Video games are the ultimate form of entertainment media, encapsulating all other media forms and adding interactivity on top of it. In a video game, you can read lore and dialogue, watch cutscenes, listen to music, have a shared experience, among many other unique ways you can be engaged. In essence, there’s nothing that a book or a movie can do that a video game can’t, and the ability to combine all of these with an interactive narrative can create incredibly powerful experiences. One such experience that I’ll be unpacking today can be found in Divinity: Original Sin 2 (DOS2), but be warned this will contain minor spoilers.
The moment I’ll be analysing is when your companion, Lohse, performs her song, “Sing For Me.” This sounds simple, but there’s a lot buried underneath the surface that makes it special. The vocals and music are incredible; Tamaryn Payne, who voices Lohse and performs the song, does an incredible job here and throughout the game. The singing and music played are beautiful and uplifting, which is the foundation for what makes this scene great. The beat and tempo of the music match animations and video effects; the song starts off slowly and Lohse is swaying softly to match it, but as the song picks up the intensity, she moves more lively. During the song wisps, spirits and musical notes form and circle her, sparks and effects emanate and fly out from her to the beat of the song.
The chorus effect is used subtly throughout the song to supplement Lohse’s singing, but at one point Lohse stops as spirits and whisps surround her. The chorus effect then shifts to the foreground, with Lohse looking around in wonder, suggesting the wisps and spirits are the ones reverberating her song. This communicates to the player that the source of the echo effect are these spirits, which adds to the immersion of the scene since it implies your in-game character and other companions are also able to hear the beauty of the chorus effect and see the visual effects.
DOS2 also uses literary symbolism techniques; Lohse has a light aura around her, matching the glowing golden lute she’s playing, symbolising warmth, richness and euphoria. At the end of her song, golden leaves and butterflies rise from the ground and fly away which symbolise resurrection, hope and life. At one point, there are spirits, wisps and butterflies all circling her, making Lohse appear divine. The meticulous synergy of audio and visual effects are brilliant, but so far there’s nothing that separates this from what’s possible in an animated music video. The key to what makes this scene truly remarkable is the narrative behind it and the journey the player has gone to get there.
To put it bluntly, Lohse’s Song is a “reward” for completing her side quests, but a deeper insight is required to explain why the full context invigorates the song. Lohse is a jester and musician who harbours benign spirits, but now is fighting to rid herself of a demon trying to possess her. Throughout the game on your journey with Lohse and other NPCs, you talk to and learn about her and gradually build a connection, especially if you romance her and share an intimate moment. Among other things, the demon has ruined her ability to sing which you discover at the start of the game when she tries to sing to you. Throughout the campaign, you try to uncover who or what is possessing her to rid her of this burden that will eventually consume her. After several encounters and quests, you finally track down and confront the monstrous demon Andramalik.
The narrative backstory adds to the joy and wonder that the song delivers. When you slay the Demon Lohse tells you how free and alive she feels, now having full control over her mind and her ability to sing. Any good work of fiction makes the characters feel real, and video games can take this to enhanced levels because of the sheer amount of time you spend interacting with them. When you witness Lohse’s transformation from despair to bliss, it spreads to the player because of the connection they have built throughout the 100 hours of play time. The player feels good about themselves as they invested the time of pursuing the optional side quests to help Lohse and slay the demon; which is an incredible challenge, and one that took me many attempts of changing up different tactics. Being the player whose actions are responsible for Lohse’s exhilaration, and experiencing it through something as visceral as her song is so much more powerful than the feeling that could be evoked just by being a passive observer in a film.
Video games have a capacity for delivering narrative and characters above and beyond other forms of media. The synergy of all existing media forms combined with longer play times and the interactivity of narrative and dialogue gives video games the power to deliver incredible moments. Lohse’s “Sing for Me” from Divinity: Original Sin 2 is just one of the many video game moments that have delivered emotional experiences that resonated with me more than I have ever been able to experience from a movie, book or show.