Dust: An Elysian Tale is 2012’s indie darling. The result of a one-man development house, Dust is an eye-popping game that easily stands toe-to-toe with VanillaWare titles such as Odin Sphere. Not only does the game look stunning and play responsively, but its music is just as lush and gorgeous as its visuals.
It’s difficult for me to define the style of music used in this soundtrack. It has the familiar sounds of orchestral inspired video game music, but it feels fresher, sexier, and more modern. It’s familiar, yet unique. The melodies and harmonies presented in this soundtrack are not immediately catchy, but they draw you in and invite you to listen again and again. I must have listened to this soundtrack three times already (once at home and twice in my car during my work commute), and I pick out something new each time.
The reason I pick out something new each time is because the often lengthy compositions are divided up into movements that transition smoothly into each other. These aren’t the typical short, repeating loops that accompany locations in typical Japanese platform side-scrollers. These are highly dynamic pieces that have varied arrangements, lots of layers, plenty of growth, and do not grow dull or stale with repeated listens.
The tracks I spent the most time listening to were the various location themes and their “Vintage” versions. These include Cirrmon Caverns, Abadis Forest, Sorrowing Meadows, Glade, and Blackmoor Mountains. The “Vintage” versions of these location themes are imaginative reinterpretations of their mother pieces, but one of them disagreed with me a little. I loved the Abadis Forest theme, but I found Vintage Abadis Forest too shimmery for my tastes. While the shimmer generally complements Dust’s aesthetics really well, it was too much of a good thing in the case of Vintage Abadis Forest.
Another piece that stood out to me was Glick 16. I enjoyed the piece’s modern touches because they felt like classic Megami Tensei music, but the MegaTen flourishes about two minutes into the piece felt a little out of place on the soundtrack. It’s a really cool piece of music and probably makes sense within the context of the game, but it definitely felt like that moment when someone walks into the party and everyone says, “Hey, who invited that guy?” In the end, however, I decided, “Eh, that guy may march to the beat of a different drummer, but he’s pretty cool, so we’ll let him hang at this party.”
HyperDuck Soundworks composed the lion’s share of the music, but there are four compositions by Alex Brandon, who composed music for the first Deus Ex game. These pieces are generally shorter than the rest of the music and sit nicely with everything else in the soundtrack. However, as nice as they are, I did not find them as compelling or memorable as the HyperDuck Soundworks compositions. My personal favorite of Alex Brandon’s pieces was “Last Sanctum.”
It is no secret that I enjoyed Dust: An Elysian Tale a lot at E3 and hope it releases on PSN, since I don’t currently own an Xbox 360. But although I haven’t been able to play the game extensively, I am very glad I had the opportunity to listen to its soundtrack. The music is excellent and captures the vividly imaginative spirit of the game. I have encouraged all my gamer friends to check out Dust: An Elysian Tail, and the evocative music is but another excellent reason to allow this indie darling to charm you over.