[Snippet of the script. Full script available to Patrons.]
The game’s central area is the City Ruins. It catches the atmosphere with both its melodic instrumentation and its vocals. It ends up being complemented by the sound effects as well; you can hear the birds chirping, the wind across your face, and the very grass that you walk on. One of these sound effects is all in my head because I’m crazy, but it all blends together nicely.
This, is what I mean. The music fades to a quiet, atmospheric type of track. The vocals also fade a bit although subtle and it does so with the music. This provides a very smooth transition between the areas. This becomes more apparent when you continue toward the Desert Zone since the music fades out entirely and the desert theme quietly rumbles its way in.
The Desert Zone displays a similar level of progression. The music picks up with its appropriate desert-themed track as you run to the many main quest objectives. You come across a machine you have to chase down, which I’ll refer to as the Story Event since this is another Environmentally Dynamic trigger.
If you run back to the Desert Zone, it transitions back to the A-Track, which is to be expected; BUT, the A-Track never changes back to the full Track without the vocals and instead awkwardly transitions to the Desert Housing’s full Vocal Track.
Go to the Amusement Park!
A surprisingly eerie tune welcomes us, which is completely appropriate considering this is the first time we see these machines being friendly and talking about having fun and being happy together. So much so that they carved a heart into the castle.
The first transition seems a little abrupt, but it’ll make sense in a second. Also consider that the sound effects and voices are off, since I reject the confetti and fun times to be had. I’m not fun.
The Machine Village actually has noteworthy points, for being such a small area. On your way over, the small cutscene allows the quiet music to fade out and a couple of conversation pieces to come in during the transition from the Amusement Park to the Machine Village.
The music introduces itself slowly and without any vocals. These minute details really get me. It intros on clapping and goes into an acoustic melody with the clapping backing it up. It kinda gives off a community vibe. Especially when you first discover this place; your mind if filled with curiosity. What the heck is going on?!
Now, how about the Forest Zone, or the Forest Kingdom?
It starts with its ambient A-Track. After the Forest Zone cutscene, it immediately BAM FOREST KING. You get attacked. The transition is a little odd, and the only reason it exists is for that sudden squad attack.
Now, usually it’s some kind of upwards progression, including the areas I haven’t shown yet. But instead, we’re given the exact opposite. The A-Track jumps to the C-Track. As soon as you destroy that squad, the music quiets down to the B-Track. When this happens, an internal timer starts. When that timer ends, the music quiets down again to the A-Track but with vocals.
The Abandoned Factory’s music keeps the game’s tradition of easing itself in. It works well here because it starts us off with a feeling of uneasiness that works well with the story. Once you talk to the robot, it transitions to a track that uses Factory sounds as its backing. Several tracks use some kind of backing that fits the area — the Amusement Park, the Forest Kingdom, the City Ruins, the Desert Zone — and the Abandoned Factory is no exception.
After the major cutscene for the area, the Become As Gods track begins. [clip] It could be comparable to the This Cannot Continue track.
The Copied City. Maybe it’s just me, but this song feels more suspenseful as you continue onward to discover Adam’s beloved city. It doesn’t actually get more suspenseful until Adam, but nevertheless it’s just a feeling that the music instilled in me. It’s a nice change of pace, and it’s a track that could easily stand on it’s own, which is one of the reasons I have the Sound Effects and Voices muted.
And finally, my absolute favorite use of the music in NieR: Automata.