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Baldur’s Gate 3 composer “inspired and happy” about Larian’s new game

We spoke to Baldur's Gate 3 composer Borislav Slavov about the soundtrack's intoxicating nature ahead of the London Game Music Festival.

It’s May 4, but the banks of the Thames are suspiciously devoid of Star Wars cosplayers. In their stead are a gaggle of Shadowhearts, a plethora of Astarions, a horde of Karlachs, and an aura of anticipatory excitement among the Baldur’s Gate 3 fans that can be felt throughout London’s Royal Festival Hall.

The eccentrically dressed are gathering for a performance at the Game Music Festival by the London Philharmonia Orchestra, a concert known as the Symphony of the Realms. The event also appears to have summoned a multitude of Larian Studios staff members, a portion of Baldur’s Gate 3‘s cast, and the game’s BAFTA-award-winning composer, Borislav Slavov.

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“This is the very first time I’m speaking with the media, and it’s exciting,” he tells me a few hours before the performance’s scheduled start time. He’s bubbling with excitement, nervous that he might say the wrong thing, but eager and willing to share anything he can.

Borislav never wanted to write music for anything other than videogames, if you ignore his fleeting desire to become a “rock and roll star.” In his earlier life, Borislav worked at a software company, but “the stars aligned,” and with support from his family he decided one beautifully sunny morning to take the plunge. “I said, ‘Okay, I need to do this otherwise I’m going to regret it,’” he explains. “A friend of mine told me that if I was really wondering if I should do something, I should probably do it. Even if I fail, I need to try.”

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Borislav’s plunge paid off, as he ended up working on the soundtracks for Crysis 2 and 3 while admiring Larian Studios from a distance. “Many years ago, I dropped a message to Larian and said, ‘I’m a huge fan,’ and exchanged a few messages with Swen [Vincke, Larian Studios CEO],” he explains. “I realized back then that I needed to change. I needed to do something to refresh my mind. I always wanted to be a part of fantasy productions because I really love composing and producing stuff like this.” Borislav chose to combine his two passions, videogames and medieval fantasy, and set his sights on Larian to accomplish those dreams. It wasn’t an easy path, though, as his kind-hearted, thoughtful nature prevented him from reaching out following the sad loss of the studio’s previous composer, Kirill Pokrovsky, in 2015.

“Swen said, ‘Why don’t you visit us?’ but it was a really tragic period for them,” he tells me. “That was one of the reasons I didn’t immediately get in contact with him, because I love Pokrovsky. The only reason I never applied for a job with Larian was because I love his music and it felt weird. What would I say? ‘You guys have great music but why don’t you hire me?’” Borislav ended up taking seven months after Pokrovsky’s passing before building up the courage to approach the studio and offer his work. “They invited me, we spent a few days together, and on the last day Swen came up to me, offered me his hand, and said, ‘Are you joining or what?’”

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Borislav would go on to join Larian and take responsibility for music direction and composition on Divinity Original Sin 2, before moving on to Baldur’s Gate 3. The process is saturated with fond memories for Borislav, including a story that he’s never told before around the creation of Bard Dance. In Baldur’s Gate 3, setting your class as a Bard enables you to perform with a variety of instruments in the game. “I was very proud of the first piece of music that I composed for this specific feature,” Borislav says. “It was late in the evening, I was satisfied and preparing myself to crack a beer open to celebrate this achievement, but before I did, I sent it to Swen. You can imagine my surprise when he dropped me a message like, ‘It’s cool, but not exactly what I was hoping for.’ It was still positive feedback, but it wasn’t going to suffice.”

He smiles as he tells me how Swen would give him some additional direction and ideas. “I was preparing to go on holiday,” he laughs. “I composed this piece of music with just my guitar, with me playing and singing, sitting in a small village in a cottage, very lonely, very far away from the modern world.” He remembers that small village to this day, far away from civilization, contrasting the joyous, social, celebratory melody of Bard Dance. “It turned out to be one of my most loved pieces of music. It’s very playful, Irish-influenced and inspired. I keep that memory beloved today.”

Borislav Slavov and Andrew Wincott sing Raphael's Final Act

Borislav is grateful for the opportunity to talk about songs from the Baldur’s Gate 3 soundtrack that aren’t the game’s main motif, Down by the River, or the epic Raphael’s Final Act. Both of these are synonymous with fans of the game, the former because it accompanies so many notable moments, even appearing during the extensive character creation process. The latter is an epic, anthemic conclusion to Raphael’s story in Baldur’s Gate 3 that accompanies one of the most difficult battles in the game.

As the evening of the concert progresses, a colleague and I become certain that we won’t witness it in a live format – after all, who could you really entrust to belt out Raphael’s actor Andrew Wincott’s parts? But after a night that flows through Down by the River, Weeping Dawn, and Nightsong seamlessly, leaving barely a break for applause, Baldur’s Gate 3’s phenomenal narrator, Amelia Tyler, takes to the stage to congratulate the London Philharmonia Orchestra and the Game Music Festival team for a wonderful evening. As we’re preparing for the evening to wrap up, she introduces the man behind the music, Borislav Slavov, to the stage to a rapturous standing ovation.

Borislav Slavov and Andrew Wincott sing Raphael's Final Act

“Hold your applause!” he yells, excitedly. My colleague and I look at each other. Surely not? “Down comes the claw!” he confirms. The Royal Festival Hall erupts in literal screaming – something I’m sure the venue hasn’t witnessed in some time – and Wincott appears, striding purposefully towards the stage to reprise his role as the demon Raphael one more time. The next two minutes pass in a blur, and all too soon the evening is over. It’s reminiscent of the way I felt completing the game for the first time – I don’t want it to be finished, I’ve had such a wonderful time. Despite the fact that Larian has confirmed there will be no DLC for Baldur’s Gate 3, and the studio is moving away from Baldur’s Gate to work on something new, Borislav asks for my patience.

“We’re working on the next venture. I kindly ask you to stick with us. You’re going to love it,” he smiles. “I’m not involved in the next Baldur’s Gate production or anything because I am the music director for Larian Studios,” he continues. “This is my family. This is what makes me feel happy, content, and connected with people.” Borislav tells me that the next Larian Studios project is already making him “very inspired and happy” and that he wishes he could share more with me. Nevertheless, he tells me Larian is very curious about what will happen in the next Baldur’s Gate game. “I’m curious not only as the one who was responsible for the music in Baldur’s Gate 3 but from a gamer’s perspective. I really hope it’s not going to take 20 more years.” I think we all share that sentiment.