Feature

Outside the Game – System Torch & Sworcery 2

In this, the third installment of Outside the Game, I’m going to be talking about soundtracks for games that I’ve barely played… In fact, after putting this article together it’s fair to say that I’ve now spent more time listening to the featured soundtracks than I have playing the games they belong to. I am ashamed. I’m also busy, and have a social life, so I don’t feel too bad, but still… Games, huh. Anyway, the usual intro text…

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.

System Shock 2
Soundtrack by Eric Brosius

[sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://weekendwarrio.rs/audio/system-shock-2-engineering.mp3″%5DSample Track – Engineering
Buy the soundtrack here (you get some crappy game with it too).

System Shock 2 recently resurfaced from legal/rights troubles to grace us all with its menacing, science-fictional presence. I’ve now bought the game twice, and have sadly spent more time listening to the soundtrack than playing the game. Blame that fucking backlog for keeping me away.

The thing that strikes me on first listen of the System Shock 2 soundtrack is how little electronica soundtracks have evolved in the past 14 years. Nothing about the sound of it jumps out as being particularly old, or particularly 90s. With a lot of 80s sounds coming through in mainstream pop and electro, everything old is new again.

[A note for my electronic-music-producing friends: Notice above I said electronica soundtracks, not electronic music in general. Don’t hate me. Kthxbai.]

Possibly the greatest thing about the soundtrack when playing System Shock 2 is the way the fast electro beat grabs your heart and starts pumping it, spurring you on to action while your frightened brain struggles not to snap and scare-quit. Few soundtracks can have such a distinct physical reaction, but System Shock 2’s did.

Whether or not you get much mileage out of the soundtrack will depend a lot on your tastes. It’s a good soundtrack – I’d go so far as to say great, even – but it’s a little weirder and more disjointed than some of the electronic soundtracks presented here previously. If you like electronica that can switch-hit between thumping, brooding and glitch then you’re in the right place, but even if that doesn’t describe you, give it a listen first – Eric “Bro” Brosius has done a superb job.

 

Torchlight
Soundtrack by Matt Uelmen

[sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://weekendwarrio.rs/audio/torchlight-lava.mp3″%5DSample Track – Lava
Buy the game here.

Torchlight is an ARPG in the Diablo mold. In fact, you could just about call it single-player-Diablo-with-Warcraft-III-esque-cell-shaded-graphics-but-with-a-couple-of-unique-and-interesting-ideas, except that is rather a mouthful and will use up your hyphen quotient for the week. I’ve played it some, and enjoyed it well enough, but the lack of multiplayer meant I lost interest in the click-click-clicking fairly quickly compared to, say, Titan Quest.

The Torchlight soundtrack is a good one, sounding rich and unique, whilst still remaining suitably epic. There’s that word again, epic… Regular readers of this column will already know how bored I am of epic fantasy soundtracks, because no matter how good they are, no matter how professional they sound, it’s still just more of the same.

As far as Epic soundtracks go, Torchlight is right up there. It’s not quite to the level of Dark Souls’ sublime OST, but it would have to be the next best one that I’ve sat down and listened throgh.

If – like me – you’re a bit bored of the Epic schtick, it’s not going to change your mind, but otherwise it is thoroughly good and worth a listen.

 

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
Soundtrack (fantastically called the Sword & Sworcery LP – The Ballad of the Space Babies) by Jim Guthrie

[sc_embed_player fileurl=”http://weekendwarrio.rs/audio/superbrothers-sword-and-sworcery-ep-lone-star.mp3″%5DSample Track – Lone Star
Buy the soundtrack here (you get some crappy game with it too).

I’ve only played about an hour of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, but it doesn’t take even that long to realise that it is a game with an extremely well-focused design. Perhaps the pixel graphics and general retro-aesthetic isn’t to your taste, but you can’t look at it and deny that the developers knew exactly what they wanted to do with the game.

These games tend to be the ones that grab my attention the most – even if they falter in some parts you can see the pure creative energy that went into the production of it. Each game that tried to reach for the stars and failed is worth a hundred installments in a yearly corporate franchise.

So yes, I haven’t completed SB: S&S EP yet, but I fully intend to at some point in the future, and I adore what I’ve seen of the game… The same goes for the soundtrack. Multiple times whilst listening to it I would actually stop whatever else I was doing to remark – to myself – about how fucking great it is. It’s all retro-tinged synth mastery, but the basslines, the melodies and the hooks are so accomplished that it outdoes any number of full orchestral scores.

At times it sounds like the soundtrack to an Atari 2600 game has evolved to be both thoroughly retro and subtly modern, and at other times it appears to be masquerading as the soundtrack to some lost arthouse film (the track The Ballad of the Space Babies, in particular). Whatever shape its sound takes though, it is incredible from start to finish – and at one hour and one minute in length, that’s quite a feat.

 

Next time: I lie to you about what I’m actually going to write about next time, and we interview Gabe Newell about the all-accordion soundtrack he is personally recording for Half-Life 3.

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