Feature

Outside the Game – Frozen Souls

If you’re a PC gamer there is a very good chance you’re also a PC game soundtrack collector, you just might not realise it. When you buy bundles, whether humble, regal or otherwise, old games, non-existent ones, or even when you put down for a preorder, chances are they’ve sweetened the deal with a game soundtrack, you’ve just never bothered to sit down and listen to it. That’s where I come in; I’ve done the earwork for you and I’m hear to tell you what’s worth listening to outside the game.

The Binding of Isaac
Soundtrack by Danny Baranowsky

[sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://weekendwarrio.rs/audio/the-binding-of-isaac-the-binding-of-isaac.mp3″%5DSample Track – The Binding of Isaac
Buy the soundtrack here.

A lot of people were quick to discount The Binding of Isaac because they saw poop in a screenshot, and wanted a reason to cut down the tall poppy that is Edmund McMillen. But is a game that features bodily functions still immature if it delves into themes of religious fanaticism and child abuse?

When I first put the Isaac soundtrack on I was surprised at how subtle and aurally mature it is. When you’ve finished a three hour session of basement spelunking and death it’s the hooks that stay with you, but there is a lot more going on. At first glance the game might look childish or cartoonish but it reveals great depth, and the soundtrack illustrates that perfectly. The synth flows smoothly between sweet and foreboding, with strings that fill out the songs nicely. When the guitars kick in, it’s those classic DannyB rock riffs, but always supported by haunting synths and crusty beats.

As well as being alternately subtle and catchy, the soundtrack has a Pavlov’s Dog effect – I found my heart racing slightly while the music played.

It’s a little bit schizophrenic, with high-tempo tracks (generally the boss battle music) and slower, ambient tracks, as well as a club remix and chiptune version of the main theme that don’t really fit with the rest. I think, though, that the ambient work is good enough on its own to be separated out and turned into a background soundtrack for study, writing, or escaping your murderous religious, parents.

 

Jamestown
Soundtrack by Francisco Cerda

[sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://weekendwarrio.rs/audio/jamestown-war-upon-the-east-frontier.mp3″%5DSample Track – War Upon the East Frontier
Buy the soundtrack here.

Jamestown is a fast-paced, bullet-hell shmup with gorgeous pixel art and a more-developed storyline than most shmups get, or indeed need.

The orchestral score certainly suits the alternate history, sci-fi setting of the game in the way it sounds both classical and modern at the same time, and is full enough for the scope of the game’s story, but outside of that context, there’s not a whole lot here to latch on to. It’s not bad in any way, but it’s the same swelling sounds of faux-epicness you’ve heard a million times within games, and probably don’t want to put yourself through outside of gaming.

 

Dark Souls
Soundtrack by Motoi Sakuraba

[sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://weekendwarrio.rs/audio/dark-souls-ornstein-smough.mp3″%5DSample Track – Ornstein & Smough
Buy the soundtrack (now)here.

I guess a lot of money was spent making Dark Souls? Obviously the game has been hugely successful, and that means a lot of moyen was poured into it, but it wasn’t until I listened to the soundtrack that it struck me. Dark Souls is such a perfectly crafted, crystalised slab of pure gameplay, and as such it’s hard to imagine it coming from a large publisher. But here we are – a truly strange and fantastic game, with a soundtrack that sounds like it cost more to produce than the rest of the games in this instalment combined.

In the last Outside the Game I bemoaned the excessive use of quote-unquote epic soundtracks for games. Orchestral/choral soundtracks are done to death in film and games, and however much talent must go in to the work created by the likes of Elfman and Williams, they still all end up sounding rather samey. Not this soundtrack though – something about it makes it sound instantly other. The whys are indefinable, but it’s the first time I’ve been genuinely excited by an “epic” soundtrack since Gladiator first came out.

It’s not even my love for the game twisting my opinion of the music, because if you’d asked me before I sat down to write this feature I might have told you that Dark Souls didn’t even have music.

I’m not sure where you would ever feel the need to listen to this soundtrack – a tense Eyes Wide Shut style swingers party, perhaps – but it is brilliant, and well worth keeping on your hard drive in case a suitable occasion ever arises. I just thought of it – table-top gaming. This soundtrack would be a sublime accompaniment to a night of throwing them bones.

 

Frozen Synapse
Soundtrack by nervous_testpilot (aka Paul Taylor)

[sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://weekendwarrio.rs/audio/frozen-synapse-a-functioning-god.mp3″%5DSample Track – A Functioning God
Buy the soundtrack here.

I spoke about Frozen Synapse recently and rightly raved about it for being an extremely tight strategy game with brilliant multiplayer that doesn’t try and devour your every waking moment. I didn’t linger on the soundtrack because I knew I could have gotten carried away. It’s so good that it was on regular rotation on my home playlist for a while after I got the game.

To fit with the sci-fi setting of the game, the soundtrack is all electronica and heavily-modulated vocals. It’s a brilliant blend of beats and melody – mostly clean and upbeat songs, with excellent production and subtle electro layers.

Apart from the fact that it sounds like a soundtrack, this could easily find a place in your music collection, assuming you enjoy instrumental electronica.

 

Next time: Every game soundtrack layered over the top of one another as weaponised audio in the War on Terror.

[Note: Tracks are presented above as a sample only. If any of the games’ developers, publishers or composers are unhappy with the situation they need only get in touch and the tracks can be taken down.]

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