In the final edition of Mass Replay (for now), I take a look at my favorite tracks from the final chapter in Shepard's story. This one holds a special place for varying reasons: the departure of Jack Wall; the surprisingly minor contribution of Clint Mansell; a vibrant return to the themes evoked by the first game; exceptionally dramatic artistry. The soundtrack also incorporates elements from the DLC theme music for Mass Effect 2 - Sascha Dikiciyan and Chris Velasco of Arrival fame, also contributed- so some of it may sound familiar, but I consider them subtle ways to reference and introduce new players to equally satisfying sounds. Here's my list of the cues that stand out most to me. Note: Videos sometimes have a problem remaining posted, so I've included a link to each song in the respective title in case they are removed.


10) I'm Proud of You

This piece, like several others in Mass Effect 3's OST is very minimal, however it remains one of my primary favorites. The skillful use of strings isn't innovative in any way, yet the strong and well-controlled performance is what grabs me. The piano solo at the end is also a somber way of saying goodbye to one of Mass Effect's many superb characters, and the evocative tone of "I'm Proud of You" embodies the heroism of Anderson without being contrived. The only weakness I can find in this song is that it's incredibly short, and I feel that the piano solo especially could benefit from a little elaboration. Otherwise it's still a pleasure to listen to.


9) Leaving Earth

We just knew Clint Mansell was going to completely transform the third game's score when it was announced that he'd also be composing. Yet, all we got was "Leaving Earth" (along with "An End Once and For All", co-written with Hulick), a memorable cue nonetheless that sets the tone for the rest of the game with a four chord piano progression, a descant, and even the shockingly raw brass notes that recall Hans Zimmer's work in Inception. The inclusion of string instruments in addition to the fusion of all these varying elements epitomizes the Mass Effect 3 experience: uncertain, melancholic, and filled with sacrifice.


8) Prothean Beacon

"Prothean Beacon" is very subtle, with a sense of ambience that gives it incredible depth. Velasco and Dikiciyan were clearly inspired by Vangelis' work in Blade Runner, and it shows through their stylistic approach: a masterful blend of synth and orchestra in a relatively minimalistic approach. Filled with beautifully arranged electro-acoustic strings and a haunting voice that glides throughout it, this cue creates an atmosphere of lingering menace. 


7)  Mars

As the motif to the first mission after Shepard's escape from Earth, "Mars" is an impressive first start. Beginning with nostalgic and ambient synths that immediately recall the first the Mass Effect, we later see the score shift tempo into an impressive string of rapid-firing ostinati, mixed with the heavier bass reminiscent of "Leaving Earth". There's a sense of foreboding, especially with each reprise, that continues to intensify as the cue progresses. There's not an ounce wasted in this track, and Hulick's orchestral samples are equally top-notch.


6) The Ardat Yakshi

I think this cue successfully encapsulates the dread and terror awaiting both the characters and the players in the Ardat Yakshi sanctuary with an intense ambience that slowly creeps upon you. There's a brilliant use of orchestral instruments to emphasize this terror. It also was an excellent introduction to one of Mass Effect 3's most disturbing - and tough - new enemies. There's a crescendo later on that segues into a lonely piano lead that reins the listener in with the sense of tragedy it conveys with each note. A very emotive piece.


5) Rannoch

This motif is very energetic, with electronic beats that give the track a wonderfully consistent and well-underscored pulse. "Rannoch" also features the excellent usage of brass that lends it a sense of sinister tension and conflict that never lets up. This is another example of Mass Effect 3's fantastic return to the atmospheric and futuristic science fiction sound that captivated us before in the first Mass Effect. What I like the most however, both in and out of context, is how superbly this piece is composed; the transitions flow incredibly well, even as the tempo slows about midway. Dikiciyan, noted for his work in Tron: Evolution, successfully incorporates metallic sounds that recall his previous work.


4) Sur'Kesh

This is my favorite planetary motif, suspenseful, tense, and dramatic in all the right places with seamless transitions. This cue definitely feels like it belongs in an A-list spy film. Christopher Lennertz's experience as a composer definitely shows through in his creative use of foreboding notes and electronic ostinati that form the basis of the tempo until the orchestra joins in later on. Lennertz also blends in nearly mechanical synth in the climax for optimal ear candy; the tempo of this motif is always energetic and engaging.


3) The Reaper Chase

This is Mass Effect 3 at its most bombastic, with powerful choruses that soar in harmony, thunderous brass, and extensive string arrangements that propel the track forward. It's the quintessential marriage of everything we loved about both Mass Effect 1 and 2 and epitomizes the space opera in every way conceivable. It's also a welcome change from the subdued and more understated tracks in the game. Then again, a track as grandiose as this is befitting for an equally adrenaline-laced turret battle with the Reaper on Rannoch. The way it segues later on into Shepard's singlehanded showdown against the Reaper is equally priceless.


2) We Face our Enemy Together

Nothing gets more epic than this piece. You've pushed yourself to the limit, battled the Reapers and their minions throughout the galaxy while searching for assistance in the battle to retake Earth, and have now reached the final stretch in the push toward the Catalyst. Then, it's down to Shepard's final speech to the comrades we've grown to love throughout the series. In keeping with tradition, this cue is especially dramatic and slowly increases as the string chords build into dynamic harmony. The use of a snare sets the perfect tempo as horns underscore the theme for a brief moment of inspiration and hope. This cue especially reminded me of the Alliance's victory in the battle against Sovereign in the first Mass Effect, so it feels like the perfect rallying cry to an incredible finale.


1) A Future For the Krogan

This cue is my favorite; the melodic voice of the soloist is angelic and effortlessly flows throughout, instantly humanizing it and epitomizing the irresistibly mystical personality of Eve. The soloist's presence, just like the character she represents, provides the necessary stabilizing force to the bombast and militaristic tone that it takes on. Then of course, there's the fantastic way it ends with a wonderfully emotive trio of wails that encapsulates all the stakes of the mission at hand with a dire sense of harmony: will Shepard succeed in helping the Krogan cure the Genophage? Will the Krogan finally recover, or will their clans return to their hopelessly violent and war-torn past? Will there finally be peace with the other races, or will they wage a new war against the galaxy? There's hope, but there's also a lingering uncertainty that draws me back to this cue each time I hear it.


The Verdict

Although Jack Wall didn't compose this soundtrack, the ensemble cast of composers contributed their own styles for an impressively diverse soundtrack that paid tribute to the first entry in the Mass Effect series while introducing its own unique touches. Each of the tracks is successful in embodying the respective mood and environment, making for a heavily-thematic and emotional soundtrack. But don't take my word for it; judge for yourselves.

Which ones are your favorites?