Earlier this month the gaming company ‘Thatgamecompany’ surprised the gaming world by releasing their hit game Journey for Apple iPhones and iPads without any announcement. Since the game could only be played on a PlayStation gaming console before, this means that the game is now available for a much broader audience and also that I have an opportunity, or better yet a solid excuse, to write about the amazing music that Austin Wintory has written for it.
One of the strengths of the game is that it doesn’t take you a lot of time to play it: it can be finished in one or two hours, giving the game creators the opportunity to make every second in the game count artistically, visually, and, more importantly, musically. The game is all about a journey and going on this journey is a gentle creature, dressed in a hood with a magical scarf that helps her float. The gender of this creature is unknown as far as I know, but since she moves very femininely, I would like to treat her as a female in this review.
Before the journey starts, we are first introduced to the main theme Wintory has written for the game in the opening track “Nascence.” What makes this theme so magnificent is not just the beautiful delicate melody, but at least as much credit needs to be given to the musicians and especially cellist Tina Guo, who Wintory has known even before she started collaborating with Hans Zimmer. Their performance of Wintory’s melodies are gorgeous. On a panel during the Film Music Festival in Krakow, Guo and Wintory even said that the first delicate and emotional cello notes were played during the first take of their recording sessions. This just shows how much love can go into making the music, when the first attempt is just right. This theme was given to the developers of the game in the early stages of development, to inspire them during the creation of the game.
The player-controlled creature starts her journey in the second track, while we hear a hint of the main theme for the first time in the track “The Call”, where the player sees the goal of the journey: a mountain in the far distance with a light shining on the summit. The rest of the album follows her expedition to the mountain musically. At times she is all alone and her loneliness is supported by ambient synth sounds and with the flute sounding from a distance like, for example, in the ‘confluence’ tracks “First Confluence” and Second Confluence.”
Occasionally during her trip, she is not by herself. She meets ribbon-like creatures, which accompany her during some phases of her trip, gliding through the world with her. These scenes are accompanied by different melodies, done by cello, harp and flute, dancing around each other, as can be heard in “Threshold.” In the track “The Road of Trials” the melodies sound very happy and are played by the previously mentioned instruments, together with percussion and guitars. In “Temptation” and “Descent” the music starts to become more mysterious and even starts to sound darker with more ambient synth sounds, but there is still room for the cello and other strings together with the ambience.
In the track “Atonement” Tina Guo is allowed to shine, as her melodies on the cello have the main focus, creating a beautiful and emotional atmospheric piece of music. This atmosphere of beautiful lines and melodies continues in “The Crossing” and “Reclamation,” until the most unsettling track of the album, “Nadir”, starts, which has low fast string patterns working to a chaotic ending.
Every journey comes to an end, and this game’s conclusion is one of the most beautiful endings I have ever experienced. The music of the final sequence to the top of the summit, as can be heard in “Apotheosis,” is beyond gorgeous. It treats us to long beautiful lines together with the playful patterns, creating a masterpiece, which I personally consider one the best musical compositions ever written for video games. In addition, the track does not end in a grand finale. It simply ends the way the journey started: with only a hint of the theme in the distance on the cello. In addition to the music, the visuals are magnificent as well, completing the whole package of this amazing game.
As an encore, the album concludes with the song “I Was Born for This,” based on the melody of the main theme and sung by Lisbeth Scott. The lyrics are quite interesting, as they are excerpts from historical documents and poetry, each one written in a different language, being Latin, Old English, Homeric Greek, French and Japanese.
This soundtrack is, like the title says, a journey. You can hear the preparation for it with the main theme, the start of the expedition and follow it all the way through to the magnificent ending and as an encore, after reaching the destination, we get to listen to a beautiful song. Not only is the music an integral part of the success of this game, it is also a true gem to listen to on its own, especially with tracks like “Nascence,” “Atonement” and “Apotheosis.” But if you want to have the full experience, I recommend playing the game on an Apple device or a PlayStation to see how Wintory’s gorgeous music fits into this artistic world, while also reacting to the player’s movement and location, and then listen to the soundtrack again afterwards to relive this amazing experience once more.
Listen or buy
- Buy this soundtrack from Bandcamp, Amazon.com or iTunes
- Listen to this soundtrack on Spotify
- Request a track of this soundtrack on StreamingSoundtracks.com
The highlights are in bold.
- Nascence (1:46)
- The Call (3:38)
- First Confluence (1:40)
- Second Confluence (2:19)
- Threshold (6:04)
- Third Confluence (1:39)
- The Road Of Trials (4:16)
- Fourth Confluence (1:06)
- Temptations (4:13)
- Descent (2:40)
- Fifth Confluence (1:06)
- Atonement (6:10)
- Final Confluence (2:06)
- The Crossing (1:57)
- Reclamation (2:16)
- Nadir (3:36)
- Apotheosis (7:06)
- I Was Born For This (performed by Lisbeth Scott) (4:40)
Total length: 59 minutes
Sumthing Else Music Works (2012)