Composed by
George Oldziey

 

Published by
Electronic Arts (1999)

 

Tracklistings
1) Stones (Chamber)
2) Britain (Positive)
3) Introduction
4) Valoria Ships
5) Paws
6) Gargoyles
7) Minoc (Negative)
8) Moongate
9) Terfin
10) Undead (Intense)
11) Moonglow (Negative)
12) Good vs. Evil
13) Moonglow (Positive)
14) New Magencia
15) Rats & Spiders
16) Samhayne
17) Walking Theme
18) Humanoids
19) Pyros
20) Ambush
21) Good End Game
22) Stones (Electro)
23) Ambrosia
24) Yew (Positive)

 

Extras
- Game website
- Composer website

 

Availability
Synsoniq.com

 

Review by
Oliver Ittensohn

Ultima IX: Ascension

The Ultima series is one of the most successful and highly regarded game series ever. The first one was published about 20 years ago and from then on the fan community steadily grew until the series’ last entry Ultima IX: Ascension. In every Ultima title you play the Avatar, basically an adventure hero who has to save the people of Britannia from evil. As simple as the story sounds it is always filled with excitement, magic, horror, betrayal and love. Ultima IX was supposed to be another cornerstone of the series using modern graphical technology and gameplay mechanics that would revolutionize adventure role playing. Sadly, the game turned out to be very buggy and unpolished and was quickly forgotten.

The musical score was composed by George Oldziey and is very much small-scale. In a time when all video game music was done completely by synthesizers emulating a real orchestra, the results were mostly embarrassing especially big and epic scores didn’t sound big and epic. Composer Oldziey decided to take another road which is quite interesting. Instead of creating a big synthesized score he wrote a small and charming one. This way he had the chance to get a few live players to perform his music. The results are clearly audible. The beautiful, soft or sombre melodies are performed with a spirit impossible to achieve with midi-libraries. “Stones (chamber)” features a very moving flute solo accompanied by guitar and “Walking Theme” offers several layers of plucking instruments before a violin takes over to perform an emotional and touching melody. It is actually very astonishing how many moods Oldziey can create with this small array of instruments, mostly flutes, violins and guitars.

There are always two themes for each town or location, not all of them are featured on the album however. One of them is the evil version, which plays when the town is corrupted and infested with evil. As soon as the player has freed it from the evil’s grip the music changes to the good version. This makes for an intense experience in the game itself for it heightens the feel of doing something good.

Whenever you’re attacked the music shifts to battle music. It is mainly here that the score loses much of its achievement. The too small-scale orchestra simply cannot evoke any feel of intense combat at all. Sometimes it is even bolstered up with synthesizer, which makes it even worse. And because there are very few battle tracks they quickly start to get on your nerves. There is another downside to the score. A small-scale orchestra sometimes just isn’t enough for certain scenes. Not only do the battle tracks suffer, but there are many moments where one would wish for a big and epic sound to enforce the scale of the game or to do the game’s storyline justice.

But despite these flaws, Ultima IX is a fine score with some good performances and themes. If you were expecting an epic and adventurous score you will be disappointed, but if you can appreciate subtlety in an RPG this one might be just what you were looking for.