Composed by
Jamie Christopherson

 

Published by
Universal (2007)

 

Tracklistings
1) The Hundred Years' War
2) England and France
3) Mercenary's Tavern
4) Beautiful Setting
5) Historical Background
6) Daytime in the Tavern
7) Battles Won and Lost
8) Battle Plan
9) Launching an Attack
10) Defending the Ally Base
11) Clashing With the Enemy
12) Attackers in Battle
13) Defenders in Battle
14) Waging War
15) The Main Battle Begins
16) Under the Cover of Night
17) Onward to Glory
18) Outnumbered
19) Joan of Arc
20) The Black Prince
21) The King of France
22) The King of England
23) An Important Battle
24) Fighting for France
25) Fighting for England
26) An Average Outcome
27) Triumphant Outcome
28) Defeated in Battle
29) Temporary Retreat
30) Spoils of War
31) Rejoicing in Victory
32) Anguish and Disillusion
33) Tension Under Pressure
34) Temporary Tranquility
35) Valiant Actions
36) Calm Before the Storm
37) Hope for Joan of Arc
38) Glory to the Black Prince
39) Reaching a Milestone
40) The War Reaches an End

 

Extras
- Game website
- Composer website
- Interview

 

Availability
amazon.com [Import]

 

Review by
Oliver Ittensohn

Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War

With Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War developer Omega Force tries to bring the drama, the brutality and the intensity of epic battles between medieval France and England to video game screens. With the power of next-generation console systems, Bladestorm lets the player experience graphically impressive battlefields of an unprecedented scale. The Player finds himself in the role of a mercenary and is given the choice between either fighting for France or taking up the banner for England. During the battles, he takes control of a squad of soldiers and has to make tactical decisions on how to best lead his aligned faction to victory. Sadly, the interesting premise of the game was held back by a lot of gameplay repetition, unsatisfying artificial intelligence and a shallow feel to combat mechanics.

Composer Jamie Christopherson was given the task to compose the underscore for this epic project. For these purposes he would draw inspiration from classical composers and research Latin texts for his choir arrangements. His score was then performed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra supported by synthesized orchestral elements and choir samples. The first cue on the album entitled “The Hundred Years’ War” showcases the interplay of all these compositional elements. It opens up with a solo violin introducing Bladestorm’s epic main theme. This thematic texture is then given over to female choir before it seamlessly passes to the whole orchestra rendered by fast-paced strings, blaring trumpets and choir accompaniment. The rest of the score is structurally split into two modes of underscore: dramatic parts for battle preparation, in-game menus and dialog portions of the game and action parts for the tactical combat on the battlefields. As such, each part tries to fit the gameplay as well as possible.

The dramatic underscore of Bladestorm ranges from calm to passionate and from picturesque to folksy. As a matter of fact, there’s a great variety of orchestral colours strewn throughout the album. “England and France” features the main theme brought to life with broad string lines and soft choir thereby creating an impressive sense of grandeur. “Beautiful setting” builds upon the same thematic material, but presents it less majestic and more peaceful with its convincing orchestrations for solemn horns and delicate plucking of strings. The anticipation of battle is expressed musically as well. A good example of this is “Battle Plan”: Heroic brass transforms the theme into a striking fanfare. Surprisingly, the more folksy arrangements for the taverns in the game might prove to be the most enjoyable. They are certainly among the most memorable. The pensive theme performance in “Daytime in the Tavern” is a definite highlight. Due this orchestral diversity in the dramatic underscore, the music manages not only to stay in synchronisation with onscreen happenings but also to make up for great enjoyment on album.

A large part of the score consists of battle music though, which is of course a given taking into account the nature of the game’s gameplay. Christopherson would seldom hold back. He provides every combat with a full force orchestral accompaniment consisting of rhythmic drums, racing string lines and soaring brass statements. More often than not, he works some variation of his main title theme into the music. In addition, some of the battle cues are seasoned with synthesized instruments of the medieval period, such as organs or bagpipes (“Clashing with the enemy”, “The Main Battle Begins”). All the while, the particular strength of Christopherson’s combat arrangements doesn’t lie in complex orchestrations or instrumentation. The impact of his battle tracks relies more on addictive and humable melodic structures, chord progressions and rhythms which generate a sweeping sense of heroism.

Unfortunately, the score does have its flaws. For one, Christopherson seems to refer back to the same type of orchestral arrangement many times throughout the album which means that many of the combat cues in particular will sound a bit formulaic and repetitive. This is enforced by the game’s obligation to make every battle cue about two minutes in length which seldom leaves room for proper development of action arrangements. These two setbacks combined make the score’s performance on album suffer somewhat. Additionally, the composer seems perhaps to have focused too much on the harmonics of his main theme. It appears just a tad too often. Apparently, it also had much impact on his secondary character themes which turn out to be too similar to the main theme and strike the listener as being more like variations on a basic theme than providing any new thematic material.

Overall, Bladestorm is an action-packed and sweeping score that convincingly underscores an epic battle game. It shows that Christopherson is certainly a talented composer. Fans of epic game music should not only seriously consider getting this album, but also look forward to Christopherson’s upcoming projects.