All’s Well That Ends Well

Even before you press a single button, it is clear that Mass Effect 3 is going to be very different from Mass Effect 2. Gone is the title screen’s stirring music. Gone is the grandiose idle menu cutscene full of action and danger.

In its place is one of the most sober pieces of music imaginable. No cutscenes. No bombast. No firefights. Just a sad song playing while a planet burns and what seem to be meteorites burn up entering a planet’s atmosphere.

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Remember when I mentioned the major shift in music from Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2?

Well, Mass Effect 3 switched it up again.

Mass Effect had to establish a universe, set almost 200 years in the future, where humanity was the newcomer. We are galactic infants and the music needed to show some sense of wonder and possibility. Jack Wall and Sam Hulick succeeded in that regard with a score inspired by sci-fi electronics.

Mass Effect 2 was all about assembling a superteam of badasses, a sort of a sci-fi Expendables, in order to save humanity from new threats and old. You recruit a who’s who of galactic experts to defeat the bad guys. That calls for some Hans Zimmer. I’ve probably overused the word “bombast” in relation to Mass Effect 2’s music, but it’s either the most accurate term or the most accurate in my limited vocabulary of music descriptions. In any case, Wall & Hulick again delivered the score ME2 needed.

Mass Effect 3 is about the apocalypse. It is about the end of everything we know and love. It is about billions dead. Mourning. Hopelessness. The inevitable. Even if victory is achieved, the cost will be beyond comprehension. This requires a softer touch and almost oppressive tragedy. Clint Mansell takes over for Jack Wall and joins Hulick to create a score befitting the end of days, perhaps none more so than the gorgeous “Leaving Earth.”

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The opening of Mass Effect 3 is probably the greatest video game “scene” I’ve ever played. Continue reading