Music in video games needs to serve two purposes. The first one is, of course, the aesthetic
pleasure. Music needs to enhance the experience and
immerse you deeper into the world of the game through smart use of leitmotifs and instruments. The 2nd purpose of music is feedback. It needs to provide information about gameplay
state changes. Horizon: Zero Dawn is a wonderful example
of musical design and implementation in video games, so let’s crash course through its
wide musical landscape. The most known tune from Horizon is probably
Aloy’s theme. [play Aloy’s theme] It is used for the most part in cutscenes,
representing Aloy and her quest to uncover the secrets of her past, as well as of the
world she lives in. This leitmotif pretty much exists purely for
emotional payoff. There is a lot of ambient music in the game,
diegetic including, and its goal from gameplay perspective is to signify that you can explore
without worries. Aesthetically, this type of music is used
to represent different cultures and locations. The Nora, Carja, Oseram, Banuk, all have different
music related to them, and you will hear different type of ambience depending on the biome you
are exploring. Now, however, let me play you some music that
I’m sure is going to make everyone who has played Horizon go instantly alert. [play machine music] This is part of the machine themes you will
hear in the game. Not only is it used to represent machines
aesthetically, but it’s got a clear design intention – alert players that there is danger
nearby. The player can be in different states – unseen,
in combat, hiding from alert machines. All that is signified by different tunes representing
different states of the game. So, with smart usage of leitmotifs, instruments,
and gameplay states, Horizon: Zero Dawn not only creates immersive music that showcases
the wide variety of cultures and landscapes of the world, but also serves direct gameplay
purpose of providing necessary information to the player.

The Musical Landscape of Horizon: Zero Dawn | Farlands In Focus
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