Game Music, Indie Music, Reviews

Get Your Indie On With Eschalon: Books I and II Music (Review)

December 29, 2010 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook Get Your Indie On With Eschalon: Books I and II Music (Review)on Twitter

Indie developer Basilisk Games has had some success with its Eschalon RPG series. Like many Western indie RPGs, the game is a mostly medieval fantasy with some anachronistic elements, and it comes complete with the to-be-expected isometric viewpoint. The series is broken into “books.” Book I was released in 2007, and Book II was released in 2010.

Borislav Slavov and Victor Stoyanov were on-hand to create the music for these two games (and, with luck, will remain on tap for the planned Book III). Mr. Slavov, who goes by the name “Glorian,” has worked on better-known European titles since Eschalon, including Two Worlds. Stoyanov, himself a co-composer, is also primarily responsible for Eschalon‘s MIDI orchestration.

We got a ten-track set of music direct from the composers: six from Eschalon: Book II and four from Book I. Our critique of the music comes… after the jump.

I’ve heard more sequenced MIDI RPG music than most of my peers. I’ve heard the absolute worst of it, and I’ve heard things so inspiring, so close to being life-like, that it has deeply moved me. Putting those two categories as extremes on a 1 to 10 scale, I can without hesitation throw the Eschalon soundtracks a solid, well-deserved 8. If I were to subscore it, I’d give a 9 or 10 for life-like-ness (MIDI has never been better), and a 7 for quality of composition.

There’s not much I can do in writing to defend my point about the sound quality. But I would like to qualify my score regarding the compositions. It’s not the decoration or flourish that suffers. These things are fine. It is in the melodies themselves that I see room for improvement.

I love simple, slow-paced melodies as much as anyone. But this soundtrack could have used some variation. And by that, I mean variation in very fundamental ways. Change up the time signature now and then. Find effective use of modal scales for your melodies. Hand off the melody from one instrument to the next (well actually, they do this pretty well at this in a track or two).

Where the music does leave an impression is in its consistent style. This is a very traditional blend of Renaissance and Baroque era music with the trappings of modern, Western commercial score.

For the most part, I found a marked improvement in Book II, but I also love the title theme music to Book I. The non-lyrical vocal part in the title theme really brings something special to the track. It’s used in a very sparse way: it’s not LotR-clone overkill. It’s just right.

It is my sincere desire that, after Eschalon: Book III is published, a full retail soundtrack is released for the trilogy. Meanwhile, gamers should consider giving the games a chance, and be sure to enjoy the in-game audio as well until such a time that a full soundtrack is available.

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