Music producer with over 13 years of experience here!
I think Last Epoch music has lots of good elements here and there, but it’s lacking a distinct and cohesive theme that glues everything together and resonates the unique world in Last Epoch.
It feels like most of the soundtracks are too different and they feel a bit disconnected from the story and the aesthetics of the game.
Also the game is missing music cues at different events that should build the feeling of tension when danger level rises. It makes a big difference on how you as a player feel like when the music suddenly changes to something more fast paced and intense when you start a dangerous encounter in the game or something big happens in the story that should be emphasized.
@RawSuicide posted a good video, really well made points and good examples and I agree with everything he said in the video.
I think Path Of Exile music is one of the best references, their music is exquisite. (Not just because of the flavor, personally it took me a really long time to get used to the melodies and the feeling of the soundtracks. I only mean how the music fills it’s function to changes your mood while you play the game)
During the leveling in Act’s the music feels less dangerous and gore and even slightly beautiful/vivid at times, but quickly the tension grows as you travel further in the story and the situation in the story gets worse.
When you get to the endgame and start mass killing strong monsters and gods, the music becomes very mysterious, gore, epic and dangerous and I feel like Last Epoch could use that kind of approach. I’m not saying that Last Epoch should do PoE music 2.0, I’m just saying that there are many elements and techniques that makes the music function really well and it’s very good place to learn if you want to make this game better.
I would recommend to design a very distinct theme for the main soundtrack that screams Last Epoch’s story, something simple but with a catchy/memorable lead melody. Then create a palette of different instrumentations that you can use as your toolkit to create cohesive soundtracks easier and more effectively.
With different instrumentations I mean a couple sets of instruments that includes some same elements, but the leading and supporting instruments are changed.
What’s most important is that all of them plays well together and they have a similar tonal profile, similar aesthetics and about same key. So even though two soundtracks were played with different instrument sets they would blend well together even if you did a crossfade between them. (For example regular soundtrack>event soundtrack switch)
For example, for high tension situations like boss fights and other dangerous counters the instrument sets could use sounds and instruments that has a more harsh, strong, epic tone (such as french horns, other strong horns, electric guitar, distorted sounds, male choirs instead of female choirs) Lots of strong percussions and bumping elements in there to give more tempo and tension. It’s important to give a strong rythm, it will translate to tension.
Then alternatively the same set of sounds but with milder horns, less distorted sounds, more female choirs insted of male choirs and so on. Percussive sounds should be less heavy (or just mixed a bit softer), but still pretty strong to keep the Last Epoch feeling (whatever that is) while you are massacreing the monsters.
With this approach it gives the opportunity to compose more effectively. You can create cohesive but still different sounding soundtracks (even though you use the same melody and chords over and over again, just with a small instrument changes, different mixing style and subtle chord progression/lead melody twists).
I don’t know if this even reaches the music composer in EHG but if it does, I hope it doesnt discourage him, only the opposite. I feel like Last Epoch is a really cool game and the music has lots of potential. I wanted to share my thoughts in hopes that it would help to improve.
Anyways, really great work so far, I’m looking forward to 1.0 release!