The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 14
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
2) We Face our Enemy Together
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.
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?