Game Music, Reviews

THIS. IS. EPIC. Ancient Wars: Sparta Soundtrack (Review)

May 4, 2009 | | 12 Comments Share thison Facebook THIS. IS. EPIC. Ancient Wars: Sparta Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

While Ancient Wars: Sparta might look like an Age of Empires III knock-off on first glance with its familiar graphical style and gameplay mechanics, it distinguishes itself with its focus on one aspect of the ancient world. Ancient Wars: Sparta revolves around the affairs of the Spartans and features some pretty fitting music. The game specifically targets a period of human strife in the ancient world, and the music almost exclusively highlights a dark, warlike mood through the slow-paced tempo guided by the heavy beats of the percussion.

Three film/video game cross-over composers collaborated for this soundtrack, none of whom I had previous heard of: Markus Schmidt, Alex Pfeffer, and Alexander Roder. It’s always interesting to see what film composers will bring to the table when they work on games, and the fact that three such composers were working on this game had me curious when I picked this one up.

Did this collaboration pay off? Find out in our review of Ancient Wars: Sparta after the jump.

The first thing you’ll notice about the soundtrack is that the music is incredibly epic. Throughout the entire album, you can hear the pounding beats of the percussion along with blaring brass and choir that creates a wall of sound. In terms of composition, I was immediately reminded of Hans Zimmer’s epic scores for Gladiator and Pirates of Caribbean, and while this is of course a good thing, too much of a good thing can be bad when every track sounds the same and there’s no diversity presented on the album. There are a few occasional moments where other orchestral instruments such as strings, woodwinds, or a harp add something unique to a piece, but these instances are rare.

The aptly titled opening piece, “Sparta,” embodies the soul of the game within its short length. When the song starts, you are instantly immersed in the moving and inspiring tempo, reminiscent of the drums of war that often drove battles in the ancient world. This track is perhaps the best and most memorable piece of the whole soundtrack.

The Spartan era was all about fighting, as we know from the historically accurate film, 300. Some of the most successful tracks on the album emphasize this fact, including “No Surrender,” “Sharp Scimitars,” “Heart of Iron,” and “The Gods at War.” All these pieces are epic, aggressive, and militaristic – capturing the ears of the listener while motivating players to push onward toward victory.

While the majority of the soundtrack consists of warlike themes, there are some slower, exotic tracks like “Break the Chains,” “Arabian Horde,” and “Come to Babylon.” They are quite effective in the game because, like I’ve mentioned, the majority of the music sounds really aggressive. The last track, “Peace,” works well for this same reason, with its quiet, major-key melody creating a sense of victory and accomplishment.

Overall, the music of Ancient Wars: Sparta is a well composed. Whether the original intent of the score was to arouse the inert suspicions and primitive instincts in the player or not, the music successfully provides a guttural sense of paranoia and aggression that really puts you in the shoes of a warrior from that time period. It perfectly motivates and serves its purpose, enhancing the game play, although the lack of diversity makes it difficult at times for outside listening. The album is currently being offered by KeepMoving Records for $7.99 plus shipping, so maybe it’s worth checking out for the low price tag.

Have you played Ancient Wars: Sparta and heard the music in the game? What are your thoughts about film composers crossing over into games?

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