Mass Effect 3


Pro: Even with multiple artists/composers, good stuff.
Cons: Not really, no.

The Bottom Line: A solid soundtrack that's easy to enjoy whether you've played the game or not.

I've been meaning to get the Mass Effect 3 soundtrack for a while now. No, I haven’t played the games – any of them for that matter – but I don’t exactly have the cash to swipe up a new gaming system and all its toys all the time either. But I’m not stupid – I pay close attention and I certainly know that video game soundtracks, while many have always been entertaining, have transformed into nothing less than fully fledged orchestrated masterpieces over the years. And some of those come with big names.

Here we have multiple composers. Clint Mansell of Requiem for a Dream fame, (Christopher Lennertz), Cris Velasco, Sascha Dikiciyan, and (Sam Hulick). Why Mass Effect 3? Mostly because I’d heard various remixes of track 2 and liked what I heard. So if that one was so good, why wouldn’t the rest be pretty tasty as well? Besides, we all know how good video game soundtracks can be these days, so I didn’t really have any qualms about it.

Total runtime is about 63 minutes, so you get a good chunk of music time. Luckily no tracks fall under the 1 minute mark, but only two actually manage to break 4 minutes. Because there are so many tracks, normally beyond 20 I won’t go into details, but since they vary so much between one another, I’ll do a quicky rundown on them to give you an idea of what they sound like.

1. "The Fate of the Galaxy" (Sam Hulick) 1:18 – A dramatic entrance to the soundtrack with full orchestra and some chorus.

2. "Leaving Earth" (Clint Mansell) 2:01 – The one track that everyone is quick to pick out, beginning with slow piano, throwing in a bit of Reaper reverberations but remains slow and dramatic throughout.

3. "Mars" (Sam Hulick) 4:40 – More electronic, this might make you think of Daft Punk’s Tron score.

4. "A Cerberus Agent" (Sam Hulick) 1:46 – Rewind a bit to early 90s electronic video game style. That’s what this puts me in mind of. Just updated, smoother, and with a few instruments.

5. "The View of Palaven" (Christopher Lennertz) 3:34 – Some interesting blends of electronic goodies and orchestra going on here. Quick drums and dramatic horns with electric dollops in the background.

6. "A Future for the Krogan" (Christopher Lennertz) 3:28 – Now this sucker makes me think of a Dr. Who piece – especially with the solo singer and blend of electronic sounds and instrumentation. And that hopeful heroic tone it takes on a bit after the first minute.

7. "Surkesh" (Christopher Lennertz) 2:27 – A slow start before launching into a full “let’s do this” style orchestra with electronic bips and baps dashing around.

8. "The Ardat Yakshi" (Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan) 3:18 – Slow, dark, and dangerous. The switchup to the piano near the middle is interesting.

9. "Rannoch" (Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan) 3:05 – Though the composer is different, we’re back to the Daft Punk Tron design, but with much more bite.

10. "I'm Sorry" (Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan) 2:34 – The triumphant crescendos in here actually put me in mind of some Oblivion (the movie) bits by M83. Great chorus that reaches high, falls off, and ends sadly.

11. "The Cerberus Plot" (Christopher Lennertz) 3:48 – Slow electronic to fast dramatic orchestra with the electronic doing its background thing.

12. "The Scientists" (Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan) 2:48 – Almost like a continuation of the previous track, really.

13. "Aralakh Company" (Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan) 3:26 – More dramatic orchestra with the electronics playing backup – but the piano at the end was a nice touch. There’s actually a melody in here that almost fully hits upon “The Arrival” from the first Transformers soundtrack, and I can’t unhear it.

14. "Prothean Beacon" (Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan) 3:19 – Slow, dark, and not much going on.

15. "Defeat" (Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan) 3:17 – By far the freakiest track on here. Probably because they have those people from The Grudge making that creepy throat noise…

16. "Reaper Chase" (Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan) 2:02 – Reminded of the Matrix with this one, high octane with a few flutes and plenty of chorus.

17. "Stand Strong, Stand Together" (Christopher Lennertz) 1:53 – Works for the title, as it’s got the heroic chorus thing going on.

18. "I Was Lost Without You" (Sam Hulick) 2:33 – Slow, quiet piano.

19. "The Fleets Arrive" (Sam Hulick) 1:41 – More orchestra with a heroic, “we’ve arrived, let’s do this!” vibe to it.

20. "We Face Our Enemy Together" (Sam Hulick) 1:39 – Slowly works its way into a march that rises to the top.

21. "I'm Proud of You" (Sam Hulick) 1:15 – Starting out similar to the previous track, it’s slow, a bit sad, and with that hint of “I won’t see you again after this.”

22. "An End, Once and for All" (Clint Mansell and Sam Hulick) 2:51 – The final slow finish for Shepard that anyone who’s played the game will know. Oh piano, how you lament for our hero.

23. "Das Malefitz" (Faunts) 4:05 – Here your credits roll. With electronic beats of course.

The fun thing about this soundtrack is that because so many different composers worked on it no two tracks are alike. Granted, for the game, they couldn’t be, but in terms of similar sound in the way that movie soundtracks are, they don’t match either. While some are fully symphonic, others have a more electronic feel. Track 2 versus track 3, for example. I know I reference Daft Punk’s Tron soundtrack a lot, and yes, I do realize there are other creators and sounds that are like that and that were done far earlier, but it’s what popped into my head first. I could also almost say 80s sci-fi, but it’s just far more….evolved. Sleeker. Matured.

It’s a good soundtrack overall, with plenty you can use if you plan to work out or enjoy as background music. I do find it kind of amusing that some of the sounds make me think of so many other things. Even the final track, because of its sheer electronic design, reminds me of music from an old Sega Genesis game I had called Sub-Terrania. But it works for the game. Smart electronic music will always fit for science fiction.

If you’ve played Mass Effect 3, then you don’t need me to drone on about the music. You know how good it is. If you haven’t and you’re like me, then you can sample all sorts of pieces just about anywhere these days. But if you like good video game music as well as all the other styles I mention here, then it’s a good bet you’ll like what you hear.

NT

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I am an author, I sell books for a living, and I love music like there's no tomorrow. I've experienced much of this country, from forested hills of the East, to the golden plains of the Midwest, the sandy beaches of the Southeast, and the oh-so-majestic mountains of the Rockies. And when all else fails, eat chocolate.