Game Music, Indie Music, Reviews

Legend of Dungeon OST (Review)

February 10, 2014 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Legend of Dungeon OST (Review)on Twitter

In continuing our coverage of some of the notable soundtracks from 2013, we are taking a look at some of the indie soundtracks that slipped under the radar. There was one that caught my eye fairly early this past year. The game Legend of Dungeon is another indie title that started from a successful Kickstarter. Developed by Robot Loves Kitty, a team comprised of Alix Stolzer and Calvin Goble, the game is a rouge-like dungeon brawler that can be played by up to four players in local co-op. The gameplay is fairly straight forward. Like many rouge-likes, you explore a randomly generated set of dungeon floors which become increasingly difficult as you progress. Your actions are limited to jumping and using a selected item from your inventory. You pick up experience, currency, and items as you delve deeper into the depths of the dungeon. For this project they brought on composer David Dirig to help create an appropriate atmosphere for Legend of Dungeon.

What really grabbed my attention with this game was the way the music was handled. Much like the dungeon setup, the music is different every time you play. It’s more complex than having a random track that plays every time you start up. Each time the game is reset, a new set of instrument tracks are chosen. In other words, a different collection of looping instrument patterns are randomly selected and combined to create a new piece each time you start a game. For example you may have a game session where the music consists of a piano track, a synthesizer track, and a bass track which play in sync with each other. To take it a step further, each instrument responds according to your proximity to items, objects, and enemies in the game. This use of dynamic music (music that responds directly to the player’s actions) helps create a relatively new experience every time you play.

There are a total of 244 individual instrument tracks, a handful of which are selected and assigned to game objects every time you start a session. Now you may be wondering how an official soundtrack can be formed when the music in the game has so many possible combinations. Well, the 244 individual instrument tracks used in the game originated from a set of 18 pieces that Dirig wrote for the project. Each instrument part in these pieces was turned into its own individual track to be jumbled and randomly selected for playback in the game. These 18 pieces are what make up the Legend of Dungeon OST.

The music itself is minimalist in its approach and features a mix of acoustic and electronic instruments. Different sets of patterns play out in the different instruments, which include acoustic guitar, electric guitar, piano, strings, drums, and an assortment of synthesizer elements. The simplicity of these pieces is what helps the instruments mix well together when they are combined in the game, but they also work well in their original context. Due to the need for the instrument tracks to combine in various ways, the music is all written in the same key and tempo. In addition, the music appears to be programed to only select one track of a particular instrument at a time. This prevents instances of multiple piano loops, for example, from competing for attention or overlapping one another. Despite the simplicity and restrictions, the music in both the official soundtrack and in the game still maintains a good range in mood, from eerie ambiance in pieces like “Warlock” to more intense and foreboding pieces like “Robot.”

Because of the random nature of the instrument assignments you can end up with very different background music on each playthrough. You may end up having a more relaxing combination in one run and have a more electronic and intimidating sounding combination in the next. This may leave some people unhappy with the feeling of an inconsistent tone in the music, while others may find the variety helps make the game feel less repetitive. I tend to lean towards the latter in this case. Especially with rouge-likes, having more variety in the music can help keep the game from feeling too monotonous. When starting up a new game session, it’s nice to have a fresh audio background, rather than hearing the same piece every time on the opening levels. It’s a great approach to music in the genre and Dirig pulls it all off nicely.

When all is said and done, the Legend of Dungeon OST is an interesting work that provides some great atmosphere for the rouge-like dungeon brawler. Although you will be unlikely to hear an exact copy of the pieces from the OST in the game, the music maintains a good level of variety that is enjoyable to listen to on its own. The minimalist approach to the writing works well for forming the dynamic game music and the mix of acoustic and electronic instruments helps add to the variety. If you enjoy atmospheric and minimalist compositions, give this soundtrack a listen. The Legend of Dungeon OST can be purchased on Amazon and iTunes.

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