A Melodic Journey Through Space: The Music of Mass Effect

Hello everyone. Welcome to Listen Up! First, before I begin with today’s topic, allow me to run through what this column is.

This is a column on the sounds of gaming: music, sound effects, whatever. One week could be about a soundtrack, the next week about voice acting, the next dealing with my top 10 soundtracks ever — I’ll try my best to mix it up.

I will provide songs from the soundtracks I discuss by uploading them or linking through YouTube, but sound effects might be harder to come by. If anyone knows a good gaming sound effect site, please leave it in the comments.

One more thing…I will be talking about when in the game these songs/sound effects happen, so consider yourself warned…

Now then, join me on a journey through space with the Mass Effect soundtrack, won’t you?

Mass Effect: The Soundtrack.

When one normally thinks about Mass Effect, the storyline usually comes to mind first — the epic tale of a space commander thrust into a situation where one false move could mean the end of humanity. While the story is great, the soundtrack is easily one of the best of 2007, if not one of the best soundtracks ever. Jack Wall and Sam Hulick create a sound that will thrust you into a variety of emotions. Every piece in the soundtrack is great, but I’m going to highlight my top three — the very best that this game has to offer.

#3: Virmire Ride

This track, as the title suggests, is played when you land on Virmire and ride to Saren’s base. The ride is filled with combat, as geth swarm the path trying to stop you from thwarting Saren’s plan. If I was going into battle against an army of super-robots, this is the track I would ride into battle with. The driving drum beat and the horns bellowing over it make for a great moment through the winding canyons of Virmire’s surface. Interestingly enough, this track borrows its main melody from the game over track, called Saren. This is an example of what Wall and Hulick did best with their musical decisions: they made the music fit the moment. It’s as if they watched the scene take place before they wrote the music for it. It is truly a great song, and it really gets me in a Geth-killing mode whenever I play through this part of the game.

#2: Love Theme

A fit of passion. A sudden urge of romance. The knowledge that this could be your last night with her (or him). The culmination of all of those feelings. This is the song that plays during the infamous Mass Effect love scene. I could not think of a better representation of the pure emotions running through that moment, no matter which path you chose. It starts with a heartbeat; soft, but a pulse that can be felt throughout the entire song. That pulse is even more poignant during the scene itself, as it starts during the conversation between Shepard and his choice, as if counting down to the culmination. The piano entrance adds a delicate touch to the driving pulse, creating the feeling that while this is a great moment, it could also end up being a tragic moment — one final romantic evening. The song’s tragic side is made clear during the other time it’s played, when you tell Kaidan or Ashley that you’re leaving them behind. The song takes on a whole new persona; not one of love and passion, but a heavy sadness, knowing that you will lose one of your own. This is a beautiful piece, whether you view it as a romantic, passionate track or a somber, sad one. Pure genius. 

#1: Vigil

Vigil. In the game, it’s the AI on Ilos who basically fills you in on everything Prothean. However, most know the song as the first thing you hear when you turn the game on. The song has a certain heroic quality to it, one that lets you know that while it can calm you almost to sleep, it can also make you feel like you’re about to embark on a journey unlike anything you’ve ever been a part of. The soothing background synths and lone lead synth calm you down, but as soon as the voices hit, the song becomes a fitting prelude to an awesome adventure. This, to me, is one of those tracks where you can sit back and immerse yourself in the game without even pressing the start button. Not very many games have opening tracks like this. Wall and Hulick outdid themselves, without a doubt.

Well, there you have it. If you want more Mass Effect soundtrack goodness, check out the tracks "From the Wreckage," "Sovereign’s Theme," and "Mass Effect Theme." All three are also very good tracks.

Thank you for reading, and until next week…

Keep listening. You’ll never know what you’re missing if you don’t. 


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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