Gamers have developed high expectations for the grand, spectacular showdowns that define boss battles. These climactic encounters are often accompanied by unforgettable soundtracks that serve to elevate the tension and excitement. Think of classics like Final Fantasy VII‘s “One-Winged Angel” or Hollow Knight’s haunting “Hornet” theme.
These iconic pieces of music have set the standard for what players expect in a boss battle soundtrack. However, with Baldur’s Gate 3, developer Larian Studios decided it was time to break the mold, and they did so in a truly extraordinary way.
A Perfect Marriage of Lyric and Melody
At the helm of this musical revolution is none other than composer and music director Borislav Slavov, who crafted a soundtrack that defies expectations and redefines what an epic boss battle sounds like. In a game already known for its immersive storytelling, the music had to match this level of excellence. And it certainly does.
Baldur’s Gate 3’s soundtrack holds nothing back. It uses every orchestral trope that conveys grandeur and intensity, from boisterous brass to sweeping strings. The score showcases a range of themes that stir emotions during combat and breathe life into the game’s most intimate moments.
However, where the soundtrack truly shines and pushes boundaries is during the Raphael boss battle. Traditionally, boss battle songs are instrumental, relying on instrumental music to convey the gravity of the situation. But Larian Studios decided to take a bold step in a different direction. Raphael’s battle is not just a clash of swords and spells; it’s a theatrical performance where even the main boss takes center stage.
Raphael’s Final Act Song, Deconstructed
The first thing that strikes players during this encounter is the entrancing voice of Mariya Anastasova. Her bardic vocals beckon players to the battlefield like a town crier announcing a vital proclamation – but delivered through song. It’s a nod to classic depictions of town criers in movies and games and immediately sets the tone for something extraordinary. The extended vocal line in the opening moments evokes that timeless style and draws players further into the experience.
Including Mariya Anastasova’s vocals in a boss battle was enough to leave me spellbound. I even wasted an entire turn simply to bask in the unique atmosphere. But this moment wouldn’t be as groundbreaking if the vocals ended there and the soundtrack just carried on with regular background music.
As the battle rages on, an unexpected element is introduced: a resounding church organ. The haunting notes of this organ create an eerie backdrop, underscoring the eternal struggle between heaven and hell. Something intrinsically diabolical in its use enhances the otherworldly nature of the confrontation. It paves the way for the true masterpiece of this boss battle: the introduction of Andrew Wincott’s vocals.
Wincott’s performance is spectacular, and, if I may, bordering on downright terrifying. When his theatrical vocals join the fray, it’s as if the devil himself has descended to sing a dirge of doom. It’s a chilling and awe-inspiring moment that cements Raphael as one of gaming history’s most memorable boss characters. And he’s not even one of the main baddies in the game!
Larian Studios’s approach with Raphael’s boss battle soundtrack reminds me of Broadway plays like “Phantom of the Opera” or Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue.” The way the church organ’s haunting melodies and the massive sound of the string orchestra clash create an epic atmosphere reminiscent of Bach’s. In the end, you get something that sounds like a cathedral-like space that perfectly complements the larger-than-life character that is Raphael.
More Games with Broadway-Like Boss Battles?
Baldur’s Gate 3 has ultimately redefined what we can expect from boss battle soundtracks. It’s not just about instrumental music; it can also be about weaving a captivating narrative through song and performance. Mariya Anastasova and Andrew Wincott’s vocals add depth and immersion that few games have dared to explore.
Raphael’s Final Act Song is a masterclass in storytelling through music. It’s a testament to the creative and ambitious drive of the team at Larian Studios. Yet, this magical creation could be nothing more than just that.
I can only hope that more games will follow in Baldur’s Gate 3’s footsteps and, of course, keep my ears perked to catch a mention of Borislav Slavov being involved in any future projects. However, despite how great Raphael’s Final Act is, it’s evident that something like this is terribly difficult to pull off. The thought of Sephirot breaking into a song mid-boss fight can only make me chuckle. I’m just grateful everyone involved in making BG3 pushed the boundaries of what’s possible in video game music and delivered an experience that left me open-mouthed in the best way possible.