Composed by
Tilman Sillescu (lead composer), Alexander Röder, Alexander Pfeffer, Pierre Langer and Markus Schmidt

 

Published by
UbiSoft (2007)

 

Tracklistings
1) Rise of an Empire
2) Greenlands
3) Bow to Your Lords
4) The Red Prince
5) Blazing Fires
6) Forth to Battle
7) Besieged
8) Lord Thordal's Quaff
9) A Settlers Tale
10) The Northern Mark
11) The Barrow Hills
12) Southern Realm
13) Riders of the Desert
14) Rain
15) Crimson Sabbath
16) Ready the Bows
17) March to History
18) Heritage of Kings
19) City of Wonders
20) Kingdom of Ice
21) Alliance of the West
22) Land of the Sun
23) The Drylands
24) Dark Tidings
25) Exploration
26) Sharpen the Swords
27) War Treaty
28) The Capital
29) The Emperor's Pride
30) Restful Meadows
31) Serenada
32) Faraway Tales
33) Break the Enemy
34) Hold the Lines
35) Downfall
36) Victory
37) Thordal the Knight
38) Thordal Fighting Glory
39) Thordal the Warrior
40) Thordal Crossed Swords

 

Extras
- Game website
- Composer website

 

Availability
German Limited Edition features soundtrack album

 

Review by
Oliver Ittensohn

The Settlers: Rise of an Empire

The Settlers: Rise of an Empire marks the sixth entry in one of Germany’s longest standing game series. Starting with the series’ first iteration, The Settlers 1 in 1994, developer BlueByte has created an appealing and innovative gameplay formula: the player takes control of a handful of settlers and helps them build cities and form a prosperous realm. Over the years, gamers have come to appreciate The Settlers-titles for a number of reasons: colourful and vivid graphics with an undeniable charm, addictive and sedate economic gameplay and challenging yet motivating campaign missions. The Settlers: Rise of an Empire stays true to this formula, but tries to address the series’ weak spots most notably combat and storyline. Critics generally praised the title, even though they noted some gameplay glitches which BlueByte would have to improve upon for the next instalment.

Music has played a significant part in The Settlers’ rise to fame. The first four titles featured pleasant, varied and humable scores by BlueByte in-house composer Haiko Ruttmann. These musical contributions remain fan favourites to this day. For the fifth instalment the developers had depended on the composing services of the sound studio Dynamedion which was again called upon to score the latest title in the series: The Settlers: Rise of an Empire. Dynamedion has quickly become the largest German sound studio providing not only scores but also sound effects and voice over recordings. Similar to film composer Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Studios, it has become common practice at Dynamedion for each soundtrack project to feature one lead composer and a number of additional composers. Consequently, Rise of an Empire was scored by no less than five different composers: Tilman Sillescu (lead composer), Alexander Röder, Alexander Pfeffer, Pierre Langer and Markus Schmidt. While the exact involvement from each composer remains unclear, the result is a coherent score that continues the excellence of The Settlers’ soundtrack legacy.

The most prominent improvement that Sillescu and his composing team were able to achieve over The Settlers’ previous scores was the recording with live orchestra, in this case the State Orchestra of Brandenburg. Indeed, most of Dynamedion’s latest scores featured real orchestra (most notably in Anno 1701 and ParaWorld) which is a testament to their dedication to take game soundtracks to the next level. The quality of the orchestra’s performance is evident from the very first cue on the album: “Rise of an Empire” introduces the new main theme for The Settlers, a solemn, proud and majestic melodic phrase. It serves as the thematic backbone of the score and is referenced back to in many of the ambient cues, sometimes calm as in “Greenlands” or playful as in “A Settlers Tale”. This theme is not confined to one dimension however. The player’s adversary, the sneaky rogue Crimson Sabbath, is underscored with the same theme. Yet, her evil presence corrupts the majestic musical quality by destroying the theme’s pleasant harmonies (e.g. “Crimson Sabbath”). The theme’s most interesting aspect doesn’t lie in its tonal quality though, but rather in its structural variety. The ascending and descending nature of the theme’s progression splits it into two halves and allows each of these halves to be quoted separately. You’ll notice the first half of the theme played by woodwinds in “Southern Realm” and the several hints at the second part in “Bow to Your Lords”, just to name two examples. There are a couple of other motifs to discover in the score, among them a creepy and mischievous melody for the main adversary (“The Red Prince”) and an emotional Spanish flavoured tune such as in “Serenade”. The thematic richness and its thoughtful orchestration takes Rise of an Empire a step further than its predecessors.

In addition to the score’s themes, the composers utilized a varied palette of orchestral colours to express the on-screen happenings. The score adapts musically to the game’s different climate zones by creating colder or warmer soundscapes. In other words, the score shifts dynamically between a lush, orchestral and a Spanish flavoured, ethnic sound. The themes are worked into these musical palettes and connect the ambient pieces. A definite highlight concerning the traditional side of the score is the emotional chord progression in “Kingdom of Ice”. On the other hand, the ethnic musical side is expressed most prominently in the main theme quotation in “Restful Meadows”. In some missions, however, combat is inevitable: greedy bandits, battle-hungry Vikings and an obscure, dark brotherhood threaten a settler’s prosperity and well-being. Dynamedion underscored these passages with forceful and fast-paced arrangements (including an occasional nod to film composer Jerry Goldsmith). Unfortunately, most of these battle cues are shorter than one might have hoped and seldom leave room for proper orchestral development. Still, the score offers expansive musical variety while remaining coherent in its thematic structure.

All in all, The Settlers: Rise of an Empire is a powerful, sophisticated and thematically strong soundtrack which displays once again the expertise and quality of Dynamedion’s work. Empowered by the vivid yet accurate performance of the live orchestra, the score establishes a cinematic sound quality rarely seen in video games.