A PLAGUE TALE: INNOCENCE – Olivier Deriviere

A Plague Tale: Innocence (regular release)

A Plague Tale: Innocence is a  2019 action-adventure stealth game set in 14th century France. The player takes on the role of Amicia, a teenage daughter of a nobleman who must look after her sick brother, Hugo, as they wander their Black Death-ravaged country in search of a cure for Hugo. Most of the game involves trying to avoid hostile encounters with Inquisition soldiers who are searching for Hugo, and hordes of hungry rats. The game has received mostly positive reviews for gameplay but there is general agreement that the game looks beautiful, particularly the forest landscapes. The music for A Plague Tale: Innocence is written by Olivier Deriviere and marks a reunion between the composer and French video game publisher, Focus Home Interactive (Deriviere composed the music for Focus Home’s The Council and Vampyr).

A Plague Tale: Innocence (Bandcamp Deluxe Edition release)

What stands out most for me about Deriviere’s music here is how it sounds. An ensemble based around bowed strings including cello, viola da gamba (similar to a cello) and the nyckelharpa – a keyed fiddle of Swedish origin which is related to the hurdy-gurdy – and gives the score a mediaeval,  traditional feel that is very adaptable to the requirements of the game. A significant proportion of the score has cues where the music doesn’t really develop over the course of the track. That doesn’t mean to say that these cues are not interesting to listen to. As with a lot of Deriviere’s music, the composer has a knack of being able to create an inherent quality to his music from his orchestrations as well as his melodies. Tracks such as “Grieving”, “In Shock”, “Strangers” and “The Killing” are good examples of these more atmospheric ‘static’ pieces. However, the score opens with on an optimistic, melodic tone where there’s a folksy feel created with the use of the nyckelharpa (“A Plague Tale”) and also a bright, idyllic aspect for the relationship between Amicia and here father (“Father”). Deriviere brings back these two lighter aspects at various points throughout the score. He reprises the brighter more optimistic feel in tracks such as “Together Forever” and “The Shelter” where the use of acoustic guitar and pizzicato strings are a tonic to the low string ostinato patterns that accompanies the children’s perilous journey.

There are several recurring themes and motifs, with the most memorable being a 4-note ostinato pattern played in the low strings which appears to be a theme for the Inquisition soldiers. It’s particularly effective because of a sliding glissando effect between the third and fourth tones which gives the motif a relentless and dark feel (“In Shock”, “The Inquisition”, “Reunited”). The use of this motif in various forms in “Reunited” highlights Deriviere’s talent of taking an idea and developing it into something more complex than the base motif. Other aspects of the score worth noting include the use of ostinato patterns and various percussion elements (including more industrial/metallic percussion) (“Escape”, “Adulthood”, “The Wrath”) that injects pace. An electronic ‘buzzing’ and a grating low strings scurrying tremolo effect in “The Rats” marks out these diseased rodents as particularly alien in this world and bass synths, a prominent church organ and exasperated vocals (apparently supplied by the composer) (“Beyond The Horizon”) gives a completely different feel to this cue compared with the rest of the score, and it would be interesting to know how this fits into the game.

A Plague Tale: Innocence is another interesting score from Deriviere that, whilst not attaining the giddy heights in quality of his score Remember Me (2013) (my Deriviere benchmark), has enough impressive elements to make this one of the more notable game scores of the year so far. Probably not a score that will provide many memorable themes, it’s the whole feel of the world the composer has created that will linger most in the memory. As well as a 26-track/60-minute regular release, a Bandcamp ‘exclusive’ has an additional 12 tracks/25 minutes of score that doesn’t really add that much to the regular release save for a short track featuring the wordless vocals of Laure-Helene Cesari.

The 26-track regular release of the album can be purchased at online stores as a digital download. The 38-track expanded Bandcamp deluxe edition can also be purchased.

Rating: ***/*****

  1. A Plague Tale (2:16)
  2. Father (2:35)
  3. Grieving (3:13)
  4. In Shock (1:38)
  5. The Inquisition (3:44)
  6. Orphans (2:03)
  7. Strangers (2:21)
  8. Escape (1:30)
  9. Big Sister (1:38)
  10. The Killing (1:28)
  11. Adulthood (2:15)
  12. Together Forever (2:15)
  13. The Rats (1:31)
  14. Little Brother (1:38)
  15. By The River (2:00)
  16. Massacre (3:12)
  17. Prisoners (3:45)
  18. Mystical Castle (0:53)
  19. The Shelter (3:01)
  20. Exodus (1:55)
  21. The Son of A Blacksmith (2:01)
  22. She Is Alive (1:44)
  23. Beyond The Horizon (3:48)
  24. Reunited (4:11)
  25. I’m Sorry (1:34)
  26. The Wrath (2:36)
  27. Bedtime Story (2:32)*
  28. Deceiving Appearences (1:25)*
  29. No Turning Back (2:16)*
  30. Sacrifice (1:33)*
  31. Sister’s Love (1:12)*
  32. The Alchemy (2:51)*
  33. The Call (2:22)*
  34. The Plague (1:17)*
  35. The Night Before Leaving (4:26)*
  36. They Don’t Know (1:23)*
  37. Freedom (3:02)*
  38. The Bound (0:45)*

*Exclusive Bandcamp track

Running Time: 60:49/75:53

Ameo Publishing/Olivier Deriviere (2019)

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