When I think over my collection of music — I’m talking all of it, not just video game stuff — only one soundtrack comes to mind that is composed of two volumes unrelated in theme or sound. That soundtrack for the anime film, Appleseed, contains electronica and vocalized tracks on one CD and an orchestral score on the other. Lost Planet 3 presents a different listening challenge, if you will, because both volumes are composed by the same person, whom I adore: Jack Wall. The man who won my heart with Myst III and IV, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect, left me mostly puzzled here.
The first volume, nicknamed “Alien Country Music,” is supposed to reflect the music that the main character, Jim Peyton, listens to in order to remind himself of home… in the future. Supposing that country (or any other current music form) never dies, I’d say Jack has succeeded in conveying a country feel without being polarizing towards the larger fan base. It’s Country Lite, in a sense, and it’s largely effective at being inoffensive. If I was on the ice planet, EDN III, I would not be opposed to a coworker putting this stuff on while we worked. I imagine future-me to be more of an electronica guy, whatever wacky things those folks would be producing then, but it’s smart of Spark Unlimited to ask the composer to eschew the obvious. Leave the techno off the radio, and put the Tron-like florescent colors on the enemies instead of every single usable element. Unlike what I experienced with Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, the country music presented here is not so “alienating,” nor is it presented alongside overly long and confused suites.
Whistle while you work
The country track that struck me most was “Someone Like You,” which is a rather romantic song for the volume. It features a sweet arrangement of guitar, violin, and accordion that left me feeling vaguely reminiscent about old friendships and good times. The song is hard not to enjoy as it softly asks you to dance, melting the room away. And when you two are ready for something a bit more enlivening to bring everyone back on the floor, “Stompin’ Ground” chimes in as the full-on jig. Quick guitar/banjo work and a team of violinists saddle you up to the side of your best buddy in the saloon with all the expected hootin’ and hollerin’ you’d expect. There’s even the breakdown with the bass drum and some old fashioned clappin’ to situate you in the right mood. It’s cheeky and corny, but begrudgingly makes me smile.
Though I don’t know what incident would cause a lead character to listen to a song about himself, “The Ballad of Jim Peyton” touches on the same charming feelings as “Someone Like You.” Expressing less nostalgia and more calm reflection, this guitar-driven track displays a lot of talented complexity in its plucked strings. As you grow used to the acoustic sounds, the electric guitar makes itself noticeably more present for a brief reprieve before giving the show back to the other instruments again.
Moving to the second volume, the “Score,” as some would call it, Lost Planet 3 actually starts sounding like a slightly scary space adventure. “Lost Planet 3 Theme”, the 18th track on this two-hour soundtrack, begins the mystery of discovery for this prequel. Undulating strings, a chilling female vocalist, and a reaffirming brass section set the tone for the adventure, and the melody carries over into the next track, “New Surroundings.” The latter brings the sound firmly into the future with electronic musings and plodding programmed synths in the background. Between these two, an appropriate sense of exploration and reservation is established, setting the stage for tracks to come.
Though there are a number of ably composed tracks to fit this adventure, “A Pack of Goonroe” stands out with its unique tribal feel. Of course, most songs with a didgeridoo feel tribal by default, but Jack brought me back to Haven in Myst IV: Revelations (listen to “The Predator”), with an evocative set of percussion to back it up. Though brief, this song gives the greatest sense of being somewhere unfamiliar and possibly being stalked by a creature among the foliage, of which there would be little on an ice planet. The most striking track from the score for me was the last one, “The Forgotten.” Using more synths and electronic beats, it acts as a perfect foil to the orchestral theme in the beginning. The listener is left with a sense of beauty — surrounded in space with ice crystals and barren caves and shocking prisms of color. In all its subtlety, Wall has crafted an expert end theme that stands out among the pack.
“Disturbing a pack of Goonroe is ill-advised.” – an excerpt from Jim Peyton’s Didgeri-Don’t’s
Ultimately, my ambivalence about this soundtrack comes from my own expectations from Jack Wall as a composer. No song, save for the struggling “In the Bayou,” is bad at all. It’s all rather good. But the things I’m used to listening to from him communicate more fantasy and more wonderment. I’m used to albums full of songs that each command presence, which he normally does without delving into histrionics — a masterful feat. While his latest installment may contradict this a bit, where expectation fails me, Wall’s offering ultimately succeeds.
The Lost Planet 3 soundtrack is available now on iTunes and Amazon. The game is also available now at all major retailers.
Gil is a video game enthusiast and professional meanderer. When he’s not giving people his unsolicited grammar corrections, he is out and about seeking exciting food and even more exciting single-player experiences. He’s got one of them Twitters (@gilmeansjoy) and a blog or something (fromthebacklog.blogspot.com).