Game music should do everything it can to enhance the gaming experience, but like any other industry, the concept of trends still apply.
Some composers seem to defy trends and thoughts of what a certain genre should sound like, at least for a specific project.
Here’s a short list of different yet fitting soundtracks:
- American McGee’s Alice – Chris Vrenna. You either love it or hate it, and this seems to apply to both the game and the soundtrack. The twisted fairy-tale style fits the overall feel perfectly, and is only weakened by the occasional bad production (which is surprising, given Vrenna’s work through the years). Apparently, the majority of the sounds were recorded by Vrenna himself, using tinker toys and anything he could get his hands on. Soundtrack available from Amazon and the like.
- Arcanum – Ben Houge. This magic- and steampunk rpg set in a Victorian-inspired world is accompanied mainly by a string quartet. Compared to the big orchestral scores, this feels stripped down, giving an intimate, slower feel that really suits Troika’s unique world.
The soundtack is freely available, and as an extra bonus, you can also download the actual sheet music for the instruments. Download here.
- Fallout 1 & 2 – Mark Morgan. Morgan really did a unique job on these games, capturing the weirdness and unease that was present in these titles. There were a surprising amount of ambient soundscapes in these games, nowadays unusual outside of the horror genre.
- Deus Ex 2 – Alex Brandon. Brandon took a decidently risky departure from the first game’s cathy melodies, opting instead for abstract, ambient soundscapes for a big part of the game. And it worked. Being an avid ambient and soundscape fan, I think this is a brilliant and unique direction.
These games have another thing in common: unusual settings and worlds. Perhaps the unique vision of the design teams allowed the musicians to go beyond the conventional sounds of game music.