Classic Game Themes: Lords of the Fallen
Lords of the Fallen is an action role-playing game from 2014, played from a third-person perspective. It is broadly in the same idiom to Darksiders and Dark Souls with the emphasis on complex and challenging combat. And it is for that reason that I didn’t get on with this title when I bought it in a Steam sale a few years ago. I felt that the long, protracted fights were an impediment to the narrative, which I quite enjoyed. However, the game was designed this way to appeal to the combat focused gamer and “git gud” culture. But I think that it’s important to try different genres of games from time to time and to step occasionally out of your comfort zone. I would cite the Hand of Fate series as a positive example of this. Both of those titles are from a genre I wouldn’t usually consider and playing them turned out to be a very positive experience.
One aspect of Lords of the Fallen that did stand out for me, was the score by Norwegian composer Knut Avenstroup Haugen. Haugen is best known for his association with video game developers Funcom and writing the soundtrack for Age of Conan. His work on that MMO was very broad in scope, encompassing inspiration from a wide variety of world cultures. However, his approach for Lords of the Fallen is quite different. The main title cue is a simple track which blends ethereal vocalisations and strings with a strong percussive beat. This surprisingly versatile leitmotif is subsequently used in interesting variations throughout the game. This very clear musical style reflects the games central theme of an individual on a path of self-discovery and bolsters it very effectively.
To highlight how well Knut Avenstroup Haugen uses the concept of the leitmotif in Lords of the Fallen, here are three tracks from the game’s soundtrack album. “Winter’s Kiss (Theme from Lords of the Fallen)” which establishes the central musical concept. “Sacrifice” which presents a robust variant as the main character progresses through the game’s narrative. And finally, “Atonement” which beautifully adapts the main theme to a triumphant and emotional end piece. It should be noted that the score Lords of the Fallen was nominated for the Hollywood Music in Media Awards by critics. This was due to its adaptable simplicity which lends itself to significant variation and interpretation.