Review Summary: Somber and emotional, yet grandiose and powerful. Kitamura and Sakuraba craft an anthem for the ages.
As Dark Souls became a massive hit, and Hidetaka Miyazaki went on to work on Project Beast, the infamous "B-Team" of FromSoftware decided to work on the controversial sequel to the 2011 smash hit. While the game itself is another story entirely, the soundtrack by Motoi Sakuraba and Yuka Kitamura cannot be underestimated. One thing of note is that Sakuraba himself decided to completely abandon the Demon's Souls-esque style of Dark Souls, in favor of a more anthemic soundtrack with blistering choirs, overdubbed trumpets, and beautiful percussion. Of course, though they may share styles, Kitamura and Sakuraba both compose different tracks within the soundtrack. The majority are composed by Sakuraba, who composes thirty-four tracks overall; while Kitamura composes thirteen tracks.
Kitamura's tracks are a combination of epic, percussion based tracks like Old Dragonslayer
and Executioner's Chariot
and more soft and creepy tracks with very minimal instruments like Ruin Sentinel
and The Pursuer
. The biggest issue with Kitamura's tracks can be opined to a lack of variety, with tracks like Royal Rat Authority
and Velstadt, the Royal Aegis
having various rhythm issues and not doing anything particularly special. This flaw is mitigated by one of Kitamura's best tracks in Aava, the King's Pet
, a blistering three minutes and thirty four seconds of bombastic choirs, pulsating drums, and soft violins. Kitamura's best track, however, goes to Aldia, Scholar of the First Sin
. The track is given a slow tempo which is enhanced by a calm violin and an off pitch piano that randomly hits the wrong note to induce a sort of manic beauty.
Of course most of the brilliance in this soundtrack go to the one and only Motoi Sakuraba, who seems determined to rectify his mistakes from the first Dark Souls soundtrack. Gone is the piecemeal operatic moaning from the first Dark Souls in favor of a more continuous choir and bombastic instruments in tracks like Skeleton Lords
. One of his best epic tracks is Burnt Ivory King
which relies on a violin solo and a female choir which builds up in intensity ever 20 seconds or so.
Of course where Sakuraba really shines is in the slow, emotional department. Tracks like Fire Keepers
use slow and soft instruments like xylophones and harps in order to build a feeling of serenity in the player. Of course there are darker emotional tracks like Queen of Drangleic
which use a soft piano with a small silent interval every eight notes. Then there are depressing tracks like King Vendrick
that provide a small piano and harp with no particular rhythm, being played at random. Sakuraba's finest track has to be Nowhere
, despite it's short length, the song uses an escalated choir with a heavy percussion that increases in quantity only to take a massive volume drop towards the end.
The soundtrack for Dark Souls II is not particularly as dark or creepy as it's predecessors, but it is much more somber and emotional. From beautiful piano ballads to peaceful harps, Motoi Sakuraba and Yuki Kitamura have crafted a beautiful sadness; a sadness filled with a yearning for days of old and the pain of loss. However, in it's very own sadness we see glimmers of peace and hope. As the bombastic drums and choruses echo halls and meadows, we can hear that not all is lost, just incredibly hard to find.