The problem with Dragon Age: Inquisition has nothing to do with Trevor Morris’s music. It’s gorgeous, and fits in beautifully with the continent of Thedas. You can hear an excellent roundup of the score in The Well of Sorrows.
Morris’s themes are magnificent – a large orchestra, full choir, vocal soloists, loads of brass and percussion, and more. I love the music he wrote.
I don’t love how the music works in the game. If I want to hear all the great music Trevor wrote, I have to literally listen to the soundtrack, because I rarely hear it in the game.
I’ve put about 27 hours into the game, and I’m slowwwwwwww at moving through games like this. I love to poke around in the forest, search corners of caves, walk along the rivers and lakes, see if I can climb that mountain with my horse, give up on the horse and try climbing it by jumping, give up on jumping and go all the way around, stop for every herb along the way, mine iron and summer stone and blue vitriol from every boulder, kill every bear, loot every cabin, root out all the bandits, mercenaries and apostates, and so on.
While I’m doing all of those things, things that I truly enjoy and adore about gaming, I rarely hear music with any melody.
Here’s why this matters. When I’m away from the game, I never find myself singing any themes from the experience. I don’t walk away humming tunes, wishing I could still be playing.
The Bethesda games, like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, are great. I can hear those melodies and instantly want to be in the game world playing. Same with the Jesper Kyd years of Assassin’s Creed, or Red Dead Redemption. Even Destiny uses melodic content during exploration, and I find myself singing those tunes many hours after turning off the game.
My only complaint to Trevor is that his ambient music is too ambient. I can’t blame him for this, because I don’t know what the audio directors asked him to do. It’s possible they didn’t want melodic music, thinking it might be too intrusive to the experience.
If that was the case – if the audio directors wanted the music as background only, they succeeded. If I want to hear the best stuff, I have to wait for cinematics, which make up only a fraction of the amount of time I’m playing the game.
My biggest takeaway from the music to Dragon Age: Inquisition is that I have no takeaway. The only way for me to truly enjoy the great music Trevor wrote is to stop playing the game and listen to the soundtrack with speakers or headphones. To me, as a gamer and a musician, this is a tragedy, and comes awfully close to negating the beauty of Trevor’s hard work.
Think of your favorite open world games that have an exploration/grinding/farming component. What are your feelings about the music in those games? Do you enjoy carrying a tune along with you when you’re not playing, or do you prefer the music to be more subtle?
Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends. – See more at: http://www.sumthing.com/blog/#sthash.05TVzAhw.dpuf