‘Damn—that’s cool!’ FF14’s composer gives the nod to Alan Wake 2’s surprise musical number—which tracks, given he’s also a master of the left field

Alan Wake 2’s captured the imagination of the gaming public for a lot of reasons—it’s downright gorgeous, but it also has Remedy’s penchant for blending genres, deftly mixing comedy and horror. This habit hits a high-point with Herald of Darkness, an in-game track so popular it was performed live at The Game Awards this year. Spoilers for Alan Wake 2 and Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn follow.

It’s even received a nod of approval from Masayoshi Soken, the composer of Final Fantasy 14’s soundtrack (and FF16’s OST, as well). In case you’re not familiar, FF14’s music is so beloved by the players that the studio has a dev band that Soken’s a part of, one that takes to the stage during fanfests each year to play the hits. Music is a huge part of the game’s identity.

In a recent round-up of composer’s favourite soundtracks of the year by VGC, Soken gave Alan Wake 2’s Herald of Darkness a shout-out as one of his favourites:

“I would choose the scene where ‘Herald of Darkness’ plays in Alan Wake 2. It’s out there to have a gun go off while the music video starts playing all around out of nowhere during the gameplay, and I found that interesting. And on top of that, the [music video] is made interactive. Nothing to say other than, damn—that’s cool!”

This tracks for two reasons. Reason one: Herald of Darkness is an absolute banger. Reason two: suddenly swapping up the genre of a game’s soundtrack is something Soken’s very familiar with—in fact, it marked a major turning point in the evolution of FF14’s soundtrack back in 2014, one that made its way into subsequent patches and expansions.

As Soken mentions, Herald of Darkness comes right out of nowhere. Alan Wake’s sections are all a little bizarre, starting off as live-action films that transition into levels proper. Initiation 4: We Sing turns into a bizarre meander through a stage set while the Poets of the Fall/Old Gods of Asgard rock out on blown-up LED screens. You know, classic horror game stuff.

In Patch 2.4 of Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn, Soken pulls a similar trick. The game had been flirting with departures from its fantasy stylings for a while—Titan, for example, has a heart-pounding boss theme called Under The Weight that wouldn’t be out of place in a mosh pit. But it’s still all arguably on-theme—a little alien, but you’re fighting primals summoned by thoughts fueled with magic crystals, so it works.

The fight with Shiva in the Akh Afah Amphitheatre takes this one step further—coincidentally, it’s when she actually steps on you. Her fight music is the usual ‘epic boss battle’ stuff, right up until her phase transition where she casts Diamond Dust: The whiplash hits like an orbital strike, veering from orchestral chants to edgy emo rock that’s totally shameless. Here’s a clip courtesy of YouTube channel dudewhereismyspoon.

This’d mark a turn in FF14’s soundtrack. Nowadays, the game’s a lot less shy about mixing things up. Shadowbringers and Endwalker are flooded with guitar solos and glassy club tunes that kick in at heightened moments, pairing nicely with the more orchestral stuff. All this to say—of course the moment Alan Wake 2 switches things up is the one that caught Soken’s attention. It’s something he’s very good at.

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