Music is an integral part of any game and even more for a fantasy game like Battle Brothers. It sets the atmosphere for a relaxed visit to the town or a bloodcurdling fight against undead at night. In addition to our regular progress updates we want to take the opportunity to give you insights into how the Battle Brothers music is coming to life. The following article is written by our music composers Breakdown Epiphanies and has them explain in their own words their thoughts, inspirations and techniques behind the various musical pieces of the game.
As we just finished a musical make-over for the bandit faction, we would like to give you a quick update on how the soundtrack to Battle Brothers has evolved in the course of the last few months. First of all, we are happy to announce that the game already features more than 80 minutes of music and we will continue to produce more pieces as Early Access moves on. Today we would like to showcase the new bandit and beast faction themes as well as talk about some of the music that has already been in the game for some time now.
The Bandit Battle Themes
After recording the fabulous music for The Order 1886 (which features exclusively lower register instruments and voices), composer Jason Graves told a journalist that he “always thought that choosing the instruments you don’t use is just as important as choosing the ones that you do”. For Battle Brothers, we tried to adopt this mindset and came up with various constraints while writing for each faction. A lose concept for the bandit faction was “instruments you can carry around on your back”. We did not fully abide by that rule so the pieces would still fit in the overall sound of the soundtrack but it was a nice guideline to give the bandits their own signature sound. Both tracks are carried by smaller percussion ensembles and lots of steel-string guitar, going for a mix of folk and orchestral music. The melodies are played by single instruments like a solo violin or a trumpet. (There is a pretty dominant cello at some point, too. That one is obviously carried around by an athletic wildman.)
The first piece is the more guitar-heavy of the two, with a fingerstyle middle section and even some prepared guitar towards the end. We went for the good ol’ “let a bent paper-clip bounce on the strings” approach. The idea of the prepared guitar refers to the “prepared piano” famously employed by John Cage in his works from the 1940s and 1950s.
The second track is a waltz that ends with some double bass drums and a rather sad and longing string arrangement. Besides the obvious topics like battles and war we feel that Battle Brothers’ world rings with these emotions, too, the nostalgia of travelling around and the life of a group of ordinary people that one day decided to live by the sword.
The first Beast Battle Track, Werewolf Woods
The beasts are not supposed to be a homogeneous faction in Battle Brothers. At the moment they only consist of the werewolves but there will be different animals and creatures from folklore added as development goes on. That’s why the first piece of music we dedicated to them is more of an ambient piece that is supposed to reflect the atmosphere of a forest hunted by something menacing and wild, moving bushes, reflections of eyes, all that good jazz.
That’s it for the news for now but if you are still curious about our compositions, we’ll use our time in the spotlight to talk a little bit more about our thought process behind some of the tracks that are already in the game and that have already accompanied you on your travels and in countless battles.
The 2nd Orc Battle Track
The second piece for the Orc faction strays a great deal from the more sound-designy approach we went for with the first one. While our earlier track does not move that much and establishes a general tone of heaviness and brutality, we wanted this one to reflect that fighting orcs in Battle Brothers can very much feel like getting hit by a truck. The greenskins furiously charge into your men, break shieldwalls, stun people left and right and occasionally make short work of allies that you did not protect well enough. So the second battle track for this faction feels more up-tempo and agitated than the first one while still maintaining the signature drum and brass sections. As fighting orcs reminded us of moshpits at metal and hardcore shows, we even added a half-tempo breakdown in there for good measure.
The 2nd Undead Battle Track
The inspiration for the undead music came from re-watching scenes from 60’s mythology movies, most famously Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion skeletons in “Jason and the Argonauts”. Those things used to scare the crap out of us when we were kids and later we still admired how unnatural and – for the lack of a better word – “wrong” their movement felt. We based the track on quick snare rhythms quantised in a way that sounds too precise for being played by actual human drummers and then went with a lot of low-register strings (no brass in the themes for the undead faction). Inevitable church bells and various percussion elements that are supposed to emulate the sound of sticks playing on a ribcage round up our take on orchestrating the undead onslaught.
The 2nd Town Theme
This is the music that plays during your visits to the larger and more prosperous towns in the game. The piece we presented you in our last devblog post is slower and less uplifting as it is meant for small and (as long as no bandits or orcs decide to go for a raiding field trip) peaceful villages. This one conveys a more lively atmosphere while still featuring a lot of rhythm work on guitars and melody lines on cello.
The Stronghold Theme
The strongholds are pretty important locations in the game as it stands because they are the only places where you can buy military grade equipment and they spawn the Landsknechts parties that patrol the roads and help you defend the land’s towns and villages. They even spawn very lucrative and dangerous contracts. Paul painted a beautiful screen for the strongholds so we tried to write some music that does justice to the tone that is set by his visuals. Its a waltz featuring a lot of military style percussion and again the foundation is laid by some chords on the acoustic guitar. The guitar will act as a signature element for the human faction in the game, much like the undead and orcs have their own “sonic footprint”.
We hope you’ve enjoyed the music in the game so far and we are looking forward to the next updates and the musical opportunities they will bring. Currently we are busy working on the music for the upcoming Goblin faction. If you’d like to be up to date on our work and the soundtrack to Battle Brothers or want to ask us any questions about the music, please get in touch with us on twitter or soundcloud!
Dennis and Patrick