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The problem with Dragon Age: Inquisition has nothing to do with Trevor Morris’s music. It’s gorgeous, and fits in beautifully with the continent of Thedas. You can hear an excellent roundup of the score in The Well of Sorrows.


Morris’s themes are magnificent – a large orchestra, full choir, vocal soloists, loads of brass and percussion, and more. I love the music he wrote.

I don’t love how the music works in the game. If I want to hear all the great music Trevor wrote, I have to literally listen to the soundtrack, because I rarely hear it in the game.


I’ve put about 27 hours into the game, and I’m slowwwwwwww at moving through games like this. I love to poke around in the forest, search corners of caves, walk along the rivers and lakes, see if I can climb that mountain with my horse, give up on the horse and try climbing it by jumping, give up on jumping and go all the way around, stop for every herb along the way, mine iron and summer stone and blue vitriol from every boulder, kill every bear, loot every cabin, root out all the bandits, mercenaries and apostates, and so on.

While I’m doing all of those things, things that I truly enjoy and adore about gaming, I rarely hear music with any melody.

Here’s why this matters. When I’m away from the game, I never find myself singing any themes from the experience. I don’t walk away humming tunes, wishing I could still be playing.

The Bethesda games, like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, are great. I can hear those melodies and instantly want to be in the game world playing. Same with the Jesper Kyd years of Assassin’s Creed, or Red Dead Redemption. Even Destiny uses melodic content during exploration, and I find myself singing those tunes many hours after turning off the game.

DA Dragon

My only complaint to Trevor is that his ambient music is too ambient. I can’t blame him for this, because I don’t know what the audio directors asked him to do. It’s possible they didn’t want melodic music, thinking it might be too intrusive to the experience.

If that was the case – if the audio directors wanted the music as background only, they succeeded. If I want to hear the best stuff, I have to wait for cinematics, which make up only a fraction of the amount of time I’m playing the game.


My biggest takeaway from the music to Dragon Age: Inquisition is that I have no takeaway. The only way for me to truly enjoy the great music Trevor wrote is to stop playing the game and listen to the soundtrack with speakers or headphones. To me, as a gamer and a musician, this is a tragedy, and comes awfully close to negating the beauty of Trevor’s hard work.

Think of your favorite open world games that have an exploration/grinding/farming component. What are your feelings about the music in those games? Do you enjoy carrying a tune along with you when you’re not playing, or do you prefer the music to be more subtle?


Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends. – See more at:

A little over a month ago I began counting down my favorite games across the last generation of consoles. If you missed the last couple entries please: click here:

#8 Bioware and the Mass Effect Series

Mass Effect at number 8, you say? Okay, let’s make something very clear about my “Best of Last Console Generation” list. In my mind the winner of the number 10 spot celebrates all the victories of the number 1 spot. No one is truly superior because by nature ALL of them rest at equilibrium. To me it’s fine that Mass Effect is at number 8 because it is like saying it is also at number 1. With that being said, at this late stage in the press coverage for Mass Effect as a whole, you’ve probably reached a rather heightened state of saturation. There’s nothing that I could add to that heaping parfait of praise or criticism.  So when I talk about Mass Effect here, I promise to make it brief. If you haven’t played the games, don’t worry. You’ll learn nothing about the contents of these titles, and that’s the point: I don’t want to spoil it for you. 

Mass effect 1

Listen: Mass Effect Soundtrack: The Wards

The proof of a truly incredible game is not about what it does right, not at all. That honor is bestowed on a game once you start making sacrifices for it. It’s once you’re willing to lie, plan your schedule around it, and maneuver out of every conceivable social contract expected of you in the hopes of prolonging the hours spent tilling and terraforming its virtual space. A word to those who have yet to undertake Commander Shepard’s endeavors: you’re going to make a whole lot of people angry. I also recommend that you carry with you a small note pad, because you’re going to have to  keep all of your fabrications in line and consistent. Just a tip.

Mass effect 2

Listen: Mass Effect Soundtrack – Illos Ride

My story with Mass Effect is one of sheer abandonment, tossing everyone aside no matter the ties we had. Rather than engage in any of the yearly post-Christmas holiday traditions with family and friends in 2007, I instead chose the N7. I went so far as to cancel my long-running annual Christmas party, seized the cache of funds set aside for itd production and funneled it into a Mass Effect lazy day bank account, so if I missed work, it would be fine: I paid myself to play Mass Effect.

If my alliances with my employer were tenuous, then imagine my siblings and parents – hanging out with them didn’t happen AT ALL. My sisters would beg and plead with me to go to a movie or to dinner, or anything: Nope. My friends, well let’s just say I let the phone ring, then played dumb more times than there were believable scenarios to create. Somebody had to have known.

Mass Effect 3

Listen: Mass Effect Soundtrack – Afterlife

What’s more, a few years later, as I was about to begin Mass Effect 3, my friend Frank was over to specifically diagnose the many problems I was having completing a perfect play through of Mass Effect 2. His findings were troubling. I would have to start over from scratch if I wanted to do it right. While playing through Mass Effect 2 again would have likely addressed and sufficed Frank’s concerns, it didn’t sit well with me, leaving something, anything undone. Plus you know, I may have left out that a good portion of my crew were also dead. So without even blinking, I erased my hard-won saves from Mass Effect 1 and 2 (those same saves built upon the shunning and repelling of blood relatives and long-time companions) and started over from the ground up. The cycle had begun anew. All this before I had even seen the title screen for Mass Effect 3.

Mass Effect 4

Listen: Mass Effect Soundtrack: Noveria

If this list were based solely on the most cavalier and unending expulsion of man hours, Mass Effect would stand alone; it would be no contest. If it was based on a single criterion, like say the number of those spurned in my attempts to complete it, Mass Effect’s catapulting friend catcher would have no equal. I have no regrets, and when you sign on to Commander Shepard’s Normandy and Mass Effect’s colossal galaxy of play pretend, it may very well be the most illuminating experience you’ve ever had while playing with toys. It is also likely that this is the first time your G.I. Joe and He-Man figurines have ever undergone indoctrination.

This is serious business you know.

Don’t forget to pick up the spectacular Mass Effect Score right here.


Having fallen in love only 4 times in his life Geno counts Double Dragon as his second and truest love.  He has worked in record retail since 2000 and believes David Hayter to be the one true Solid Snake.  Currently, he is putting together a band which only perform songs from Street Fighter 3rd Strike.

Firstly, Happy Dragon Age: Inquisition Day (aka The End of My Social Life Forever).

Secondly, I attended Gamer’s Rhapsody over the weekend; the first of what we hope will be many conventions in the future celebrating video game music and media. Special guests included Dale North (Dragon Fantasy Book II), Jake Kaufman (Shovel Knight) and Rich “Disasterpeace” Vreeland (Fez).

Thomas Spargo organized the event. He’s a student at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, and made his Gamer’s Rhapsody dream a reality.


I participated in one panel and hosted another, but the festivities Saturday night were my favorite part. The night was full of music, performed by the aforementioned guests, along with the trio Nerd Enhanced Sound and the eight-piece band, Do a Barrel Roll.

I’ve spoken about Nerd Enhanced Sound in the past – they’re fabulous and their set was fantastic. NES is a trio of piano (Mike Vasich), bass (Nick Gaudette) and violin (Zack Kline). The three met in music school and formed a different trio called Orange Mighty Trio. After OMT played together for a couple years, Mike and Nick discovered they both adore video game music, so OMT created their alter ego – Nerd Enhanced Sound. Saturday night, they played Metroid, Marble Madness, Dr. Mario and more. Two gamers battled it out on the big screen during Dr. Mario. It was pretty great.

Do A Barrel Roll… I mean… seriously. Do yourself a giant favor and listen to them IMMEDIATELY. The eight of them met and started playing covers together when they were students at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul. They’re incredible musicians… like sickly incredible. The lead guitarist, Austin, arranges all the music. Believe me when I tell you that what you hear in the recordings on Bandcamp is exactly what you hear when they play live. It’s incredible.

Dale North has a gorgeous voice, and although he didn’t want to perform original music, he did a great set of covers of JRPG ballads and such. Rich Vreeland also has a beautiful voice, and played an unplugged set at the piano singing original songs. Rich has a unique sense of melody and phrasing, bringing a wealth of variety to what might otherwise be a dude singing songs at a piano. I am a horrible person and went home to pass out before I could hear Jake Kaufman’s set.

Jake was a part of the panel I hosted, along with Rich. Jake and Rich are both beloved in the game music community for their chiptune music. However, they wrote such vastly different scores, it was delightful to hear them talk about their approaches and philosophies about their compositions.

My hope is that you will come next year. It’s cold and snowy here right now, yes, but it’s good for you. Plus, just like Minneapolis right across the river, St. Paul has a skyway system ensuring you never even need to leave the comfort of the indoors. All the more reason to spend a weekend jamming and hanging out with your fellow video game music lovers!

Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

A little over a month ago, I began counting down my favorite games across the last generation of consoles. If you missed the last couple entries please: click here:

#2. Square-Enix, Eidos Montreal and Deus Ex: Human Revolution:

Have you ever been inside a bookstore and casually wondered WHAT exactly all the people around you might be reading? Kind of interesting, right? But it would be a fairly tedious and dangerous exercise to nudge each and every one on the shoulder to ask them about their favorite authors. Reading is a private exercise, not really meant to be done in public (but it is). Don’t worry, you’re in luck, because I know exactly what a significant portion of the mass literary audience prefers. Though my ad-libbed study is FAR from scientific, it’s part of what I do, and I see it everyday. I see it in the numbers. It has very little to do with the Fiction genre, History, Biographies, Nature, or Travel. It has everything to do with slogans and mantras.


Listen: Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Pangu, City Above The City

Have you heard of Joel Osteen? I wish I were Joel Osteen. Every time I see another one of his books in hardcover, I want to kick myself, then have somebody, anybody in close proximity, kick me again! Why couldn’t I have come up with that? I mean… I have good ideas. Osteen, however, beat everyone to all of them, and has continuously, effortlessly slapped the hardcover straight into paperback with easily dialed clichés like“ You Can, You Will”, “I Declare”, “Break Out” and “It’s Your Time” into print – LOTS and lots of print. I have to give him credit though, because at least his books are complete, which is more than I can say for the author Don Miguel Ruiz, who published “The Four Agreements”, then had a suspect hand in letting loose the “The Fifth Agreement” as if to say, “Oh wait, I forgot one!” You would be wary of any scraggly man on the street yelling at you some ridiculous notion like “Ask and it is given” …wouldn’t you? I don’t see the difference here.


Listen: Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Megan Intro

Actually, I have absolutely nothing against any of these authors at all. They provide a service for millions of people in that they illustrate ways to improve the self, barge past hurdles, renew hope etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. So what are people reading? Self-help, self-medication, self-renewal, and I don’t blame them. It’s getting BAD out there.


Listen: Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Penthouse

All this to get to my initial point: put those books down. Remember, I say this because I am concerned for you all. I LOVE my literature, but this sizable demographic, those afflicted with some form of depression, self-doubt, or a litany of disturbances… may I make a suggestion? Want something for the pain right now? Something immediate?  Play video games. More specifically, play Square Enix’s 2011 masterpiece Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Now, I will take that a step further and say, if you haven’t played Deus Ex: Human Revolution, then you can’t possibly be serious about getting help, and all these books you’ve purchased in the hopes of overcoming cycles of intermittent despair are actually serving as weights to hold you back. You’ve actually just created another rather large blockade on your path to sound and true wellness. So in this instance, I am advocating against the slower, more methodical burn of chapter upon chapter and workbook page upon role-playing activity, all of which were designed to take you out, layer by layer and bit by bit from your self-spun, self-initiated cocoon. This is not a time to mince words, nor a time to enable the behavior in question to continue. Deus Ex: HR will hold your hand in some manner, but realizes that things need to happen quickly, and that time is running out.


Listen: Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Wayne Hass

Deus Ex; HR brings with it a precise economy and wisdom to its sessions with you, as it cuts all costs through no applicable medications. It’s seen through all of the unscrupulous do-make-say-think greed, through every fatted panel of charlatan and witch doctor, and through all of whom are eager to pounce voraciously on your clouded, unstable vulnerability with hollow two-word creeds. While they might briefly address your problem, more than likely, theirs is a Band-Aid with an already weakened adhesive. These results need to be lasting. Are you familiar with Adam Jensen‘s dedicated 24-hour crisis hotline? Let me connect you.


Listen: Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Picus Funicular Combat

I will not rehash again what I’ve already told you about Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I’ve written tirelessly in this very space about and around the circumstances that encompassed some of my ongoing experiences with it, but if you want the short version, I will give it to you: It saved my life. While I can’t quite laugh about it now, I can speak genuinely to the merits of its attack/therapy/counseling mixture. A fragment of who I am today was shaped by this very title.


Listen: Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Exploration (Hard Fight)

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is one of the greatest landmarks in the seventh generation of video games, but it should be looked upon as more than just a piece of software; it should be viewed as something much more precious, something spiritual. It becomes part of you. With Deus Ex: Human Revolution, there is no before, after, or during, and you will never speak of it in the past tense. In this sense it is the truest form of therapy: one in which the dialogue is constantly changing and evolving years after the initial ordeal has taken place. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is completely self-aware. It is keen to your person, your weaknesses, and your triggers. It is here to help. Once you’ve spent a few weeks with it, gone back and forth and hashed out all the ugly because that‘s what you need, you will be transformed. I declare.

A very personal and heartfelt thanks and congratulations goes out to Square Enix, Eidos Montreal, and composer Michael McCann .

Don’t forget to pick up the official Deus Ex: Human Revolution soundtrack here.


Having fallen in love only 4 times in his life Geno counts Double Dragon as his second and truest love.  He has worked in record retail since 2000 and believes David Hayter to be the one true Solid Snake.  Currently, he is putting together a band which only perform songs from Street Fighter 3rd Strike.


Rising star composer Sarah Schachner (Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, Far Cry 3, Lazarus) returns to Ubisoft’s flagship series Assassin’s Creed to score the combat, co-op and multiplayer music for this year’s most anticipated next-gen blockbuster title, Assassin’s Creed® Unity, a new epic adventure set within Paris during the French Revolution. The soundtrack is now available digitally through Ubisoft Music and will also be released on limited edition vinyl. 4 full-length tracks are available to preview on Soundcloud.

Schachner combines her dynamic talents as an accomplished multi-instrumentalist (violin, cello, guitar, mandolin, voice) and modular synth artist/programmer to create a unique classical soundscape infused with analog pulses. “The French revolution was an interesting time musically because it was at the beginning of the classical period but there was still some crossover from the baroque era,” explains Schachner. “The missions at Versailles, for instance, reflect more of the overly flourished baroque sound that the aristocracy was reluctant to let go of.”

Sarah Schachner’s action-driven score for Assassin’s Creed® Unity immerses players in the time period during which the action takes place but also reflects the game’s overarching modern sci-fi element. “The combat music in Unity needed to strike a balance between the methodical and calculated chamber sound of the era while also encompassing the passion and struggle that was at the center of the revolution,” continues Schachner. “As always with the franchise, the player is periodically reminded of the sci-fi modern Abstergo element with low gritty analog synth pulses weaving in and out of the classical soundscape.”

Sarah’s previous scoring credits include arranging and composing additional music for Brian Tyler on various cinematic projects such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Far Cry 3, Now You See Me, Iron Man 3 and Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, which was nominated for a 2014 BAFTA Award for Best Original Music. Her upcoming projects include the Lionsgate horror thriller Lazarus produced by Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Purge) and starring Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Donald Glover, Evan Peters and Sarah Bolger. Lazarus premieres in US theaters January 2015.

Set in a once-magnificent Paris, Assassin’s Creed Unity plunges into the terror of the 1789 French Revolution and features the most dense and immersive Assassin’s Creed city ever created. Through the streets of Paris, the starving inhabitants are set to take up arms for freedom and equality. In this time of chaos and brutality, a young man named Arno, wounded by the loss of those he loved, sets on a deadly path of redemption. Arno’s pursuit throws him into the middle of a ruthless struggle for the fate of a nation, and transforms him into a true Master Assassin.

Assassin’s Creed® Unity is on November 11 in the US and on November 13 in Europe. For more information visit

This weekend in the Twin Cities (in St. Paul, technically), there’s a new game media convention called Gamer’s Rhapsody. I’m participating in two panels, although I think I’m most excited for performances by Dale North, Nerd Enhanced Sound, Disasterpeace and Jake Kaufman. Here are some reasons you should come if you’re in the neighborhood:

Saturday at noon, I’m sitting on a panel called “Hey Listen! Linking video game music to its classical roots”. Coolest part is, this one wasn’t even my idea. Tim Turi of Game Informer, along with the three brothers (two of whom are pictured in the link) of the Super Marcato Bros., hatched that plan. We’ll be talking about how classical music inspired composers from all walks of video game life, 8-bit era through modern game scores.


Later the same day, I get to have a panel conversation with Disasterpeace (Rich Vreeland, who wrote the soundtrack to Fez), and Jake Kaufman (Shovel Knight). I’m looking forward to this – I’m fascinated by the workings of the 8-bit composer’s mind. Even though Rich and Jake wrote Fez and Shovel Knight using similar sounds, these are two completely different soundtracks. Like BioShock’s orchestral score vs. Dead Space 2. Similar tools, different results.

If you live in the vicinity and want to be connected to the gaming community, this is the place to be. The International Game Developers Association Twin Cities chapter will be there. Several Twin Cities developers and studios, like Yellow Chord Audio, Big John Games and Thought Shelter Games will have tables there.

If you’re into remixing video game tracks, there are a couple must-see options: Dale North has a panel about what makes a remix great, and (trying to contain my glee) OC Remix is coming!

Saturday night is all about the music. Dale North, who is Destructoid’s editor in chief, recently finished a score for Dragon Fantasy Book II. He’s also a singer/songwriter and is doing a set Saturday evening.

Nerd Enhanced Sound is a local trio that normally goes by the name Orange Mighty Trio. These three fellas play covers of video game soundtracks from the old days, like Contra, Metroid, Duck Tales and Marble Madness. There’s plenty of Mario in there too. Piano, bass and violin makes for a great alternative to the originals!

Disasterpeace is doing a set – he’s also a singer/songwriter and I’m looking forward to hearing a different side of Rich’s musical brain. His Fez score was so intelligent and thoughtful – well planned, well constructed – I imagine his other music will do the same.


Purchase the Fez soundtrack right here!

Jake Kaufman is the only one I’ve never interviewed or met. That right there is reason enough to hear his set Saturday night at the end of a long day! I love his Shovel Knight score and can’t wait to hear more of his music.

If you’re in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, I highly encourage you to come to Gamer’s Rhapsody. It’ll be an intimate group (it’s the first year, remember) so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet folks and ask questions, or show off your own creativity!

Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.

A little over a month ago, I began counting down my favorite games across the last generation of consoles. If you missed the last couple entries please: click here.

# 9. Ubisoft and the Assassin’s Creed series -

Say what you will about the first Assassin’s Creed, its ad nauseam parade of derivative objectives, repetitive mission structure, and its dead-eyed, bloodless protagonist Altair – any of these may be chief among your complaints. I hear you. BUT. That’s not the reason so many left unsatisfied. No, no… it all came down to what was initially outlined, what was not so much promised, but alluded to, er promised. There were some rather large dice being tossed about Ubisoft’s conference room shuffleboard set, and even larger bets.


Watch: The first Assassin’s Creed Trailer

The trouble inherent with big promises is that they remain an elusive and seldom delivered ingredient within packaged games, and Assassin’s Creed’s trail of strewn letters to its many lovers all promised an affair like no other: exclusive, gorgeous, many the gifts and most importantly, hot and heavy. Assassin’s Creed’s first date, however, if you will, is more akin to a blind double date with dinner at a Wienerschnitzel, and a dingy, two- transfer bus ride to your love in waiting. It’s all on your dime though, because the man on your arm just skipped out on the bill. Promises, promises.


Watch: The Madness Of King George

What I realized though was that UbiSoft ran out of time, plain and simple, because the glimmers of what might and would be coming were nothing short of cosmic. So what if at its inception, corners were painstakingly cut? Despite that, from time to time, you could still glimpse that original manifesto, the pen and paper drawings, the pitch, the frequency: VISION. Working to establish a top-tier brand, something with its very own distinguishing mark and signature are bound to encounter some form of jetlag or layovers, and the first Assassin’s Creed has a pouch full of meal vouchers and has been downgraded to coach more times than even it can accurately account for. That being said, there is absolute euphoria in its purgatory, and it is to be had in large and regular doses spread evenly throughout that debut title. Those blinding glimmers, the flesh of those ideal, proud tenets that were promised to me, MADE me stick around. It didn’t take Ubisoft long to correct the mistakes of its first child as the second seed heralded the deliverance of the goods: Suddenly, Assassin’s Creed had become one of my most beloved, and unbeknownst to me, easily sustained fixations.


Listen: Assassin’s Creed 2 Soundtrack – Venice Rooftops

The thing is, when I initially committed to take part in the Assassin’s Creed consumerism, I had no idea that the games would become an annualized event, where every November I would be placed into a darker shade of coat belonging to yet another similarly dressed assassin. While I have some disdain for this practice (every sequel should have a few years between entries.), I found Assassin’s Creed’s successive slew of sequels via tired slogans like Brotherhood, Revelations, and now Unity, surprisingly served over the counter and without prescription. Because… things happen when you’re given too much of a good thing, and suddenly I found myself comatose in the intervening months leading up to the next chapter. I had become a willing, violent addict growing increasingly dependent on this drip feed of expensive collectors’ editions, and preposterous bizarro-world exposition. Where else would you find the deranged what-if madness of King George Washington colliding with the imperturbable pfft of a dead Tutankhamen’s sarcophagus? You have yet to play Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Cartel Imhotep, but you will. You won’t be alone either, I will be right there with you, struggling to find more room for which to place my new limited edition 1/6th scale Pharaoh Assassin statue. This really is just the beginning I hope, as I can’t wait till they start in with the acronyms.


Having fallen in love only 4 times in his life Geno counts Double Dragon as his second and truest love.  He has worked in record retail since 2000 and believes David Hayter to be the one true Solid Snake.  Currently, he is putting together a band which only perform songs from Street Fighter 3rd Strike.

This fall. This fall was gorgeous in Minneapolis/St. Paul. We had amazing weather – lots of sunshine, and we’ve experienced a slow, steady decline in temperatures (which will continue for weeks).

I’ve missed most of that nice weather, and I’m okay with that. I’m an agoraphobic introvert who’s really great at passing off as an extrovert. I feel this is more complicated than just existing as a straight-up introvert. Regardless, I stay inside a lot, and I play a lot of games.

This fall, I’ve had the opportunity to play several games I’ve been waiting for, like Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Sunset Overdrive, Fantasia: Music Evolved, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments.

Am I playing any of these wonderful games? I played them all for short periods and truly enjoyed each of them. But am I playing them? Of course not, because two other titles came out in the late summer/early fall: Destiny, and Diablo III: Reaper of Souls.

Those damn games are ruining my life. They’re ruining it for quite different reasons, and one could learn from the other, but seriously.

Let’s take D3 for instance. I’ve written about this game enough times in the past – it’s fair to say there are hundreds and hundreds of challenges and goals to work toward in D3. This keeps me interested amidst all the repetition that comes with the game. I always have something to try and achieve, and I’m constantly rewarded with better and better loot, which allows me to battle tougher and tougher monsters.


Legendaries everywhere…

I can trade with my friends. This keeps my friends interested. I can battle their enemies and win them prizes. We can play together without ever playing together.

The D3 crew knows how to keep me in front of their game. That game is a perfect case study in the “carrot in front of the nose” idea. They wave that carrot loud and proud.

Destiny, like Diablo III, comes with a lot of repetition and far, far less incentive. At most, Bungie gives me binoculars with which I can barely make out the carrot at the end of the infinitely long stick, waving in front of my nose, off in the distance, like a tiny fairy queen on a mini parade float.

Those who play Destiny are after loot. In that game, loot comes inside ‘engrams’, which unlock and become your prize. The best color engrams to find, of course, are purple or gold. Purple is called legendary loot in Destiny, and gold loot is called exotic. Every exotic item I have, I either bought or earned through a special mission (these special missions are granted at random). I’ve never received exotic loot as a random drop, nor have I ever received exotic loot from a raid (arguably, the most interesting gameplay in Destiny occurs in the raid – (the raid being one of the more innovative types of multiplayer I’ve personally encountered on a console).


…nary a drop.

I’ve had more luck with legendary weapon drops, but the legendary armor drops tend to be for a different class than I’ve chosen to play. So, for every few hundred green or blue drops, I’ll get one purple one, that might not even be of use to me, and I can’t trade it with a friend.

The other night, I realized I’d amassed an entire legendary set of armor for a Titan (class). So I made a Titan character. And this is the rub – once I have the Titan leveled up, I’ll have three characters to run through the raid each week, to run the daily mission each day, to run the weekly and nightfall strikes each week.

Three times. Everything three times. Repetition with the quite rare reward. It’s a lot to ask. It’s pretentious, in a way, to expect the consumer to grind so much for so little. Or is it? Sometimes, I just want a damn reward. There aren’t enough hours in the day or in a week to be properly rewarded from Destiny. What game takes up all of your time, and why? What keeps you playing? How do you personally feel about loot rewards in games? What are your experiences with repetition vs. rewards in games?

Emily Reese is an on-air host for Classical Minnesota Public Radio. She is also the host and producer for Top Score, Classical MPR’s podcast about video game soundtracks, and created MPR’s Listening to Learn series. She earned an undergrad certificate in music education and jazz studies from the University of Colorado — Boulder, and a Master’s degree in music theory from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Emily lives in Twin Cities with her cat June Bug and loves gaming, with or without friends.


Iconic “Halo” video game OSTs 50% off on through January 2015!

Halo 2: 10th Anniversary Sale

Sumthing Else Music Works, the premier record label dedicated to video game soundtracks, celebrates the 10th anniversary of Halo 2 and upcoming Halo: The Master Chief Collection with a special sale on all the Halo original soundtracks. Commencing today and running through the end of January 2015, Sumthing’s entire catalog of the Halo original soundtracks, including both volumes of the classic Halo 2 soundtrack, are on sale for 50% off exclusively at

Widely considered to be among the greatest video game scores of all time, the best-selling Halo 2 Original Soundtrack was released in two volumes and features the iconic music of Martin O’Donnell and his writing partner Michael Salvatori, the composers behind the award-winning Halo: Combat Evolved Original Soundtrack (winner of Rolling Stone‘s Best Original Video Game Soundtrack Award). Halo 2 Original Soundtrack Volume One also includes the original compositions by Breaking Benjamin and Incubus as well as the signature guitar sounds of revered rock guitarist Steve Vai. The album was produced by Grammy® award-winning artist, musician, producer and Sumthing Else Music Works founder Nile Rodgers.

The following Halo soundtracks are on sale from

Halo: Combat Evolved Original Soundtrack
Halo 2 Original Soundtrack Volume One
Halo 2 Original Soundtrack Volume Two
Halo 3 Original Soundtrack
Halo 3: ODST Original Soundtrack
Halo Reach Original Soundtrack
Halo Legends Original Soundtrack
Halo Wars Original Soundtrack
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Soundtrack

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A little over a month ago, I began counting down my favorite games across the last generation of consoles. If you missed the last couple entries please click here.

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Watch: Bayonetta’s 2008 announcement trailer

#5 Platinum Games and Bayonetta - 

In the lead up to this week’s writing, I was busy scouring my shelves trying desperately to pick some lesser alternate candidate to crown in 5th place, my reasoning due to my reticence to place yet another Platinum games title onto this list. I fought it, but ultimately nothing stood above it without me hoisting said understudy onto my shoulders and coaching it with a nickel’s worth of borrowed, cheap athletic wear slogans. The number 5 slot on this list is goes to Bayonetta, and not some hastily assembled upstart puppet regime, which exists solely by the aid of my collarbone.

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Listen: Bayonetta soundtrack – The Gates of Hell

What it comes down to, for me, these days, concerning video games at least, is the level of absurdity, and Bayonetta wastes no time in dialing up the unfathomable, all the while willfully inebriated on the most magnificent of homebrew hooch. Why do stand-up in some dingy club, when you can tour those punch lines outside of its regulated confines, megaphone-main-street-parade style? This is one touring company not to miss, and Kamiya’s cast is a line of color so bizarre, slanted and captivating it’s no matter that his fuchsia rejects his mustard yellow; it’s all about that final shade… the mixture together, and I would wager a guess that Bayonetta is one of the only set of players to talk as loudly as its dressed, the only troupe with real personality for a thousand miles in every direction on any map. Without the characters, you’ve already doomed yourself to drown, but Kamiya’s all-hours house party attracts a very particular, and strikingly peculiar crowd to a room, and all of them are well beyond the dog paddle.

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Listen: Bayonetta soundtrack – Mysterious Destiny

Kamiya’s actors, however, make up but one single facet on his already-heavy key ring. Platinum redefined the pace and expectation of the action genre, adding an emphasis to established MPH on the highway. Everyone knows that when you’re out on a long road trip, it’s unlikely you’ll stick to the recommended postings: you’ll speed, and Platinum treats Bayonetta as it would a tire to the asphalt. Bayonetta discards the pace that the beat-em-up genre set for action games some 25 years earlier: NO MORE WALKING! Now you will get where you’re going in half the time. You won’t feel even a bump, and you’ll be in the best shape of your life.

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Watch: Bayonetta’s Wicked Weaves

Again, I could go on and on and ON about all the things this game does right, but I won’t because Platinum nails it where it matters most, and that is in the hand. Exactly 10 years ago, Tecmo’s Team Ninja completely overhauled the genre with Ninja Gaiden, a game I have played and beaten numerous times and on all its available difficulties. It’s still something I play every year without fail, and it feels tremendous even now when you wrap your fingers around it. BUT… Kamiya has exceeded even that title, usurping the throne while its complacent king sat idly by, staring at his trophies of old. When it comes down to it, the most important position is the one of power, the one that rules. This is Bayonetta’s coronation. Here’s to the centennial, the legacy to come… Long live the queen!


Having fallen in love only 4 times in his life Geno counts Double Dragon as his second and truest love.  He has worked in record retail since 2000 and believes David Hayter to be the one true Solid Snake.  Currently, he is putting together a band which only perform songs from Street Fighter 3rd Strike.

Composer - Song Name
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