Mass Effect Original Soundtrack Review

  • Name: Mass Effect Original Game Soundtrack
  • Label: Sumthing Else
  • Composer(s): Jack Wall, Sam Hulick, Richard Jacques and David Kates
  • Number of Tracks: 37

After hearing several stirring tracks whilst playing the game Mass Effect, I decided to purchase the soundtrack for Mass Effect. Even though it took me awhile (which fortunately didn't turn out to be as long as it could've been) and cost me an arm and leg (around $50 AUD) I finally got my hands on it a few days ago. So how good is it really? Well let's find out.

Artistic Merit (52%)
For those of you frothing at the mouth at why I only gave 52% for the Artistic Merit, let me get the negative comments out from the start. While the soundtrack has some sensational tracks on it, its score gets dragged way down due to the amount of filler there is. Now let me get this straight, it's very *nice* filler - the quality of the tracks bar a couple are really good and they definitely evoke memories of all the different locales you visit in the game, however a majority of these tracks can get repetitive, very quickly and consequently they can lose their novelty, very quickly. I like themes and melodies and this reflects in the tracks I've picked as ones that are worthwhile. I repeat, since a lot of the tracks are ones played during action sequences, they do happen to fit the situation they're meant for listening to them on their own. However, if you're listening to them in your stereo or while you're driving in the car, you have to admit that some of the tracks make for bland listening material (especially the ambient stuff).

Now that the bad stuff is out of the way, onto the good stuff. What's great about this soundtrack is that it has a very retro 80's sci-fi film feel to it - and this is no mistake. Jack Wall has commented that his influences for the soundtrack came from John Williams, Blade Runner and Dune. The best tracks for me on this album would be the ones that revolve around the main Mass Effect Theme (which helps set the scene, giving you an impression that Humanity has only taken its first steps into space and is raring for an adventure into the unknown - Humanity's recklessness would prove to be a central motif for the game in general) . The tracks "The Citadel" and "Spectre Induction" continue to elaborate on this theme. Indeed, the game itself culminates with a reprise of the main theme, preceded by a moving piece that complements Humanity's victory over the enemy (I'm not exactly going to say who - you'll just have to find that out as you play :)).

Tracks which also deserve a special mention are "Vigil", "Uncharted Worlds" and "M4 Part II". "Vigil" which is the main menu theme and the theme to the Protheans is an excellent track; very relaxing and evoking a sense of awe and wonder at the technological aptitude of the Prothean race. "Uncharted Worlds" is also an enjoyable ditty that unfortunately is very short. It's played whilst the player is viewing the Galaxy Map in the game and the stacatto beeps merging into a tune backed by a flute seems only appropriate when viewing the stars merging into a panaroma of the Milky Way Galaxy. The last track on this album is perfomed by the Canadian alternative band, The Faunts. In a word, this track is awesome - and it fits in so well with the Mass Effect soundtrack! The Faunts's combination of retro U2-esque guitar playing, the lead singer's brooding vocals and 80s synth is just so perfect for Mass Effect as a credits theme as it truly gives the sense you've been part of an epic intergalactic 80s sci-fi adventure.

Value (50% - Average)
As mentioned before I spent $50AUD to get this album. The actual price is US$13.95 which initially doesn't sound too bad especially considering (thanks to the strong Australian Dollar) it's only about a dollar more off the US price. However, it cost me an extra $30-35 to ship the thing over here. Considering you can get an album by a normal artist (i.e. non-video game soundtrack) for about $30 it brings in to question whether it's really worth it. However, I refrained from giving a "0% - Bad" score due to some tracks on this being truly awesome and the fact that video game soundtracks are hard to come by at your local JB Hi-Fi or Sanity shop, so you're expected to pay a premium... I just hoped not this much!

Length (100% - Good)
No complaints about the length. The soundtrack almost maxed out all the space on a typical 800MB CD and there *are* a whopping 37 tracks on this CD after all. True a lot of them are very short but altogether there's a decent amount of music here.

Total Score: 67%
For those wanting to order the album, you can get it from Amazon or Bioware's online store.