Promotional (CD Edition); iTunes (Digital Edition)
August 3, 2007
Download at iTunes
StarCraft is one of the most famous real-time strategy games of all time, and at the time of its release, it was considered to have perfected the RTS genre. It’s perfectly balanced, with multiple strategies possible, and it’s easy to get into and learn the basics. Of course, it has left behind a huge legacy and become one of the greatest games of all time according to many players and StarCraft: Brood War is even a national sport in South Korea, where people can earn a fortune just by playing the game in tournaments. Though it may not look too great by modern standards, it is still very playable to this day.
At the time of writing this review I’d just reviewed StarCraft II: Wing of Liberty‘s original soundtrack, so it has felt slightly weird reviewing the original game’s soundtrack afterwards, but it actually surprised me. Despite being very old the soundtrack, unlike the graphics, it still holds up surprisingly well today — it’s dark, and melodic, and well written, featuring many musical themes that stand up in their own right. This soundtrack contains the music from the cutscenes, the themes for each species (Terran, Zerg and Protoss), and several other tracks which add up to create a varied and largely successful soundtrack. The synthesiser sounds are very spacey and dark, and the orchestral sounds, while not created with a real orchestra, are surprisingly decent.
The soundtrack opens with the well known “Starcraft Main Title”, which starts off with a very spacey opening before a techno beat enters. The resultant piece is half way between an epic choral piece and a techno track, which sounds odd in theory but is surprisingly fitting. This track provides a pleasant opening and gives us a taster of what to expect from the rest of the soundtrack. “First Contact” is an example of an impressive piece of atmospheric underscoring. It features many cinematic conventions, including the slow-building crescendos and tension-building bass lines. In terms of timbral features, I like the combination of orchestral, choir, synth, and distorted guitar sounds used here; the balance is just right.
The music that plays during the gameplay is structured in the soundtrack by species. The Terran themes are strong influenced by progressive rock in their approach — they are quite melodic with some cool sounding synth sounds and effects. “Terran One” reminds me of Dream Theater in many ways. The piece opens with a light guitar riff before going into a fast paced section, where the main melody is heard, before moving into slower and calming sections. While a multifarious track, I don’t like the synth used for the main melody here — it sounds a bit out of place in my opinion — while the secondary melody presented on trumpet also sounds obviously fake. “Terran Two” and “Terran Three” have a similar structure and ideas, but use different sounds and riffs. For the former, especially, I feel that the synth brass fits better in this track and the riffs in the melody and accompaniment are catchy.
The Protoss themes meanwhile take a different approach; they are very atmospheric and eerie with a religious aura to them. “Protoss One” starts off very quiet which then builds into a classically-oriented chord sequence using synth strings instead. The synth orchestra and choir sounds are pretty good here, and the electronic sounds used fit the feel really well. However, I didn’t find the actual music itself very interesting on it’s own. “Protoss Two” is very dark and atmospheric, though perhaps it’s a bit too understated to listen to on it’s own “Protoss Three” is the most interesting to listen to here since it features many different ideas. It has a very spacey feel using orchestral underscoring, synth sounds and melodies in various instruments, then towards the end it goes into a militaristic piece with a hint of fantasy scoring.
The Zerg themes are very edgy, using particularly vulgar synth sounds, which reminds me in many ways of Metroid. “Zerg One” is very slow and dark, while “Zerg Two” is more upbeat and catchy. I really like the interesting synth work in “Zerg Two” particularly interesting; the contrasts between some upbeat sections and more reflective slower sections keep things multifaceted and entertaining. “Zerg Three” combines these elements to make probably the best of all the Zerg themes, encompassing quite a dramatic arch and building into a progressive rock section to end. I really like the electronic percussion writing in this track, it keeps the listener guessing all the time. Note that each faction also receives Ready Room, Victory, and Defeat tracks, but they are usually too short to be of interest with a few exceptions.
The rest of the tracks are more cinematic in their nature. “The Death of the Overmind” starts off with action oriented music, which then dims into a moody piano riff that builds into a triumphant climax. Some of the orchestral sounds used here sound a bit fake by today’s standards, but the track is still a good listen. “Brood War: Aria” is a very nice operatic piece, with a well sung soprano solo, which then suddenly descends into a moody choir section with a male voice on the solo line, this works really well. “Funeral for a Hero”, “Dearest Helena”, “The Ascension”, and “Char Falls Under Directorate Control” are best appreciated in context and don’t have much to them otherwise. However, “Fury of the Xel’Naga” is a decent length and a moody piece to finish off the soundtrack. I particularly like the hopeful ending here.
I was surprised by the StarCraft soundtrack. I was expecting not to like it so much as it is technically outdated, but it still makes for a great stand-alone listen. Some of the tracks deserve more development and some of the orchestral sounds don’t hold up too well by modern standards, but it is still a very interesting listen with a lot of variety. The pieces also perfectly complement the action in the game too, fitting each races’ characteristics. It was a bold move to release this album in 2008, but it is still a very enjoyable soundtrack with some highly memorable musical moments.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Joe Hammond. Last modified on August 1, 2012.