Today, Spotify announced Spotify Gaming, a wholly new segment dedicated solely to music about or for video games. While the lineup is stated to increase over time, the current soundtracks include such exemplary ones as Uncharted 4, Halo 3, and this week’s release of No Man’s Sky, which is definitely one I would recommend checking out first. The soundtrack for the game, subtitled Music for an Infinite Universe, was made by English band 65daysofstatic. Hello Games involved the band with their game after requesting to use their song “Debutante” for the title’s debut at E3 2014, at which point the band offered to help make the rest of the game’s score. All the instruction they were given by the studio was to write it as they would a regular upcoming album.
No Man’s Sky is a game that will invoke a constant sense of wonder with each planet you discover, and it’s only fitting that the journey is accompanied by a impactful musical score. Like most soundtracks these days, the music weaves across multiple tracks, with several songs beginning right where another left off. You can listen to it shuffled, if you choose, but to do so almost robs you of the intimacy that it’s going for. Founding member John Shrewsberry said that they wanted to create “beautiful, varied” music, and while your mileage may vary on it being varied, it cannot be denied that the soundtrack is gorgeous. So much so that it almost does a good job of hiding its true purpose, which is to remind you of your loneliness.
When the game first debuted two years ago, “Debutante” narrated its sense of discovery. The low synths at the beginning, followed by percussion that eventually grew more complex, then guitar and soft vocals joined. As it moved, the player explored a planet and cataloged wildlife before taking off into space and entering into a galactic battle. There was an underlying sense of positivity as it progressed, a sci-fi excitement that, by the end, could have you muttering the opening narration from Star Trek.
But cheerful and positive this soundtrack is not; while you’ll certainly find yourself some enjoyable tracks (I personally enjoy Supermoon, which combines great percussion and guitar with soothing piano and vocals), don’t expect to be listening to something reminiscent of Star Wars. Rather, the soundtrack careens back and forth between disturbing, alien synths and fast guitar and percussion. If you’ve recently seen Interstellar, or remember 2001: A Space Odyssey, some songs may remind you of those particular films as well.
Over the years, music has grown to be a core element of gaming, and the same holds true for No Man’s Sky. The soundtrack, either outside of the game or within, weaves a feeling of isolation, growing more bleak with each track. The game forces you to acknowledge and accept your solitude and relative insignificance in the cosmos, as stunning as the exotic fauna and flora may be.
While that can be depressing to think about, especially in the late hours of night, there’s also beauty in it all. You share a single universe with thousands of people. Odds are that you’ll never meet them, but just knowing that they are there, just as lost as you and feeling what you feel, brings you together. A small comfort for some, but in a universe as vast as the one that No Man’s Sky touts, small moments mean quite a lot.