“It was a long journey with tons of special moments”: Interview with Baldur’s Gate 3 composer, Borislav Slavov

by on May 7, 2024

There’s no denying the huge impact Baldur’s Gate 3 has had on the world since its release last year. After countless awards and appreciation globally, it still finds ways to touch our hearts. A huge part of its success is down to the beautiful score composed by Borislav Slavov. It gave every single decision you made such poignancy, whether choosing to save your friends or sacrifice. All of those hundreds of hours players put in were serenaded by the powerful and moving music every step of the way. I recently got an opportunity to interview Borislav, composer of the Baldur’s Gate 3 score, and to call it an honour was an understatement. I can’t thank him enough for finding the time in his busy schedule to talk about his work on the music, and a big congratulations on the BAFTA win. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.

There are so many themes in Baldur’s Gate 3, such as redemption, loss, and overcoming personal obstacles. One that, I think, shines brighter than the rest is love, and ‘Down by the River’ and its melody that is used on a few songs on the soundtrack captures those different bonds, whether romantically or platonically so well. What is the importance of that melody to you?

This is the main melody and theme of the game and I was lucky to find inspiration and compose it right at the beginning of the production.  Its role was the most important one in the entire game. It governed the soundtrack and  it was presented right at the start of the game through 4 parts, meant to reflect the main aspects of the third instalment in the series: Survival and sacrifice, fellowship & betrayal, love  and lure (of absolute power).After you create your character and begin your adventure  it goes like a silver line through the entire story.

In both ‘Down by the River’ and ‘The Power (Credits Song),’ that melody is used in two different yet poignant ways. Was that repetition something you had in mind when you wrote it, or was there a moment that gave you the inspiration to use it in other pieces of music on the soundtrack?

With the “The Power – credit song”  I wanted to comprise several important themes in the game (including the main one , “Down By The River ” ) in a single song. This was my way to bring the story of love, struggle and survival to a conclusion. And also my love letter to the Larian studios team and everyone who managed to reach the end of the game. A fun fact is that the instrumental bard version of the song was produced after I composed the song version (with lyrics). That was the moment I realized that this song was bound to play a bigger role from different perspectives in the game, with the last one being at the very end.

What was the first piece of music you wrote for Baldur’s Gate 3?

“Down By The River”, which I presented and sang live on stage , presenting the music direction to the team at the very beginning 🙂

Would you mind going into a bit of detail about the creative process when crafting the music for Baldur’s Gate 3? 

BG3 had to feature a massive interactive soundtrack that reflects the narrative design, cinematics, players decisions and key story moments. When the world changes as a result of a player’s choice, so does the music – it instantly reflects the new situation. To have a good grasp on all those aspects of the game I had to stay closely connected with Narrative, Gameplay and Cinematic teams throughout the entire development of the game..

Larian is a special place where we keep inspired and in sync with one another through discussions, brainstorming and ideas sharing all the time. Sometimes the music production would follow the traditional waterfall process and would come as one of the last elements in the game, being completely driven by the narrative, visuals and gameplay. This means I would collect all the information and inspiration I need for the music from the already created elements of the game.  On the other hand, the insanely big scope of the game required a strong vision and direction for music even when not everything else was already set in stone. There was not always time to wait for some elements (visuals, story, gameplay)   to be complete before I start my work. And this is where the bigger challenge was.

I had to go ahead of the waterfall. My anchor and biggest inspiration in those moments were the narrative of the game and the passionate discussions with my fellow colleagues at Larian. They would spend hours talking with me, explaining to me the goals we were aiming for, help me understand  and collect the music needs and  open my imagination to the point I can have a look into the future. Based on those, music production was going in parallel with the other parts of the game, leaving a space for the music implementation at the very end this way. This is how we successfully ended up with 17 hours of interactive music in the game. 🙂

There are two songs that absolutely blew me away while playing. One of which was ‘Weeping Dawn’ as the moment can be missed completely in Emerald Grove. I think it’s so striking because it’s one you simply get to listen to and watch Alfira as she plays this touching song so early on. It’s a moment I thought about a lot, especially in Act 3 when I craved for those simpler times as opposed to hunting down the Netherstones and stopping the Illithad. How did you feel when you saw it in game for the first time, especially with the amazing work Larian did in portraying it?

Makes me happy you mention this particular moment in the game as it is a great example of how Larian works as a company. This song was a result of a passionate collaboration between narrative, music and cinematic teams and it was not planned initially. One day one of our writers back then, Rachel, approached me directly with an emotional request to compose a song for a character from the game she was responsible for at that time. A week later I presented the song to the team.  The guys were touched so much that it was decided to give it a full blown cut scene with Alfira performing the song as part the reward for completing her quest. A true labour of love and an instance of mutual inspiration and Larian Studios culture.

Baldur’s Gate 3 interview: The second song, and one that is both beautiful and unique, is ‘Raphael’s Final Act.’  Mariya’s powerful opening hits you hard, and then Andrew starts to sing, which is so refreshing. Where did the idea come from to score the boss fight as a musical number?

The idea for the song came  from our Director Swen Vincke, about half a year before the release of the game. The team instantly loved it and we believed it would be an exciting way to conclude the story arc of our charismatic villain Raphael. I had to set the style of the song, produce it  and decide how we were going to implement it in the game. And that’s the part I went a bit unconventional. The moment the lyrics landed on my desk I realized  there was  one thrilling way to go – a full blown musical number,  as an intro to Raphael’s  “Final Act” encounter. It was one of those moments when you think – “I know it’s crazy, but it feels so right.”

Mariya Anastasova plays quite a role in the soundtrack, and her voice is stunning. How did you two come to work together on Baldur’s Gate 3?

I stumbled upon a recording of “The Beauty and the Beast”  where she was singing and I loved her voice. Without hesitation I sent her a hello message and an invitation for a vocal recordings audition. We met and It turned out she was listening to Divinity: Original Sin 2 on Spotify before she even realized I was the same guy that invited her. Everything happens for a reason , I guess? 🙂

What has your time working on Baldur’s Gate 3 been like, and do you have any special memories of your time working with the musicians, singers, or members of Larian while composing the soundtrack?

It was a long journey with tons of special moments. Here is a fun fact. All the first versions of the songs were initially performed and recorded with my voice. You can imagine the fun every time I was singing together with the musicians to nail the right tone, phrasing and emotion I was looking for in the songs. Sometimes we laughed, sometimes the eyes went wet. And every time we put a piece of our hearts there.

Thanks for reading our Baldur’s Gate 3 interview with Borislav Slavov. You can check out our review of the game, here.