Sumthing Else Musicworks (2003)
2) Sri Lanka
3) Simple Song
6) Mist at Dawn
7) Battle at Witch Creek
8) Dark Forest
10) Wing and a Prayer
11) High Strung
12) Desert Wind
22) Across the Bog
25) William Wallace
26) Arc de Triomphe
- Game website
- Composer website
Rise of Nations
Microsoft’s long-awaited strategy title Rise of Nations hit the store shelves in 2003 and its solid graphics and thought-out gameplay brought the game good reviews across the board and a big fan-community.
Composer Duane Decker wrote a varied and pleasing score that underscores the game’s building phases with thematic ambient cues and its battle sequences with more fast-paced action material.
The background pieces incorporate the sound of the different cultures the player can choose from in the game. Decker uses a lot of different ethnic instruments to reflect the corresponding sounds, among them pennywhistles, mandolins, cimbaloms and a duduk. The tracks “Sri Lanka”, “Indochine” or “Morocco” are good examples of how all these special instrumentations and compositions capture the spirit of the respective locations. It is mainly this variety that makes this effort such an enjoyable listen while playing the game. Although the music always stays in the background it brings a very special quality to the overall feel of the game and gets along excellently with the graphics.
But not only are the ethnic instruments performed by live players. Decker managed to get almost his whole score recorded with real musicians and the result is audible. The emotion and heart these live players put into the music is much appreciated. One of the highlights of these more conventional orchestral arrangements is “Across the Bog” that features flutes and strings in an emotional and captivating cue. Unfortunately, the excellent track that accompanies the intro movie of the game isn’t included on the album, but players of the game will find all the other themes and motifs they’ve heard while playing the game on the disc.
Whenever the player attacks or is being attacked, the score shifts to battle music; high strings and percussion provide excitement as armies clash. Sadly, the battle cues suffer a bit from the small size of the orchestra, especially when brass is added to try to give the battles more scope.
Decker certainly needs to be commended for getting his scores released (his score to Mechwarrior 4: Vengeance was released by the soundtrack label Varèse Sarabande). With this score, however, he even had something more special in mind. Instead of releasing it as a stereo CD, he mixed the score in Dolby Digital 5.1 and put it on a DVD! (Be aware that it’s a DVD Region Code 1, so if you’re based in Europe, for example, you might have problems playing it in your DVD player). The mixing is well done and it’s great to hear a score in 5.1, a rarity among both game and film soundtracks. The DVD also includes bonus material like 9 bonus cues, an interview with the composer and the opening cinematic of the game that features excellent music.
All in all, Rise of Nations is a good game soundtrack with rich instrumentation and a big variety of themes. Its use in the game is excellent and it’s just as enjoyable as a stand-alone listen, especially in 5.1 surround sound.