Halo Wars 2 Original Game Soundtrack
Halo Wars 2 Original Game Soundtrack
Sumthing Else Music Works
February 17, 2017
Buy at Amazon
Halo Wars 2, the sequel to the 2009 RTS Halo Wars, brought in a trio of composers to follow Stephen Rippy’s legacy from the first score. The new composers ended up including Gordy Haab, Brian Lee White, and Brian Trifon – the latter having done extensive guitar performance on the Assassin’s Creed series and arrangement on Halo: Combat Evolved. The soundtrack is divided thematically over two discs, one of which features the more orchestral tracks, and the other featuring the more electronic work on the score.
Disc 1 opens with “Recommissioned,” a bombastic opening track that opens up with a few ominous strings and vocals that quickly develop into a fast-paced, rhythmic theme. The track also introduces the tone of the first disc, which is heavily cinematic. “Barren” uses an animated melody from a section of frantic strings, and “Antediluvian” is packed with brass from every octave. Many of the tracks also have a male choral element, which brings to mind the original Halo theme.
Incidentally, the theme is highly prominent across the album. Tracks like “Bon Voyage, Bon Chance” and “Arise, Goodbye” open with a variation on the main Halo theme, using the iconic male chorus alongside the orchestra to suggest the theme without actually incorporating it. The theme shows up in earnest in tracks like “Infamy” with a full, bold realization through the entire orchestra, and in “Heads Up Display”, which opens with the theme before moving onto a slower, thoughtful string piece.
There are a couple of tracks that take the less flashy approach, at least in parts. “Isabel’s Awakening” is a more somber strings track with a slow, mournful melody and a triumphant change of mood by the end. “The Banishing” uses a staccato string section to make a playful little ostinato alongside a light melody that soon sinks to more dramatic levels (which also features the main Halo theme towards the end). These types of tracks are heavily outnumbered by others like “Demonslayer”, a powerful brassy track with an accompanying women’s chorus, which has the general sound and placement on the disc of a final battle theme.
The first disc is akin to a classic Halo score – not Halo 5, but more along the lines of the first three games. The second disc, on the other hand, features a careful blend of ambiance and orchestra for a more otherworldly tone. “Cratered” opens the album with a few gentle piano notes and a synth percussion, tonally beginning the second disc very differently from the first one. The piano makes a return in several other tracks including “Simulacra”, which soon builds into a heavier orchestral track.
“Tactical Error” brings the listener to the raw side of electronic tracks with a few static, buzzing sounds juxtaposed with softer notes emulating a chorus and clear electric guitar. “Gambit” takes a more industrial approach – while we still have the now-standard gentle notes playing a motif at the heart of the piece, it is accompanied by a range of metallic and throaty synth sounds. “Fog of War” uses a delightfully off-key series of notes for a catchy arpeggiated motif, whereas the much wider range of sounds used in “Last Stand” functions almost like the orchestra from the first album, with a few piano notes anchoring the piece in familiar musical territory.
My favorite part of this album is the surprisingly mellow nature of several of the tracks. “Scorched Earth” brings together a combination of string-like effects, from a series of plucked notes to lengthy tones with a dramatic vibrato. “Calculated Risk” has an almost meditative feel to it – the held-out tones are not unlike the vibrato-heavy notes from “Scorched Earth,” but there are more of them and they frequently are in harmony with each other. The piece has a stronger overall direction than its predecessor. Towards the end, “Dug In” brings the piano back alongside some more piercing notes that repeat over and over as other musical layers add to the complexity of the piece.
While the first disc was a bit overwhelming to listen to on the whole, I enjoyed a lot of the melodic content packed into the score. It’s along the lines of what one might expect from a cinematic Halo score, but the musical content is solid. Outside of the game’s context, however, I preferred the second disc, which had a more varied approach in terms of intensity and style. The soundtrack is available on iTunes and Amazon.
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Posted on April 10, 2017 by Emily McMillan. Last modified on April 10, 2017.