Composed by
Jack Wall, Sam Hulick, Richard Jacques and David Kates

 

Published by
Sumthing Else Musicworks (2007)

 

Tracklistings
1) Mass Effect Theme
2) The Normandy
3) Eden Prime
4) Battle at Eden Prime
5) Saren
6) The Citadel
7) The Presidium
8) The Wards
9) Criminal Elements
10) Spectre Induction
11) Liara's World
12) A Very Dangerous Place
13) Feros
14) Protecting the Colony
15) The Thorian
16) Noveria
17) The Secret Labs
18) The Alien Queen
19) Fatal Confrontation
20) Saren's Base

View full tracklistings

 

Availability
- Amazon.com
- Something Else Musicworks
- Bioware online store

 

Extras
- Game website

 

Review by
Oliver Ittensohn


Mass Effect

Mass Effect marks developer Bioware’s most ambitious project yet. Treading into the territory of sci-fi adventure, they once again focused on their ultimate goal to create a truly cinematic gaming experience. To achieve this, the team built on strong and epic storytelling, lifelike characters and a motivating class advancement system. Although the game is ultimately plagued by various minor annoyances and repetitive quests, the reviews are positive across the board and value the strong presentation and rich sci-fi game world. To accompany their sci-fi epos, the developers turned to composer Jack Wall with whom they had worked before on Jade Empire. Assisted by Sam Hulick, Wall would compose most of the score with both Richard Jacques and David Kates as additional composers for the game’s cutscenes.

The musical approach is an amalgam of orchestral and electronic sounds. Both are used rather conventionally: the orchestral side of the score stands for humanity and its emotions while the electronic elements tend to signify the mechanical sci-fi world and its synthetic life forms. Still, if you look at the allocation of these stylistic elements over the course of the score, you’ll notice a strong overweight of the synthetic musical colors. Indeed, most of the ambient cues draw heavily upon the synthesized arrangements. “Liara’s World”, “Feros” and “Noveria”, all planets of vital importance to the storyline, are characterized by synthesized electronics. Looping percussion effects and reverbing melodic structures dominate their soundscape. This is not to say that Wall’s underscore is lacking diversity. It fits the game’s art well and is never too obtrusive in in-game contexts. Furthermore, the composer manages to create evocative electronic layers, most notably in “The Presidium”. As a consequence of the focus on overtly computerized sounds, the score’s overall feel is decisively clean, cold and clinical. Unfortunately, this results in human emotions often taking the backseat. This is nowhere as apparent as in the “Love Theme”. The more sporadic elements of dramatic nature enter the score through Jacques’ classical arrangements in the game’s cutscenes. Here, brass and strings create heroic and riveting moments of grandeur. The game’s ending in particular greatly profits from these orchestral sensibilities. The last couple of cues on album present a thrill ride of adventure and heroism. It can be said to balance somewhat the overall electronic focus of Wall’s approach.

There are three themes in Mass Effect. Firstly, there’s the main theme (“Mass Effect Theme”). It cleverly and satisfyingly combines both the electronic and the orchestral. Arguably the most memorable theme is Saren’s theme (“Saren”), the story’s tragic villain. It flows in relentless, merciless and harsh synthetic hits. The most epic is “Sovereign’s Theme” composed by Hulick. It features deep male choir and aggressive bass to symbolize the terrifying nature of the alien machine race called the reapers. All themes appear at key points throughout the score and thus make the listening experience more memorable.

Overall, Wall and his composing colleagues have written a modern, futuristic and partly emotional score. If you’re a great fan of electronics and are eager to get into synthetic soundscapes, you can easily add another half star to the rating. If, on the other hand, you were hoping for a more dramatic and epic orchestral approach you will be disappointed.