While anticipation for Arkane’s upcoming Redfall is rising, its latest title Deathloop is still garnering praise and starting conversations. Another entry into Arkane’s Dishonored universe, Deathloop follows an assassin trapped on Blackreef; an anarchic, retro-futuristic anti-utopia caught in a bloody timeloop. As Cole tries to unravel the mystery of his own past, he must battle against a rival killer and eight debauched “Visionaries” who control the island. There is a lot to love about the supernatural spy-thriller shooter, including the game’s genre-blending soundtrack.
Game Rant spoke with Tom Stalta, composer on Deathloop, about his collaborative process with Arkane Lyons, past and future projects, and specific influences. Interestingly, Stalta says that prior to scoring the game, he wasn’t even a big fan of the music that typifies Deathloop‘s time period.
Going Outside One’s Creative Comfort Zones
Stalta has scored numerous titles ranging from entries into the Halo franchise and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, to Prince of Persia and Need for Speed. This versatility helped him tackle the unique challenges presented by Deathloop, including matters of personal preference.
“In all honesty, I don’t consider myself a huge fan of 60s music in general. But working on Deathloop gave me the opportunity to expand my creative voice and come up with a musical recipe that I enjoyed listening to.”
Deathloop had one of the best videogame soundtracks in 2021, with dynamic tracks that seamlessly switch between stealthy sabotage and supernatural gunfights. Stalta pulled off the equivalent of cooking with ingredients he didn’t care for and serving an award-winning feast. Part of his process boiled down to choosiness. Stalta selected his influences carefully, borrowing from the biggest names of the 60s and 70s, including Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Who, Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath, Frank Zappa, and early James Bond film scores.
By borrowing from some of the best artists of the era and sticking to tracks that resonated with his personal sensibilities, Stalta was able to maintain his creative compass as he ventured into uncharted territory. He is pleased to have made the trip, as he feels scoring Blackreef broadened his creative horizons.
Tough Tunes for Deathloop’s Frenetic Fights
The greatest challenge Stalta had with music from the target time period was finding hard-hitting tracks suitable for combat. While the 70s offer some fast and heavy rock and roll, incorporating 60s tunes was more of a challenge.
“My biggest challenge was finding a way to sound late 60s but still have attitude, action, and punch. Surprisingly, there’s not a ton of ‘tough sounding’ music from that era, so I had to hone in on specific grooves and styles to support the hyper-action fighting in the game.”
Consequently, the game’s 60s influences seem more prominent in the sections of music that score sneaky spy gameplay, while things seem to jump forward by a decade when the lead starts flying. The effect, like the game it’s based in, is anachronistic, and while the tunes capture the look and feel of Deathloop‘s game and art direction, their energy appeals to contemporary sensibilities as well.
Stalta believes that hallmarks of excellent video game soundtracks are immersive, varied, and recognizable. Listening to Deathloop‘s music is the next closest thing to visiting Blackreef, precisely because they are so iconic.
Composing for Yourself
The through-line of Stalta’s success is that he composes for himself. “All I can do, no matter what style I’m working on, is to create music that I would enjoy listening to.” While creating to suit one’s personal tastes may seem selfish, it is also the best path forward when venturing into unknown territory. If a composer attempts to use unfamiliar tools to please other peoples’ tastes, the result will likely be lackluster for both audiences.
Stalta emphasized the importance of collaboration throughout the process of scoring Deathloop. But it is also important to note that the beginning of every creative project, whether it is designing a game, writing a story, or composing, begins with a creative vision. It takes courage to attempt a project outside one’s comfort zone, but actually seeing the endeavor through requires confidence in their personal tastes.
Deathloop is available now for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S.