Compared to Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2 may have a more technically impressive and complex soundtrack, but I’ll always like this one a little more, I think. Perhaps part of this arises from my memories of Mass Effect, my first foray into the current generation a few Christmases ago that made that winter very special. Impeccable area themes and hypnotizing synth melodies, however, give me greater reason to favor this over the sequel, which toned those down in favor of a more orchestral and cinematic score.
We begin with the “Mass Effect Theme,” an indelible piece of video game history. One of the most inspiring main themes ever composed, the theme tells Shepherd’s story without words. Hearing it is at once nostalgic and hopeful for the future, and I have no doubt we’ll all hear this again soon. Tracks like “The Normandy” define why I favor this soundtrack: synth compositions that perfectly convey the cold mystery of outer space. Perhaps the best of these is “Liara’s World,” a cold and alien soundscape that creates a world by itself. The “Noveria” theme, the Citadel themes, and the pinnacle of the soundtrack, “Uncharted Worlds,” all make incredible background music for exploring a science fiction universe. “Uncharted Worlds” remains one of my favorite pieces of video game music to date, and Bioware better keep it for the final game in the trilogy.
The cinematic tracks aren’t always incredibly compelling out of context. This is where Mass Effect 2’s soundtrack may have the edge. There are a few exceptions, however, such as “Citadel,” which marks Shepherd’s entrance to the majestic space station. “Uplink” stands out as well with its dramatic build to spiky synth bliss. A couple of ending tracks channel the main theme to create coherence and remind us all of the human behind it all.
Capping off the soundtrack is the wildly appropriate and unexpectedly stirring electronic rock track “M4 Part 2” by Faunts, an indie band from Edmonton. Using a licensed track could have been disastrous in a fictional future, but Bioware chose well, and I can’t imagine the soundtrack having a better conclusion. Overall, Mass Effect’s OST succeeds in and out of the game. Such a groundbreaking RPG deserves a fantastic soundtrack, and that’s just what it has.