The Longest Journey Original Soundtrack
The Longest Journey Original Soundtrack
April 21, 2001
Buy Used Copy
The Longest Journey is a highly acclaimed point-and-click adventure game made by Norwegian developer Funcom. It is widely regarded as having one of the best stories for a video game ever written to this day, and has the honorable status as one of the best adventure games ever made. It features some really interesting concepts and fascinating lore, much of which is very socially aware and can be related to real world issues. It also features some very mature content, such as harsh subject matter and edgy language, which was very rare for computer games in the late 90’s. However it was released at a time when the adventure game genre was dying out, and so it wasn’t quite as commercially successful as it could have been, though it retains a strong cult following, and is one of the primary games that people refer to when arguing for video games being art.
For the music of this game, Tor Linløkken offers up some electronic and ambient tracks, while Bjørn Arve Lagim writes some fantastical orchestral music. Though much of the music was released as a free download from Funcom’s FTP server, it was also presented in a specially prepared commercial physical release. Although a live orchestra was not used the samples, even the voice samples, have been really well engineered and the soundtrack sounds pretty decent, technically even by today’s standards, even if some of it hasn’t aged well from a technical point of view. Stylistically, the music is very mysterious and at times atmospheric, though there are still some highly memorable motifs and musical ideas expressed throughout the soundtrack. This soundtrack wouldn’t be out of place in a typical fantasy game, though it has several nuances that make it unique.
The “Main Menu” theme opens the soundtrack, and immediately creates a suitably mysterious and otherworldly feel with it’s focus on high strings, flutes and high pitched tuned percussion, with some understated lines in the bass end. This crescendos into a choir and full strings section before dying away and repeating. The next track, “Prologue”, keeps this otherworldly feel alive with it’s quiet choir and subtle strings and woodwinds, while the focus is placed on the moving guitar part, giving the track a lighthearted feel. These ideas are brought back for “Epilogue” in a more melodic fashion, this piece feels like a mini classical guitar concerto. The next track, “Main Titles”, takes a darker approach with it’s low drone in the basses and minor key. Multiple instruments and voices have melodies and counter-melodies at different points in the texture, which always keeps things interesting. This almost brooding texture then dies down into a section focusing on choir and unaccompanied oboe, before reintroducing the main harmonic motif found in the “Main Menu” theme. “End Credits” expands on the musical ideas featured in “Main Titles” as well as other tracks in the score. This track suggests that there is more to come from this story, which of course there is in the sequel Dreamfall.
As well as fantasy scoring, there are plenty of other musical styles explored in the soundtrack as well. “The Gargoyle and the Labyrinth” introduces some comical elements into the music, such as short woodwind stabs, pizzicato strings, low brass, and plenty of bending notes, this provides some great variety, and some of these ideas can also be found in “The Gribbler”. “Storm and Sea” on the other hand is incredibly dark and builds tension, while “The Deep and the Old God” has an eerie, almost religious, feel. “The Ghost House” feels to me like a creepy horror film, with its music box sounds over the top of some tension building orchestral writing, complete with swelling dynamics. Though this track eventually does change to a major key, rounding it off well. This dark writing is can also be found in the character themes of the antagonist “Jacob McAllen”, which give an appropriately evil vibe. Meanwhile “Danger” is an intense action cue featuring fast paced strings and loud brass.
Ethnic instrumentation also features in some tracks, giving certain tracks a more lighthearted feel. “Marcura and the Northlands” introduces some ethnic instruments halfway through the piece, including flutes, hunting horns and various percussion instruments. This ethnic instrumentation is also used in many other tracks, such as “Alais” and “Inside the Alatien City”, which both have a focus on the ethnic flute and light percussion; “Alais” using this to create an interesting soundscape, while “Inside the Alatien City” gives a musical sense of a grand scale and includes some touches. Among other shorter tracks on the soundtrack, “Venice” is quite dark, giving a completely different feeling of the city to the one found in Assassin’s Creed II. Meanwhile “The House of All Worlds” is a really nice piano and guitar focused track, which, like the ethnic writing, I wish there was more of. The rest of the tracks are similar to the orchestral writing we’ve heard before, but none of these tracks feel out of place or too short to mean anything, a testament to the skilful writing.
Tor Linløkken’s electronic based tracks still offer a similar vibe to that found in the orchestral writing, mainly focusing on synth pad sounds and lighter sounding drum beats. “Dragon” is a progressive piece with a slow drum beat and an understated female vocal, while “Shark” takes the speed up a bit and sounds more song-like but offers similar sounds. “Eagle” takes a different approach, starting off sounding very vintage and even including a quiet radio static, eventually developing into a fuller progressive electronic piece. “Dolphin” is very clever in its effect processing, often editing sounds to create the kind of distortion you would hear underwater, even including some water related sound effects in the mix. All of these tracks are very chilled out and relaxing, which is a welcome change of pace from the heavy fantasy scoring.
Compared to the digital release, a few tracks were omitted to ensure the physical release could fit on a single disc. These include “Gordon Halloway”, “The Alatien”, “Winterland”, and a Bach rendition. While none of these tracks are must-haves, they are all quite accomplished and “Winterland”, in particular, gives a taste of Lynne’s more electronic side. Thankfully, listeners can still supplement the physical release by downloading these legitimately. The physical release makes up for these omissions by including the exclusive “The Longest Journey Suite”, a 12 minute medley of themes that were lost during the production. Some of them will be familiar to those who have played the game, whereas others will be first-time experiences. Again, while this track isn’t an absolute must, it adds a special touch to this well-presented physical release.
The Longest Journey original score is fantastic. This music feels like it’s telling a story on its own, even without the game to back it up. The music at appropriate points manages to be atmospheric, mysterious, dramatic and epic, and I think this whole soundtrack would work as a symphonic piece of music. Some of the samples and technical aspects of the score have suffered a bit with age but the writing is brilliant and, with a real orchestra, this would sound phenomenal. However, I wish some elements, such as piano writing and ethnic instruments were further explored. The commercial physical release is worth paying for, though many will find the free digital release better suited for them. Both have their exclusives, but the major highlights are featured in both releases.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Joe Hammond. Last modified on August 1, 2012.