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Dying Light by Pawel Blaszczak (Review)

posted Oct 27, 2015, 9:58 AM by Leo Mayr

As a fan of videogame scores and action scores in general, I went on the iTunes store to look for something new. After looking for a bunch of videogames that never got a score album, I found one that had gotten one: Dying Light. A game centered on killing zombies and running away from bigger zombies sounded promising, so I gave it a shot. What I found was very surprising. Besides a few tense moments, a lot of suspenseful or even scary music, the score has a lot of unexpected emotional weight.

The game throws you into a city overrun by slow, decaying zombies and as you scavenge for supplies and complete tasks for survivors, you can dispose of the undead in various ways. At night, the game changes into more of a horror game as you try to make as less noise as possible and stay out of sight of powerful zombies that could easily kill you. 

The first track, "Harran" introduces the score, both in its atmosphere and instrumentation. If you can call it that. There are a lot of electronics, mixed with vocals and instruments, so I am not really sure what is what... (except for the vocals!). The score has a very hopeless feeling to it, after the few survivors have accepted their fate and the city is slowly falling apart. This remains the score's center and remains throughout. No big heroic themes. No large scale orchestral action. Just the feeling of a city, abandoned and deserted. The vocals do an excellent job at emphasizing the sadness of the situation and with piano segments, the score can get surprisingly emotional. Near the score's end, "Despair" does basically what the title promises. A sad theme, so well made I could not believe to find it in here of all places.

"Runaway" is the first kind-of-action-track, relying on percussion and eletronics to increase the pace, while the general atmosphere remains what we were introduced to earlier. The action is well paced and never becomes too loud or spectacular, instead focusing on tense moments and only really getting exciting when you're being chased by something. "Now They Are Coming" is an excellent example for those chases, being subtle in some places and going all out with intense action in others. The action fits the feeling of the game perfectly, especially with some of the terrors of the night on your tail and instead of sounding heroic just makes the frightening chases even more tense. When the game throws you into an arena, without a hope of running from the enemy, the music turns into an electronic survival soundscape. That intensity is heard in "In The Cage" and it echoes a visceral intensity, but with added strings it carries an uneasy feeling.

The score does a great job of representing the game's changing atmosphere, from the deserted city in the daytime to the tense horrors of the nights. While this might not justify a score album, the more than solid emotional parts are what make this score so amazing. I never expected the score to have more than a few action tracks and a lot of suspense in between, so I was really surprised. While the runtime of more than 70 minutes may feel repetetive in some places, Pawel Blaszczak always manages to create an interesting listening experience that fans of the genre should definitely hear.