Mythic themes in gaming

Album cover for the “Heavensward” original soundtrack

The quest for perfection through cooperation and struggle is explored through the uniquely executed music of the “Alexander” storyline in “Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward.”

The “Final Fantasy” series is renowned for its musical composition, and its ongoing, massively multiplayer 14th installment has produced a wealth of songs throughout its lifetime.

Square Enix recently published the “Sanctuary’s Heart” album on Nov. 11, consisting of remixed tracks pulled from all of the game’s expansions.

Entering the walking fortress, Alexander, is one of the first raids new players can access, and received an in-game continuation in late 2019. Its score, composed by Masayoshi Soken with lyrics by Michael-Christopher Koji Fox, has seen several reprises for album releases.

In the world of “Final Fantasy XIV,” primals are summoned monsters utilized to create single-minded villains, manifestations of hatred invoked by hostile “beast tribes”. The divine machine Alexander is unique among primals in responding to human idealism.

To represent the dominating psychic influence of a primal, the game’s soundtrack employs creative anachronism. Each primal’s bespoke score departs from the classical instrumentals typical of a fantasy video game, using electric guitars and thematic lyrics.

The main theme of Alexander is “Locus,” its vocoded lyrics sung from the perspective of the god in the machine monitoring time itself to protect the innocence it lacks.

The Warriors of Light come into conflict with this being of impossible odds, and they win not by pure contrivance, but by what can only be described as ludonarrative.

The violent goblins commandeering the primal for megalomaniacal ends merely steal the present. It is human collaboration that builds a future, eight players using their unique abilities for a common goal.

“Falling back right into the system, of falling back on all that's erased,” goes the refrain shared among several songs. It demonstrates the inevitability of Alexander’s machinations when able to alter history.

The “Locus” refrain is sung as a duet foreshadowing an important reunion, and is set to the tune of the “Heavensward” boss battle leitmotif, “Ominous Prognosticks.”

Alexander can overwrite the past but cannot direct the future, and the two warring factions of “Heavensward” would rather dig deeper into its tragedy. Still, the Warriors of Light manage to forge peace with the scars of history still fresh.

Through the mouth of Alexander’s summoner it espouses the realization that “falling back on all that’s erased” is likewise the inevitability of willed heroes, not a primal granting wishes, to build a new era.

The score finishes with a final confrontation set to “Rise,” a rapid-fire scat promising to solve “the gobbies’ problems” through the primal’s iron fists. The “Locus” refrain is absent; neither humanity nor inevitability is shown, only the self-centered morality that becomes the goblins’ undoing.

The “Alexander” soundtrack is one part a compositional flex with styles ranging from chill electro, metal, to yes, goblin rap, all executed to make a whole hand of catchy sing-alongs and one part of a greater narrative question that centers the boundless determination of mankind to better the world.

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