Composed by
Jeremy Soule, Julian Soule and Crispin Hands

 

Published by
DirectSong (2006)

 

Tracklistings
1) The Siege of Greilyn Beach
2) Prologue
3) Freedom for a Price
4) Into the Jungle
5) The Morden Towers
6) Restless Natives
7) Kuthraya Caverns
8) The Dark Wizard of Valdis
9) Rhythms of Darkness
10) Peering into the Past
11) Outside of the Castle
12) The Morden Mines
13) Azunite Caverns
14) Sneaky Sneaky
15) Painful Recollections
16) The Knotted Shambler
17) The Trilisk of Xeria
18) The Tower
19) An Unsettling Situation
20) The Inner Walls

View full tracklistings

 

Extras
- Game website
- Composer website

 

Availability
DirectSong

 

Review by
Oliver Ittensohn

Dungeon Siege II

When Dungeon Siege was released in 2002, gamers enjoyed the detailed graphics and easy-to-learn combat system. What the game lacked, however, was a deep storyline and a complex character development system. With Dungeon Siege II, developer Gas Powered Games had improved the gameplay at the right spots: the game offered a more immersive story and an even bigger world to explore. Veteran composer Jeremy Soule was called upon once more to write the music to the sequel, assisted by his brother Julian and co-composer Crispin Hands.

The original Dungeon Siege remains one of Soule’s best scores. It not only offered more than 2 hours of music but was also thematic and memorable. This time around, all those merits were abandoned for the composers took Dungeon Siege II into a different direction: the strong original main title theme only appears about four times in the score, most prominently in the intro movie of the game. Sadly, that cue is not featured on the soundtrack album. And although the first cue you’ll hear in the game (“Siege of Greilyn Beach”) also offers the theme, it's only an underlying string movement on top of which an epic brass line is introduced. The theme makes its best appearance in “The Morden Dragon” where it's presented in a slow-paced fashion with background choir. Sadly, this echo of the prequel’s main theme remains an exception to the score’s overall quality, which falls short of what many fans might have come to expect after listening to Soule’s earlier effort.

There aren’t any specific new themes written for Dungeon Siege II. Instead, the composers went for a heavily ambient approach. What you'll notice immediately is the strong use of percussion. Cues like “Into the Jungle”, “Restless Natives” or “The Morden Mines” are performed by drums and drums only. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing had the composers made these percussion passages interesting and engaging. Sadly, they're very generic and offer no redeeming value as a stand-alone listen. There are a few cues however in which their usage adds an interesting musical colour. A good example of this is “The Trilisk of Xeria” that combines tribal percussion and menacing strings to maximum effect. Additionally, the score is heavily dominated by drawn-out horn performances or very subdued string lines, for example in “Outside of the Castle”. These pieces don’t explore new ground but pretty much flow in the veins of what Soule has always done. If you’re familiar with some of his other fantasy scores, Dungeon Siege II will not surprise you.

A few things stand out though: “The Dark Wizard of Valdis” and “ Summit of the Dark Wizards” are unsettling cues that build upon horror trademarks such as whispering and haunting, off-rhythm percussions. Other cues have a calm and enchanting quality to them such as “Snow Covered Landscape”: the use of solo violins underscores quite nicely a quiet winter landscape. For the desert of Kalrathia on the other hand, the composers used Eastern percussion (“Tales of Kalrathia”) that offer some variety in the ambient scoring.

As a stand-alone listen, this album remains a tough one. If you aren't at all familiar with the game and have been looking for a thematic score then this one is not for you. Its heavily ambient nature that is most noticeable in percussion-only tracks requires attention and knowledge of context to be appreciated. If you're willing, however, to go beyond a casual listen and maybe pay attention what environment the music was written for, you may find yourself captivated by some dark yet crafty material and passages of somewhat unconventional nature, especially since the release over DirectSong offers a generous 77 minutes of music, although only in 128kbits/s.

Overall, it can be said that if you’re willing to explore more subtle game scoring or are a fan of the Dungeon Siege video games, you should give this one a try.