Once, there was an explosion. This quote from the latest game of Hideo Kojima is an appropriate description of what this production did in the gaming industry. Innovative yet controversial gameplay mechanics, lots of hidden meanings, a movie-like storytelling and perfect sound design is what made Death Stranding extraordinary. And even if some players were laughing at Kojima’s vision of a dystopian world, they have to admit this vision became dangerously close to what we now experience during the pandemic.
The sounds from the past seem to be a perfect companion for the future apocalypse.
Seeing the whole country turned into a pile of bare rocks makes us feel abandoned, and that is what the main character feels like. Sam is not able to show feelings nor make relationships. He cannot even touch anyone for that makes him suffer physically. He feels dead inside. The circumstances force him to act for the greater good, to reunite people of America. So he traverses the wasteland where all the people are hiding underground, isolated, contacting each other only through holograms. Sounds familiar these days?
Yes, Death Stranding is an exemplary depiction of isolation and loneliness. So is its soundtrack by Ludvig Forssell. The composer represented the atmosphere of being left on your own by genuinely planned soundscapes of analog synthesizers, piano and orchestra. The use of analog synths is the key part of the score (Once, There Was an Explosion). The sounds from the past seem to be a perfect companion for the future apocalypse. Like in the game’s story, the past meets the future, and they all unite. Just like the people Sam reunites.
The soundtrack is skillfully mixed with the overall gameplay. Dynamically arranged fight themes (some co-composed with Joel Corelitz) and beautifully scored cutscenes make Death Stranding a really cinematic experience. The highly acclaimed by the players BB’s Theme accompanies the sequence where Sam is shown from the downright perspective, which makes him small and irrelevant against the inhospitable environment.
But what I enjoyed the most were the calm pieces when the main character sleeps (Chiralium). Hearing them while resting after exhausting missions soothes the heart yet deteriorates the feeling of being isolated. Sam cannot find peace even while sleeping and these tracks are a distinctive background to his unrest (The Timefall). The detuned parts of them correspond with his nightmares.
For me Death Stranding OST is one of the best soundtracks of 2019.
The game also implements tracks by other bands and composers, and the most interesting and accurate songs seem to be the melancholic ones performed by the band Low Roar (Easy Way Out). After wandering in silence listening only to the wind, the sudden appearance of a simple guitar song with vocals pours hope into your heart.
The use of analog synths is the key part of the score.
For me Death Stranding OST is one of the best soundtracks of 2019. Appearing only in certain moments, it makes you feel even more abandoned in silence. At first point I found it as a flaw but then I realised it was made for a reason. When the world comes to an end, all you are going to hear will be the wind whispering through the rocks.