Composed by
Jeremy Soule

 

Published by
DirectSong (2006)

 

Tracklistings
1) Reign of the Septims
2) Through the Valleys
3) Death Knell
4) Harvest Dawn
5) Wind from the Depths
6) King and Country
7) Fall of the Hammer
8) Wings of Kyraneth
9) Alls Well
10) Tension
11) March of the Marauders
12) Watchman's Ease
13) Glory of Cyrodiil
14) Defending the Gate
15) Bloody Blades
16) Ministrel's Lament
17) Ancient Sorrow
18) Auriel's Ascension
19) Daedra in Flight
20) Unmarked Stone
21) Bloodlust
22) Sunrise of Flutes
23) Churl's Revenge
24) Deep Waters
25) Dusk at the Market
26) Peace of Akatosh

 

Extras
- Game website
- Composer website

 

Availability
DirectSong

 

Review by
Oliver Ittensohn

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

The Elder Scrolls game series has always had one particular goal: offer a huge and detailed fantasy world in which the player can do whatever he wants to do. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is no different. Backed up by one of the most powerful graphics engine to date (and showcasing the enormous power of the Xbox 360) Oblivion amazed critics with its sheer size and gameplay possibilities. What critics often overlooked was the fact that very little had actually changed since The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: The graphics engine looks nicer but is still as loading-time demanding as ever, the class and combat system is basically the same and the races the player can choose from haven’t had any additions.

Another thing that hasn’t changed since Morrowind is the game’s composer. Jeremy Soule delivers a conventional but atmospheric fantasy score that flows in the veins of Morrowind and Guild Wars. If you remember the main title theme of Morrowind then you’ll be amazed at the majestic performance it gets in “Reign of the Septims”, the game’s main menu music and the first track on album. It’s a very brassy and epic arrangement introduced by an adventurous ascension of strings. Unfortunately, it’s really the only time you’ll hear the theme in the score in full force and Soule didn’t introduce a strong new main theme for Oblivion.

The lack of memorable thematic material is something that characterizes the whole score. The arrangements for traditional orchestra stay ethereal and evasive. At the same time, they lend themselves well to build a steady musical background in-game. There are seldom moments you’ll even consider turning the music off while playing. The lush and vast landscapes of the game are underscored with great skill for ambience and atmosphere, something that Soule has always been good at. Amidst the rather un-thematic nature of the score are outbursts of melodic beauty that sometimes hint to motifs heard in Morrowind (“Harvest Dawn”, “King and Country” or “Wings of Kynareth”).

The battle cues have become more fierce and percussive since Morrowind. “Bloody Blades” offers pounding drums and a heroic horn motif. If you listen very carefully, you’ll even hear the Morrowind theme performed by flutes in the later portion of the cue. More obvious is the performance of the Morrowind theme in “Bloodlust” where it is played more fully by brass. Whereas the battle music sounds pretty exciting on album it is strangely out of tempo in-game. The combat system in Oblivion is slow-paced and relies heavily on alternation between blocking and dealing single blows. Therefore, the battle cues don’t do a terribly good job in underscoring the action sequences.

Thankfully, the sound designers learned from their mistake in Morrowind and made specific points in the game where a certain music cue should play. You’ll no longer hear the majestic main menu music in a creepy dungeon. On the other hand, they messed up the transition between the ambient and battle cues very badly. When you’re attacked, the ambient cue gets cut off instantly and the battle music starts. This often happens when you haven’t even seen the enemy yet. It happened to me many times that I was riding through the wilderness accompanied by the wonderful piano writing in “Auriel’s Ascension” which suddenly cut off for no apparent reason till I found out that I was actually being attacked by a wolf that was in the ruins on a hill far above me.

Unlike Morrowind, the score to Oblivion features some live instruments. But quite frankly, you won’t hear much difference. It still sounds very much like a synthesized score. The bit rate of the downloadable version is a real treat - 320 kbits/s. The soundtrack album offers a generous 60 minutes of music and, as far as I know, contains all the in-game music except the piece that was composed for the intro-movie of the game.

Overall, Oblivion is a solid and satisfying score by Soule, especially within the game. If you’ve enjoyed the soundtrack of Guild Wars or are a fan of Soule’s music, you should definitely consider getting the soundtrack album.