Until Dawn: A Musicologist’s View

Until Dawn

Until Dawn (2015) is a survival horror game, revolving around a cinematic experience which includes cut-scenes, quick actions, and character narrative choices, with the game making a large emphasis on the butterfly effect; every choice the player makes changes the future of the game, narrative, characters, and story throughout. Due to this, a lot of the gameplay revolves around the player deciding what character narrative choice to make (unless it is a quick action which makes this decision shorter), which means that any music needs to become adaptive to a static environment.

 

The music works mostly as an environment feature in the game, creating tension were necessary and acting as a background “filler”, so to not make the game appear empty; containing mostly string or synth drones. Although this would seem appropriate for a horror game, it can sometimes be unnecessary, for example, at the beginning of the game the player must remain still with the controller in order to attract a wild squirrel to the character of Sam. In a rather innocent scene void of tension/fear, as the object is a squirrel, the music becomes tense to put the player on edge in a scene where it is not appropriate (although it is used in the future when the player is actually in danger). The visuals and controls in Until Dawn are first rate, however, the music seems chaotic at times as it tries to continuously match and interact with player actions, rarely being silent. This is where survival horror games could take from the 2017 Resident Evil 7, which remains mostly silent in its music until the player is either in a save room or is being attacked. Then, the music becomes an important signal for the player, rather than being used continuously and becoming out of place, repetitive, or boring.

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