Sunless Sea was an extremely, bleak, moody and atmospheric game with fairly simplistic naval combat. The game relied on its interesting world, extensive written pieces of lore and dialogue and an outstanding soundtrack to provide the bulk of the experience. Take a gander at our full Sunless Sea review for our further thoughts on the game. The Sunless Sea soundtrack, available on BandCamp comes to us from MickyMar Productions, comprised of composers Micky Erbe and Maribeth Solomon. Their award-winning works have been used in film, television and interactive media. One of their latest is the haunting score for Failbetter Games’ Sunless Sea.
Throughout our review and as you can see in our intro to this soundtrack spotlight, you will notice the constant use of words like atmosphere, dark, and moody to describe the experience. As the game features no spoken dialogue and minimal sound design, it relies on the music scored by Mickymar to provide the overlying sense of doom and gloom that the writing evokes. Tonal pieces fill the empty spaces of the Unterzee (Deep underground ocean), while ominous driving work underscores impending battle and danger. The pieces are distinct and ranging, but never stray to far from the common elements that comprise the game.
All of these elements evident right from the start, with the title menu track, aptly titled ‘Opening Screen’. It builds slowly, almost sounding sad, yet ominous at the same. The mix of digital style chords and deep brass manage to encompass the sense of exploration and darkness that make up the heart of the game experience. The piece transitions into ethereal chorale sounds that can represent the often times ghostly, otherworldly, yet familiar inhabitants of this world. There are brief moments where the track feels like it may drop into a sea shanty, before it transitions back into the main melody.
‘Wolfstack Lights’, which is the second track, is a perfect example of exploring from a base, much as the soundtrack does itself. All of the core themes of the opening are there: exploration, fear, the feel of the ocean, and so on, but as Wolfstack is a port, providing relative safety on your journey, it’s more hopeful. Drums and percussion are added into the work, giving it more life and a feeling of what is “known”.
‘Submergio Viol’ is the type of piece that you expect from older films about pirates and sea voyages. Simple drums, percussion, tin or penny-whistle style wind instruments are mainstays of sea shanties. Fiddles, violin and viola work as well to provide the Celtic-style feel of a ship with sails propelled by favorable winds and adventure waiting ahead. This is a fantastic, but short track, that may be one of my favorites of the whole soundtrack. [pullquote align=”right”]WARNING: This soundtrack may cause haunting dreams, wistful reveries for captains lost, and sea-sickness.[/pullquote]
Tracks like ‘Dark Sailing’ and ‘The Sea Does Not Forgive’ work a the same type of mood through different angles. Sailing uses dark tones overlayed with simple notes to provide the feeling of lonliness. Very muted violin notes in the background still manage to provide a sense of movement. Sea Does Not Forgive relies on a similar feel, but brings in dissonant chords and strings near the ending to provide an even sad and ominous tone.
One of the last pieces I’d like to have a quick look at, or more appropriately listen to, is ‘Infernal’. This is your full-on, dangerous battle piece. Drums and percussion drive at a more frantic pace. The digital choir is threatening, and the strings keep the dark and quick-moving pace. It’s one of the pieces that moves furthest away from mostly, slow-paced flowing style of the majority of the music.
The other piece that makes the largest departure, yet still remains thematically relevant is ‘The Surface’. The Surface is the world that still exists above, much higher than the underground oceans and waterways of Fallen London. As such, it has an almost entirely different feel. The track returns to the Celtic-style of pieces like Submergio Viol, but becomes almost something of a colonial-style march before dipping into a section that could easily be called chamber music. All throughout the background maintains that, strange, ghostly feel of a world not quite like our own.
The Sunless Sea soundtrack features 21 tracks that will takes you through the depths of the mysterious Unterzee and all of the dangers and unknown that are the heart of Fallen London. The music is available in MP3, FLAC and other formats at a starting price point of £7 GBP. This one is highly recommended and easily listenable outside of the game.
[alert style=”dark”]Soundtrack spotlights highlight interesting tracks from new or recently released games. Occasionally we’ll have more in-depth looks at full soundtracks as they are provided, and possibly even a few looks at retro classics. If you have a soundtrack suggestion, or are a publisher and would like us to take a more in-depth listen to your work, contact Nick Calandra or James Schumacher.[/alert]
Sunless Sea soundtrack download provided to us by Failbetter Games.