody to the nature of sounds presented. Described by himself as „organic”, the tracks seem the most exotic and wild, paying homage to the first soundtracks (especially the combat music like Bandits at Jakob’s Estate).
Each composer (or duo) seems more concentrated on their own version of Borderlands.
Roaring electronics are easily blended with drums and esoteric whispers, sending strong AC1 vibes (The Creatures of Floodmoor Basin) that I didn’t know I longed for. Harmonicas are laid out on synth backgrounds, guitars echo in the background (9-minute long synth chillout in Enter Floodmoor Basic), while some other tracks go completely and joyfully electronic (Tranquility Achieved, Treasures of Jakob’s Vault), showing Kyd’s knack for this genre.
Each composer (or duo) seems more concentrated on their own version of Borderlands, fully dedicating themselves to freshening things up and taking them out of the box.
Michael McCann’s Promethea cyberpunky, neon vibes show in Neon Arterial as the synths resound in the distance, calling to his memorable Deus Ex pieces. Even though his input initially seems out of the Borderlands franchise, more tracks (like Sanctuary III) prove otherwise with wastelandish guitars playing along the subtle electronics and trance-like vocalizations, still passing on the wilderness vibes (Lectra City) in his own language. For his ouvre and what the Borderlands was before, I find his work very well balanced, providing the same musical craziness with dark electronics (The Rampager) and cyberpunk aesthetics. While the sounds themselves are easily noticeable as typically electronic, a lot of melodies and moments are purely Borderlands.
Pandora was given to Finishing Move Inc., a duo of composers who co-worked on previous games’ instruments. I’d call this part of the score the best for those, who enjoyed the first soundtracks in the franchise. Atmospheric ambience and unsettling sounds along an electric guitar taking the central spot (Welcome to the Devil’s Razor) quickly take us to Pandora. This notion is later expanded in industrial-like pieces (The Devil’s Razor Figths Back).
Longer, in-game, almost „background” pieces include many wasteland sounds with occasional parts for tortured violin, ambient, plucking, resulting in a very atmospheric, raw sound that’s grounded in the world. Their action music (The End of Tyreen) includes more fast paced, purely electronic pieces, with a plethora of peculiar sounds (like…choirs). Even though I enjoyed the ambience pieces (Into the Guts of Carnivora and in game pieces) from them the most, I think of their excellent guitarwork as the highlight of their part.
Raison Varner’s (music supervisor) pieces include a wonderful jazzing electronic piece and one of the most unique tracks – Supernova Dreamsicle. Others, such as a strong sci-fi theme A Forgotten Space, has me wondering about Blade Runner and Mass Effect, ultimately being one of the most calming and somber tracks in the collaboration; The Machine Crypt has some sweet and subtle 90’s hints and exotic vibes and is a track to get lost inside. As a whole, Varner’s part seems like the weirdest part of the score, and I mean it in a good way — it’s a great addition that adds to the funky nature of Borderlands.
All things considered, B3 is quite a mash-up. It certainly is the most varied score of the franchise and the game benefits from this kind of distribution of work (like Detroit: Become Human before it). For me, it’s a great return to the form and the roots of Borderlands music that I was missing for quite some time. With the official release of the soundtrack (which will hopefully happen soon), we will be able to fully dig into the music, supposedly lasting 6 hours on the album. For what’s in the game, each composer (or duo) seems more concentrated on their own version of Borderlands, yet still fully dedicated to freshening things up and taking them out of the box.
Executing the idea of wasteland anarchy and craziness in new ways.
Not only does B3 music serve the purposes of entertainment and storytelling, but it also put things on another level when it comes to worldbuilding, executing the idea of wasteland anarchy and craziness in new ways that seem complimentary to the franchise. With the vast scope of this soundtrack, I couldn’t ask for more.