Shadowbringers (PC/PS4, 2019) Video Game Music Review

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Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-ass sounds they make. Today we take shelter from Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers’ everlasting daylight under the canopy of twisted trees in the Rak’tika Greatwood.


Under the watchful eye and skillful ear of sound director Masayoshi Soken (interview), hundreds of gorgeous tracks of music have been crafted for the massively multiplayer online Final Fantasy XIV and its expansions. Soken, riding mostly solo on composing duties for Shadowbringers, took Final Fantasy music in several cool new directions with the expansion. Shadowbringers’ main theme is the first in Final Fantasy history to feature the electric guitar as a main instrument. Speaking of electric guitars, the expansion’s battle theme, which plays whenever a player engages a random enemy, completely shreds.

As a player since the game was relaunched as A Realm Reborn in 2013, I’ve listened to hundreds of hours of music composed by Soken. Cue up any track from the game’s various soundtracks and I’m instantly transported to whichever dungeon, city, zone, or battle I was engaged in when I first heard it. But since July 2019’s release of the Shadowbringers expansion (playlist / longplay/ VGMdb), the one place I’ve most wanted to revisit is the Rak’tika Greatwood, home of the remarkable song “Civilizations.”

Sing it with me, Final Fantasy XIV players. “La hee!”

“Civilizations,” however, is the single most delightfully unexpected tune on the soundtrack, a simple overland theme for a zone shrouded beneath a canopy of trees. The Rak’tika Greatwood is one of the few dark places in a world assaulted by endless daylight. Imagine flying through the tangled roots of gigantic trees as haunting chanting rises from the forest floor. The words are unintelligible—not even Soken himself knows what they mean—but they stick with you throughout the forest and beyond.

“Civilizations’” drums are the heartbeats of those who live in the Rak’tika Greatwoods, proud and strong, embracing what little darkness the world has left. The woodwinds are the breeze blowing through the leaves, whispered warnings of the unrelenting sunlight lurking above the canopy.

“Civilizations” is like no other tune in Final Fantasy XIV’s growing collection of soundtracks, which is a pretty amazing feat considering just how much music this one game contains. That Masayoshi Soken, now seven years in as the game’s sound director, can still crank out something so unusually beautiful speaks to both his skill and the game’s ability to inspire the artists who work on it.


What inspires you? Is it music? People writing about music? Tater tots? Share your muse and your random daily musics in the comments, and we’ll see you back here bright and early tomorrow!

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