Image: IGDB/Quantic Dream

Music Box: ‘Detroit: Become Human’

Recently I played Detroit: Become Human for the first time – the branching story sucked me in nearly instantly, and I grew terribly attached to the characters of Kara, Markus, and Connor within their first chapters. Because of this attachment, I found myself working towards getting them to their happy endings in my first playthrough. With the chance for these characters to experience bad endings, or even die, if I were to make a mistake, there was a constant demand to be perfect. The soundtrack to Detroit enhances the tension, with intense sequences being followed by shrill strings and drum beats, or creeping horror scenes accompanied by a delicate pizzicato and thrumming bass.

One of the things I found interesting when relistening to the soundtrack alone was the fact that a different composer had been attributed to each of the “main” characters. Philip Sheppard was responsible for Kara’s soundtrack, John Paesano for Markus’, and Nima Fakhrara composed for Connor. This was not a surprise to me: though each character belongs under the umbrella of the same game, and their stories occasionally intersect, when playing them it is clear that they have their own patterns and motifs that need to be enhanced. Using separate composers for each character defines them more uniquely than if one composer had covered the whole game.

John Paesano’s tracks for Markus still surprise me, and I’ve listened to them a few times.

Kara’s soundtrack is the most delicate and melancholy of the three: Sheppard chooses to use gentle piano tunes and violin solos to create a lot of these pieces. As Kara’s story is the most self-contained – she concerns herself with the personal freedom of herself and a child, Alice – the soundtrack aptly reflects her story. It is not meant to be grandiose; in ‘Kara Main Theme’, a lone violin takes the foreground whilst a piano plays along with it, slowly growing into a louder theme. The song feels desperate, and sad, which I think is well befitting of Kara. A desperation to be free, with no ulterior moments. Kara’s concerns are not with the wider plot, just her own story. That is not to say that her soundtrack is without its own intense moments: listening to ‘Zlatko’ reminded me of that. But it is most definitely the soundtrack of a person trying to find their own way.

John Paesano’s tracks for Markus still surprise me, and I’ve listened to them a few times. ‘Markus Main Theme’ is a piano tune that remains quiet and thoughtful throughout: quite an introspective piece. Markus acts as the messiah of the game – he is the one who leads the android resistance, and when I listened to this track, it felt strangely understated for a character of his gravity. I suppose one could argue that Markus is a relatively introspective character. However, compared to other songs in his soundtrack – like ‘The Junkyard’, for example, which is equal parts creeping, intense, and frightening – the ‘Markus Main Theme’ doesn’t seem to fit him as well. This is strikingly clear when comparing ‘Markus Main Theme’ to ‘I Am Markus’; the latter still has a quiet introspectiveness to it, but with the slow crescendo of strings towards the end of the piece, there is an intensiveness to the track that seems more befitting. On the whole, Paesano’s soundtrack is good for Markus, but I found the main theme for the character lacking.

Connor’s soundtrack, by Nima Fakhrara has a more playful tone that I expect from a sci-fi game. A lot of these pieces, such as ‘Investigation’ and ‘Analysing’ have a bounciness from strings and, for ‘Connor Main Theme’, Fakhrara used a vintage synthesizer. Supposedly, this “chaos fit perfectly for Connor’s character”, and I’d have to agree with Fakhrara there. Connor’s chapters, revolving around a police investigation into androids, are full of arguably the most high-stakes moments of the game as we follow Connor in chases and fights, never knowing what danger the android and his human police partner will have gotten themselves into.

I really do adore the Detroit: Become Human soundtrack – using separate composers is a unique way to personally define each one of the playable characters

‘Connor Main Theme’ is eight minutes and 54 seconds long, and throughout the piece there are moments of slower work build ups with the vintage synthesizer, before falling into a cacophony of chaotic strings and synths together. It does not stop there, though – the track falls into creeping strings, before once again bringing in the synthesizer. It is an incredibly dynamic piece, with harsh contrasts in speed and volume. This track feels suited towards the main character of Detroit: Become Human, and though the game tries to push Markus as the game’s messiah, this track (especially in comparison to ‘Markus Main Theme’) seems to put forward the idea of Connor being more dynamic and changeable. Regardless of the track’s view on the protagonist, it is a wonderful summary of Connor’s soundtracks, and his character as a whole.

There are some assorted songs at the end of these three soundtracks, written and performed by various composers – they pop up in the game through character’s headphones or background music in the bars and locations in game. Being able to listen back to these is lovely – as if you can place yourself in the world of Detroit more casually.

I really do adore the Detroit: Become Human soundtrack – using separate composers is a unique way to personally define each one of the playable characters, for one. Further to this, I think that the soundtrack fantastically builds tension alongside the scenes that heavily require your heart rate to rise as you stress about the wellbeing of the characters and the consequences of your actions. All in all, a fantastic soundtrack!

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