Ask anyone about some of their favourite games and you’ll more often than not hear them discuss the music behind the great moments. Series such as Zelda and Halo have become synonymous with a specific musical style that evokes a sense of familiar character for the worlds they guide you through.
Other games are remembered for the quality of their sound design. Dead Space was a terrifying but excellent entry into the horror genre and a huge part of what made the game so eerily tense
was the way in which it employed all sorts of swells and tension wires that kept you on edge as you roamed the halls of the USG Ishimura. You’d hear were metallic clanks and echoing noises that conveyed the paranoid claustrophobia you’d imagine Isaac would be feeling.
Compare this to Amnesia: The Dark Descent. By most accounts one of the greatest horror experiences of recent memory, however in many areas the level of quality is noticeably less than a AAA title. Sound design in horror games in particular is a crucial part of the experience due to the immersion it provides. If you’re not immersed the sense of threat won’t feel real enough for you to enjoy the horror experience as it was intended. It became telling in Amnesia when you would hear a repeated sound effect, which could bring you out of the fear as fast as it had gripped you.
There are exceptions to the rule of course. Darren Korb is a great example of providing an Indie game with excellent music as he won awards for Best Original Score and Best Song in a Game for "Build That Wall (Zia's Theme)” in Bastion. The haunting, melancholic melody really drove home the emotions at the centre of the game. Then on the flip side you have the Metal Chocobo song from Final Fantasy XIII-2 which was just so out of the blue. Don’t get me wrong, I do love my metal but what on earth is it doing in a game like Final Fantasy?
So what do you guys think? Are Indie games being held back by the level of sound design quality available to them vs AAA titles with big name composers? Or do you think there are hidden gems in indie gaming that the mainstream titles could never hope to much? Let us know!