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Posts Tagged ‘EA’

Jack Wall humbly backs departs from Mass Effect 3

Legendary gaming composer, Jack Wall, has left the musical helm of BioWare’s epic RPG series, Mass Effect, leaving English composer Clint Mansell some big sweaty space boots to fill.

The first two soundtracks, which Wall wrote with Sam Hulick, Richard Jaques, and David Kates, were widely praised by fans and critics, all of which were hoping for this team of musical mastery to return for a third and final time.

However in a brief interview with Thirteen1, Wall explained his reasons for departing from BioWare, a developer that he has enjoyed working with over the past decade.

“I have had a long and wonderful relationship with the folks at BioWare,” states Wall reminiscently. “Like anything, sometimes a fresh approach is the best. I’m working with new clients now and it feels very different than I think it would have to be working on a third game.”

“(It’s) not that it wouldn’t be great to finish the trilogy, but it’s sort of complicated. You really have to reinvent how you do things when you’re creating something new and having the same people working together for a long period can compromise that mutual desire and effort between a composer and the team.

“Not that I couldn’t have done it, and wouldn’t have put everything into it, but I feel that it’s probably best to take a break from working together. I hope I’ll be back doing something with the very talented folks at BioWare down the line. In the meantime, I’m working on other projects and I’m very excited with how new it feels. I’m learning new things and new approaches that will only benefit my future clients and relationships. Now, that’s a positive thing!”

Wall’s moving onto bigger things, and to be honest he’s leaving now while he’s still on top. To leave the series incomplete will distress a few fans; however, to leave on a high is certainly a good thing.

Wall’s replacement, Clint Mansell, is a strong movie composer with a wide discography, including Black Swan, Moon, and The Wrestler. His most famous piece of music is the powerful Lux Æterna from the 2000 film Requiem of a Dream, though you may remember the rearranged version more – it was used in the trailer for Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

Jack Wall is an epic American game composer whose credits include Myst, Jade Empire, and of course, Mass Effect.

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DRAGON AGE II

Composer: Inon Zur

Release: March 2011

Length: 12 Tracks

Label: EA

The success of the first Dragon Age: Origins was a sure thing. BioWare is one of the videogame industries leading developers of RPGs, and Dragon Age proved to be their most challenging one yet. The sequel brings back some of the things we loved about the first videogame, the difficulty, the dark design, and Inon Zur’s musical genius.

Zur’s past titles, Fallout 3, Everquest, and Baulder’s Gate II have all received great praise from fans, and the composer seems to have used these works, including the previous Dragon Age title, as inspiration in his latest score.

The fantasy world wouldn’t be as evocative or as cinematic without Zur’s ability to create graceful compositions. In “Hawke Family Theme”, Zur gives us a loving and soft track made up of melodic guitar pieces and wood sections. However, Dragon Age is a game with a violent context, so combat music plays a role that is just as important as the fantasy element. In “Qunari on the Rise” we hear Zur’s darker side. There’s an element of Feudal Japan hidden in the deep drums, but it’s the bass wind instrument couple with the male choir chants that really captures the violence of the game.

We’re given a sample of Zur’s more romantic side too in “Love Scene”. Pan pipes, soft violins, and rhythm picking guitar come elegantly together to support the silky female vocal that fades in and out intermittently.

The soundtrack is a rather short one, lasting less than thirty minutes. My guess is that EA plan to release more music later on, but at the moment what we’ve got is a mix of Zur’s score. “Tavern Music” gives us a chance to hear some in-game music; it’s as you’d expect from a fantasy tavern; lively and rich with joy.

The last track worth mentioning is “Rogue Heart” a soft song, sung in a language I fail to identify. Its structure is brilliant, beginning very faint, with piano and synths. The vocal just repeats, but more and more instruments are introduced. By the point the bass has had a turn get your foot-tapping, the drums and guitar pick up the rhythm – it’s a shiver giver.

Inon Zur remains a master of the fantasy genre. Though I must admit that the fantasy is a big no-no for me, Zur manages to capture the magic that will tempt new players to the genre. Dragon Age II is set to be one of the most impressive RPGs of the year, and Zur’s soundtrack will certainly help make that experience even greater.

Check out more of Alec-Ross Bower’s writing at Thirteen1.com

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DEAD SPACE

Composer: Jason Graves

Release: November 2008

Length: 12 Tracks

Label: EA

A few months ago, Thirteen1 had the golden opportunity to interview composer Jason Graves and discuss his work on Dead Space, the soundtrack that made him a household name for most gamers. It was a fantastic experience to hear the insight into one of the industry’s most terrifying scores, but we’ve come to realise that we never gave the soundtrack our own critique. So for the past month we’ve been listening to the original score in the darkness, heightening our senses and hoping to get the most out of it – it has been traumatising.

The soundtrack to Dead Space is an intense listen. You have to be prepared for what Graves is going to throw at you. You won’t find any moments where he lets you come up for air; you’re either on the edge of your seat in suspense, or cowering in horror as crescendos attack.  The soundtrack is a combination of the Sci-Fi genre and visceral nature of the game. The music is violent, relentless and asking for blood. Graves’s great command of compositions means he can have string sections or deep winds sections sneak up on you without a moment’s notice. One of his greatest assets is the ability to keep you in suspense, keeping things eerily quiet but not silent, and certainly not comfortable. Most of the music is spine-tingling and will send the worst kind of shivers down your spine.

Let’s look at some specific tracks shall we. Points have to go to Graves for his attempt at trying to humour us with the titles of the tracks; “I’ve Got You Devolving Under My Skin” and “Fly Me to the Aegis Seven Moon” being two examples. A piece that’s worth noting first is “Plasma Cutters are your Friend”, a disturbing track that ends in a ferociously. It begins with ambient synths imitating a siren, while violins stab in and out. Slowly more high-pitched strings meet the synths and the music cuts in and out. Suddenly your ears are attacked by drums and rhythmic strings, while symbols crash in and out – scary stuff

“Welcome Aboard the U.S.G Ishimura” sounds promising to begin with. The music has a soft orchestral melody, however the trained ear will pick up a high-pitched string in the background, and the use of minor chords is never a good sign. The melody may be softly played, but there’s a message in the notes used. It’s a great track because it puts emphasis on the Ishimura’s role in the story, and it also introduces you to the Dead Space world, an introduction you will not forget.

Graves is a masterful composer, and we hope his work on Dead Space is only the beginning. He could master the survival-horror genre with these skills, and we would love to see perhaps Capcom or Konami working with him on their next Resident Evil or Silent Hill game respectively.

Check out more of Alec-Ross Bower’s writing at Thirteen1.com

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LAIR OF THE SHADOW BROKER

Developer: BioWare

Release: August 2010

Genre: RPG

Format: Xbox 360 DLC

The DLC available for Mass Effect 2 so far has been average. The two additional chapters Kasumi and Overlord that have previously graced Xbox Live have provided a great deal in terms of longevity, new characters, and keeping Commander Shepard’s adventure a prominent focal point. However, while opting for completely new story arcs both chapters have neglected the game’s overall plot and they haven’t offered much concerning Shepard’s influence on the galaxy. Kasumi and Overlord kept Shepard firmly in the world of Mass Effect 2, but in BioWare’s latest offer the Commander takes his/her first steps into Mass Effect 3.

The announcement of the Lair of the Shadow Broker chapter came with the usual cartload of speculation, mainly because of the title itself. The Shadow Broker is the series’ most sought after mystery; within the first hours of Mass Effect the identity and intentions of this information broker were shrouded with tempting secrecy. The actions of this particular individual were always a mixture of good and evil, however the demeanour was undeniably bad. The second cause for speculation was the return of a central character from the first game, Liara T’Soni, a member of Shepard’s original crew and a potential love interest. Her appearance combined with that of the Shadow Broker meant things would be heating up once again in the Mass Effect universe.

The story begins when Shepard delivers some intel to Liara concerning the Shadow Broker and it becomes apparent that Liara has some fatal unfinished business with the elusive individual. Readers of the comic series Mass Effect: Redemption will have a better understanding of the back-story, but that knowledge isn’t a necessity; there’s enough purpose provided here to keep you interested. The twists and turns involved in this story are too good to spoil with words in this review, however knowing what goes on in this chapter is mandatory for any hardcore fans.

The chapter itself is huge, providing almost seven hours of content spread across numerous locations; from the heights of Illium to the Shadow Broker’s secret base. There’s a great deal of shooting as you would expect, and this grows somewhat tiresome due to the overwhelming need you’ll feel to reach the game’s climatic moments. The content also includes two memorable boss fights, a chance to pursue Shepard’s relationship with Liara, and a new hub world that offers some fantastic bonuses once you’ve completed the chapter.

In terms of canonicity, I strongly suggest you play this chapter after you’ve completed Mass Effect 2’s suicide mission. Although the upgrades and bonus weapons would help with the original story, the chapter’s dialogue assumes you’ve already completed the game.

The Mass Effect games are based on the principal of cause and effect; every choice you make has ramifications and many have and will continue to affect the future of the game and your personal journey. In Lair of the Shadow Broker questions will be answered, but implications of requiring them will certainly play a big part in Mass Effect 3. It’s certainly worth 800 MS points to find out anyway.

9/10

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MASS EFFECT 2 OST

Composer: Jack Wall

Release: January 2010

Length: 27 Tracks

Label: EA

A few months back we explored the music from Commander Shepard’s first space outing, and now his/her return in Mass Effect 2 – a strong contender for 2010’s game of the year – features even more intergalactic music once again composed by Jack Wall. Does the second soundtrack leave the same impression, or has the legendary composer lost himself in space?

Unlike the videogame itself, the second soundtrack isn’t as expansive as the first; however, it does feature fewer short tracks than its predecessor. The soundtrack follows a typical pattern of having themes for each of the main characters, these tracks ranging from five to nine minutes in length. The character themes are played during the loyalty missions you can choose to partake in, so there’s always a chance you might not hear them when you play the game. The rest of tracks cover integral points in the game’s story, for example, the attack on the Normandy or the revelation of its reconstruction.

Listening to the music, it’s quite easy to see how Jack Wall expanded the first soundtrack into something to suit Mass Effect 2’s darker aura. The main theme from the first one makes a welcomed reappearance, but sadly – and at the risk of sounding like a musical snob – it has been altered by a few notes. As technical as this issue may be, it feels incomplete without those last three or four notes. There is no main theme of Mass Effect 2; instead the aforementioned altered “Mass Effect Theme” from the first appears in a few tracks every now and again, most predominantly during the opening cinematics and the final mission; these tracks being some of the best to feature on the disc.

The soundtrack opens with the composition “The Illusive Man”, a spacey and dark theme that features an attention-seeking piano and an intermittent violin for good measure. The track doesn’t really go any where, but it’s a great start to the soundtrack and it’s ominously reprised in the awesome track “Suicide Mission”. This particular composition is one of stronger pieces on the soundtrack. After its slow start, it begins to pick up its pace with a string section and a teasing reprisal of the main theme. The drums get more dramatic with the support of a deep brass section for that additional heroic feeling. The track really sets the mood for the game: the crew are going into a mission with the chances of the survival being extremely low, is all hope lost, this music doesn’t know, giving hints of despair and optimism.

“The End Run” is similar to “Suicide Mission”, however, this piece is all about you and how you played the game. If you won the loyalty of your team and survived, then you’ll get a great feeling of euphoria when hearing its dramatic crescendo, but if you didn’t and your Shepard died, well, you’ll certainly feel regret for your actions when the music dramatically pauses.

Overall, you’ve got another great performance from the legendary Jack Wall. The soundtrack is out of this world and perfectly compliments the game, no matter what your actions. The diversity and perfect capture of the game’s mood in the music is professional delivered, but Mr. Wall please…please…pretty please…bring back those missing notes for Mass Effect 3.

9/10

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