A Temple of Mystery – Composing the music of The Last Crystal

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The Spirit of the Temple

When I set about creating the music for The Last Crystal, a co-op puzzle adventure game, Marc (Marc-Antoine Desbiens, Game Designer and Co-Producer) and I talked at length about his team’s vision for the game and what it needed musically to support the enticing world they were building. We talked a lot about discovery and exploration – two themes that are central to The Last Crystal. About we talked about what made the setting of The Last Crystal unique.

The more we talked, the more the idea of mystery came back. But that wasn’t all the temple was. It was more than that. It was ancient. It was powerful. And with this ancient power, there came a mystique and a majesty. This was a place that tested those who set foot in its halls. This place demanded respect. And it was this picture of the temple which guided my hand as I worked to compose what became the main theme for The Last Crystal.

A New Journey

In the opening moments of the piece, a timpani roll leads us into a huge melodic statement right out of the gate. The magnitude of the temple is established. Its size, its majesty.

The leaping and rising melody then hangs gently as it fades while a distant flute plays out a flitting reference to the ancient setting of the game. We stand before a great temple, in the deep forested unknowns. Magic hides away within. And, as these opening moments of the piece soar proudly, we behold the majesty of the temple for the first time.

The Last Crystal, video game, soundtrack, fantasy, co-op, puzzle, adventure

As the dynamics die down, majesty gives way to mystery. We step forward, darkness hides many a threat. The reverberating harp, bass drone and quivering tremolo strings accompany our first steps inside the temple – filled with questions, curious and wary. We hear the tapping of far off percussion. Shuddering and trilling strings support the rhythmic stabbing staccato strings.

An oboe enters. The rhythmic elements solidify as we begin to feel confident in what we can expect going forward. We’ve seen the place now, we think we know it. Whatever it throws at us, we can handle it. The steady rhythms accompany the machinations of the mind as we work through the puzzles the temple throws at us. But in the darkness, the mystery yet lingers.

Discovery and Danger

What was really important to get across with the main melody itself was the spirit of the temple, the mood of the place and that sense of fascination present throughout the game – that drive to go deeper, to discover more and to, eventually, reach The Last Crystal.

The main theme rises in discovery and majesty and falls into courage and optimism. Throughout the piece, distant percussive hits decorate the rhythms and melodies. The various decorative elements shiver and tremble in the distance. They hearken to the ancient, mystical origins of the temple. And they allude to what lurks around every corner, hides in every shadow and waits with baited breath for intruders.

The Last Crystal, video game, soundtrack, fantasy, co-op, puzzle, adventure

Whenever I’m thinking about the larger musical world of a game, consistency is important. With a game like The Last Crystal, it’s key that the music feels like a cohesive part of a larger world and supports, even enriches, your experience as you explore the game world and familiarise yourself with the various gameplay dynamics and the story the game has to tell.

As I moved on from the main theme and began to compose for the different in-game environments and encounters, I paid special attention to the kinds of musical movements I employed. I scattered fragmented pieces of the main theme throughout each new piece and even built entirely new melodies from the basic idea that you can hear in the main theme for the game.

In ‘Lively Woods’, the melody lends itself to a much more vibrant and quintessentially ‘fantasy’ mood. In ‘Danger Ahead’, the main theme is both used as a fragmented basis for a new melody and in part, in its original form before it peels off and dissolves into the established melody of this battle piece.

In ‘Discoveries’, we hear it become the gentle tinkling rhythmic basis for the piece played on delicate piano and duplicated higher up by the celesta. And again, like in the battle music ‘Danger Ahead’, we hear the melody fragmented and then folding into the layers of the music once more.

The various decorative elements shiver and tremble in the distance. They hearken to the ancient, mystical origins of the temple. And they allude to what lurks around every corner, hides in every shadow and waits with baited breath for intruders.

The Last Crystal

All-in-all, the music for The Last Crystal had to honour the spirit of the temple and the experience of mystery and discovery you enjoy as you explore what the game has to offer.

Whether you’re solving puzzles, evading traps or running from the many dangers in this ancient and powerful place, the soundtrack is right along with you. It was written to be a loyal, memorable companion on your journey through The Last Crystal – One that brings you back to the world even after you’ve put the game down. And one that, when you think of the temple, has you humming its theme.

Original article by Andey Fellowes here

Listen to The Last Crystal OST on Soundcloud

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