Thief Original Soundtrack Director’s Cut
Thief Original Soundtrack Director’s Cut
Sumthing Else Music Works
February 25, 2014
Buy at Amazon
The Thief games, a popular cult series in the 1990s, went through a reboot when Eidos Montreal and Square Enix released the fourth game, simply titled Thief, earlier this year. In Thief, the player controls the master thief Garrett returning to The City after a year of absence. Garrett immediately sets out on his mission to steal from the rich in order to take the power in The City away from the aristocrats. Think of it like Robin Hood, except with a Victorian steampunk setting and dark fantasy tone, while being slightly more morally questionable. The game sounded promising and, with the help of two fantastic-looking trailers, I ended up buying it. However, it did not really live up to the hype; while the mechanics and stealth factor of the game is impressive and becomes quite enjoyable at the time, the plot is lacking and the game proved monotonous. The music, written by composer Luc St. Pierre, was similar for me: a lot of dark, ambient noises with startlingly few moments of true excitement.
St. Pierre’s soundtrack certainly fits the atmosphere of the game well. The City, an incredibly dreary place, is seen primarily at night, and few people out are usually mostly patrolling guards who Garrett must either take down or sneak past. The music, in turn, consists mostly of chords suspended for extended periods of time and played primarily by low brass or celli. These elements might be occasionally accented by bells or pulsated by electronic elements, but everything is kept moody and ambient for the most part. It is fairly successful in fitting the game, but it is not something I would really choose to listen to independently of the game.
“Entering the City”, for example, is a drab piece dominated by suspended string chords, ambient sound effects, and an eerie descant. The well-mixed timbres and constant low-pitched, dissonant harmonies maintain the atmosphere of The City at night, including the monotony. However, on a stand-alone basis, the track tends to waver with its seemingly random development and utter lack of melody. The occasional action-packed buildup certainly keeps the player on edge, but the styles are too generic and the passages are too brief to really satisfy in album form. The subsequent tracks “The Accident” and “House of Blossoms” have elements of intrigue, but still never really go anywhere. Other tracks such as “Meeting Moira”, “Basso’s Prison Escape”, and “Boat to Moira” are even more ambient, focusing more on sound design than musical elements.
That said, there are moments where it really picks up. While it sets the moody tone for the soundtrack effectively, “Main Menu” also includes some rapidly shifting string portions that incite all the drama and excitement to come in the style of a movie trailer, complete with performances from the FILMharmonic Orchestra. We get another track like this in the form of “Thief Taker General’s Ambush.” Listening to this piece, I was happy to hear that there was cue with some movement and direction, but then I realized that it had been twenty minutes since the last exciting track (not to mention almost halfway through the entire soundtrack and up to ten or twenty hours into the game). My happiness dissipated more than a little. And, by the way, when the track that captivates the most interest is titled “Main Menu,” that is just not a good sign for how a soundtrack progresses in the game.
One other piece I would like to mention is “Uprising,” which broke the tone of the rest of the soundtrack by introducing… electric guitar? And drum kit? And… are those vocals in the background? It may not have fit with the rest of the soundtrack, but I wish there had been more of that kind of surprise in the soundtrack. The City, to me, is a mysterious world, meant to be filled with the unknown and unexpected. This is technically a fantasy game, after all: one with factories, rituals, the plague, horrific piles of corpses, and bright, shimmering jewelry. One of my favorite parts of The City is that it consists of things that aren’t normally placed together, but they are in this game in a manner that just works. “Uprising” is a climatic track that brings in unexpected instruments and movement, and it actually sounds kind of beautiful. Maybe it’s because, like the jewelry you pick up in the game, it stands out from a dark background. However, that doesn’t mean that St. Pierre couldn’t have included differentiation in his soundtrack to create more of these striking moments.
Nier, the spinoff game of the Drakengard series, serves as a great example to me of how a fantastic soundtrack can stand out from a pretty mediocre game (while still fitting with the game’s atmosphere). However, this did not happen with Thief. Likewise, Eidos Montreal’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution showed that an ambient soundtrack could still be interesting and enjoyable on a stand-alone basis. Yet very few elements of Thief‘s music are interesting. The styles weren’t unique enough and the pieces aren’t cohesive enough to still be enjoyable on a stand-alone basis. I don’t always have to have the fast and exciting pieces to consider a soundtrack worthy, but when the rest is just dark generic ambience then that significantly lowers the quality of the music for me. While it might be worth picking up a couple of tracks from the digital release of this one, I would recommend skipping the soundtrack in favour of the much better soundtracks, ambient or otherwise.
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Posted on May 31, 2014 by Emily McMillan. Last modified on May 31, 2014.