Game Music, Reviews

A Supernatural Cinematic Soundtrack – The Order: 1886 OST (Review)

February 25, 2015 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook A Supernatural Cinematic Soundtrack – The Order: 1886 OST (Review)on Twitter

It’s seems to be a good time to be a supernatural and horror-based game right now. With games like NightCry being funded on Kickstarter, Resident Evil Revelations 2 being release episodically and Bloodborne right around the corner, it’s nice for horror buffs like myself to see a verity of creepy stuff being released. The Order: 1886 skirts this same genre, being a supernatural/action FPS with a fair helping of grimdark tones. Having the composer of Dead Space  and F.E.A.R. 3 at the helm of the soundtrack certainly doesn’t hurt in the creation of the general atmosphere of the game either, one would wager.

The Order: 1886 tells the tale of an alternate-history earth, dredged within the 19th century where the Victorian era has lasted a fair bit beyond what was in social studies textbooks for us. Industry and invention for Britain has turned the tides of war against the half-breed beastials that humanity has been fighting against for centuries, and a small handful of magical MacGuffin has made it so King Arthur and his Knights can continue to lead London in the fight against the savages. Basically, it’s a combination of steampunk and the Underworld series, though without the vampires.

Jason Graves brings together the general mood of this menagerie of dark gameplay and gritty scenery with his orchestral score. His low, sweep cinematic score gives the shrouded battlefields of the game both an unease and a tension that helps drive gameplay forward, the majority of which aren’t reactive but subtle and vaguely haunting at their core. Deep bassoons, a healthy string ensemble and a male choir help paint the auditory picture.

The Knight’s Theme” – The Order: 1886

Some pieces, such as the above “The Knight’s Theme” are quite emotionally-charged. There isn’t an over-complication with multiple orchestral sections, which allows a focus on simple melody that’s given a weight to it. I particularly appreciate these kinds of pieces, especially within a theatrical-type score.

I was a bit disappointed to find that, compared to these pieces, the rest of the soundtrack falls a bit flat to me. The melody seems to fade in favor of a more subtle approach that you find in the background of many of the cinematic game scores of the recent years. This is an unfortunate trend I’ve seen, much as I touched upon in my Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 OST review – lack of  defining melody through many AAA scores that grabs your attention upon first listening to it. You have a soundtrack filled with a fair chunk of forgettable tracks that seem base, and purposefully regulated to the background in favor of a focus on gameplay. I often question if this is something that is a necessity in today’s games. Obviously, you don’t want a high-energy track punctuating a relatively low-key part of the game, but that’s not what I’m saying you need. Rather, something memorable, like the games of yesteryear on the consoles of the ’90s. The Super Castlevania 4‘s of days gone by.

That’s not to say that this in any way poison’s the game’s soundtrack, and it’s only a matter of one’s tastes. Certainly, this isn’t a problem endemic to the entire game. One of my personal favorite tracks, “The Covenant”, did a good job of capturing my attention and enticing me to hit the replay button more than once. The incredible bass delivered within the track and the stellar use of the male choir helped accentuate a fantastic use of violin work that, I have to say, made me think of the music within Burton’s Batman and combining it with its alternate-universe successor, The Dark Knight. This is the type of track I’d wished there had been more of within the album.

The Covenant” – The Order: 1886

Another piece I enjoyed was “Galahad’s Theme”, which bookends the album. Everything at Grave’s disposal is brought into this piece, and even without playing the game itself you get a sense of the the epic and heart-wrenching tones being brought into play. Again, the choir and strings in this track are used to their fullest to deliver and empathetic feel. It does a good job of wrapping up the album, just as “The Knight’s Theme” did to open it.

Don’t let my critique cripple your ability to enjoy this soundtrack. Graves is as talented a composer as they come, and certainly worthy of the awards and accolades he’s received for his work. Scores such as these simply bring about the question of how much mellow, theatrical background music is too much? Is there even such a thing? I won’t lie and say that I didn’t think some pieces within the album weren’t a bit bland and carbon-copies of similar themes heard in other big-name game titles and blockbuster movies, because I did. However, perhaps more tame compositions is required in games such as these. I have confessed in the past that I once thought Super Castlevania 4‘s soundtrack was also too bland, and now years later, it is my favored of the franchise’s soundtracks. I do believe more could have been put into some of the tracks to create a better balance of the mundane and the melodic, but having not played the game, perhaps that skews my viewpoint.  I look forward to revisiting this soundtrack later on and seeing if I feel the same then.

I’ve stood on my soapbox long enough, however. The Order: 1886’s OST is currently for sale over on iTunes for $10.99. While I don’t think it’s Jason Grave’s strongest composition, I do agree that it had merits and strengths to it that will likely appeal to fans of grand cinematic music. I’d recommend that anyone who enjoyed the game and/or has an appreciation for fully-orchestrated score give it a listen and see what you think of the questions I raised, and be sure to let us know what your opinion is.

The Order: 1886 Original SoundtrackiTunes

Jason GravesWebsite | Twitter

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