With the resurgence of vinyl, and many classic game soundtracks seeing a re-release on the format, the Flickering Myth writers look back at some of their favourites; next up is Ricky Church with Mass Effect 2…
For anyone who has played the series, the Mass Effect trilogy proved to be an incredibly ambitious space opera that was defined by the player’s choices, unique characters and worlds. One other memorable aspect of the series was the music, giving a very authentic, sci-fi vibe to the series by blending synthesized music with orchestra. Out of the three games, Mass Effect 2 stands out to me as the best soundtrack of the series for its moody atmosphere and epic nature as you and the crew you’ve assembled face a potential suicide mission.
Composed primarily by Jack Wall with a large team, Mass Effect 2’s music evolved from its predecessor. Much of the techno music that was utilized in the original Mass Effect is gone, instead mixing it with orchestral music to deliver a more vibrant experience. Mass Effect 2’s storyline is much darker and serious, making Wall adjust to the story’s scope by composing more emotional and thought-provoking pieces. Much of his inspiration comes from some of the sci-fi genres most influential and unique film scores, from Blade Runner to Tron to Star Wars. Take the track ‘Humans are Disappearing’ for example, an evocative piece with an eerie piano and cello tune to symbolize Commander Shepard’s isolation in his resurrection and quest to save the galaxy from the Reaper threat.
Mass Effect 2 has a large roster of diverse characters and Wall decided to use them to his advantage, creating specific themes for each character. Each one sounded different, utilizing aspects of their personality to their theme. For example, ‘Thane’ was quiet and subtle for the most part with sporadic bits of action-oriented music, representing Thane’s calm, collected yet dangerous nature, while ‘Samara’ is a grandiose tune signifying the exotic and adventurous life of an Asari Justicar. Wall and his team played to each character’s strengths as well as personal weaknesses to further the player’s personal connections to each squad member.
The most outstanding character piece though is ‘The Illusive Man’, one of the most recognizable songs from the Mass Effect trilogy. The track is both somber and mysterious, using a mix of piano, guitar and synthesizer to help illustrate the complexities of this antagonist. The Illusive Man is one of Mass Effect’s most well known characters and its apt that his title song should be just as intricate as the man himself.
The real standout addition to the Mass Effect 2 soundtrack is, however, ‘Suicide Mission’. This is the song the whole game was leading up to in an epic do-or-die mission where literally anyone can die if you haven’t made the right choices prior to or even during the suicide mission. Its heavy orchestra sells the dangerous nature of the mission, as does its ominous choral in the song’s climax. It’s a pulse pounding track that instantly transports players back to the Collector Base, reminding them of the tense mission that had massive consequences for their team. ‘Suicide Mission’ was also chosen to be a part of The Greatest Video Game Music concert and album performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, sounding almost better than the original track. In short, ‘Suicide Mission’ is a heroic ode to the characters of the Mass Effect trilogy.
Mass Effect has some great music, but I fully believe the soundtrack to its middle chapter is the superior soundtrack in the saga for its blend of orchestra and synthesized music as well as its focus on placing you within the character’s emotions. It is definitely one of the most noteworthy soundtracks to a videogame we’ve gotten and deserves to be remembered.
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