Into the Breach Soundtrack | Artist: Ben Prunty | Genre: Video Game Soundtrack | Year: 2018
You can imagine the sort of pressure that Subset Games must have been under when creating the follow up to their indie megahit, FTL: Faster Than Light. It’s pressure that returning composer Ben Prunty surely faced too considering how iconic and irreplaceable his work on it became. And yet it seems that neither party needed to fret about expectations because the recently launched Into the Breach both plays like a dream and sounds pretty cool.
This complete soundtrack contains all twenty six pieces of music from the video game with its 2017 trailer theme thrown in as a little bonus. It’s worth noting that these tracks amount to a shorter runtime than Prunty’s soundtrack for FTL (roughly sixty minutes as opposed to FTL’s ninety), though this is to be expected considering the tighter scope of Into the Breach and its number of transitional numbers that run less than a minute long.
From the opening track fittingly titled Open a Breach, we’re introduced to the sombre title music that establishes a rhythm we’ll become quite familiar with as the album develops. Into the Breach is tense and nerve-wracking at the best of times and the music only adds to those qualities with a sound akin to that of a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. No matter what instruments are being used or what unique sounds are created, there is always this delightful tension that continues to tug at you.
During the pre-battle setup, players assign their troops to the map and once the order is given for them to touch down the music comes alive like a mech’s power core going online for the first time. It’s a nice in-game touch, made nicer by those very same maps which have distinct flavours depending on the island they belong to. You could make an argument that the islands from Into the Breach are mere palette swaps with an abundance of gimmicks standing in for character, so it’s fortunate that Prunty’s music does so much to help distinguish them.
What’s notable about this recording is its restrained use of synthesizers, which typically form the backbone of the composer’s work. With the exception of the tracks supporting the futuristic island, Prunty opts for a wider range of instruments in order give Into the Breach Soundtrack a more distinct sound than we’ve heard before. You’ll hear three in-mission tracks for each island resulting in a total of twelve tracks for the standard engagements and a further theme for the final mission. These thirteen tracks represent the meat of the album with further tracks representing the level transitions and end credits as well as a sinister ‘game over’ tune that you really shouldn’t listen to if it’s getting late!
The sorrowful cello and tense rhythm heard in Old War Machines will likely help it become this album’s Milky Way (arguably FTL’s defining track) and the desert-swept sounds of Cataclysm will have you lamenting your inability to outfit mechs with a Stetson! Cataclysm might be my favourite track at the moment because it’s here that you can most appreciate the electric guitar which Prunty has used throughout. The deliberate strings suit the theme of impending doom I mentioned earlier and at four minutes long the song joins the other mission themes as one of the most substantial listens in the playlist.
Whilst the return of synthesisers later in the album are somewhat reminiscent of Prunty’s earlier work, it’s important to stress how original everything remains. About the closest audible reference you’ll hear to FTL is during the final mission theme which includes a percussion intro that’s tastefully evocative of Last Stand. Eponymously titled Into the Breach, this track is an amalgam of styles drawn from every corner of the album. The sombre notes that define the ice-covered island can be heard here for example and the synthesizers once again return to create an irresistible baseline befitting of the finale and the culmination of its time bomb motif.
I especially adore listening to this track in-game. The final mission isn’t on the same stressful wavelength as FTL’s was, but each move you make has to be very carefully considered nonetheless. The music does an excellent job of supporting that by adding just a hint more tension; a feeling that the rest of the soundtrack elicits so well.
If you’re planning on a standalone listen then you may have to tweak the playlist a bit seeing as the shorter tracks sound better in-game than they do otherwise. Nevertheless, you don’t expect strategy games to be supported by music of such raw energy, so Into the Breach Soundtrack comes as a pleasant surprise.
Considering the game’s setting is that of a kaiju apocalypse, it’s easy to be impressed by the album’s variety with upbeat tracks like Rift Riders demonstrating that even if you are facing the end of the world, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit of fun whilst doing it!