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Soundtrack review: ARK: Survival evolved (Gareth Coker – 2017)

Game scores

Soundtrack review: ARK: Survival evolved (Gareth Coker – 2017)

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The plot of “ARK: Survival evolved” is quite appealing to me as a gamer: as a man or woman stranded naked, freezing and starving on the shores of a mysterious island called ARK, you must hunt, harvest resources, craft items, grow crops, research technologies, and build shelters to withstand the elements. Use your cunning and resources to kill or tame & breed the leviathan dinosaurs and other primeval creatures roaming the land, and team up with or prey on hundreds of other players to survive, dominate… and escape! Adventure games or quests were always my favourites so I might give this one a shot. What matters to me now is that it was scored by Gareth Coker and I am always excited to listen to his music. As I wait for the sequel to his magnificent “Ori” composition this is a most welcomed gift.

These past few years I’ve paid a lot more attention to game scores because they often provide much more creative freedom to the composers than movies do; the game music needs to be immersive, needs to cover different scenes and moments that might or might not happen depending on how the gamer reacts and plays and I know an old school 90s like survival action game that combines Sci-fi with dinosaurs was a joy for Gareth to be involved in and recording a score at Abbey Road with a 93 piece orchestra certainly is a treat for any composer.

The main theme is simple and wonderfully heroic; the choir and the orchestration usher me into the world of this game before the specific scenes or moments of the day cues kick in. The score is structured like this up to a certain point with day and night cues for different setting. I like it that they also have proper titles since I am a sucker for nice cue titles.

The nature of the game is obvious from the frantic and alert tone of the music; it’s exciting for me to hear a score that sounds as fresh as this one and that hits just the right balance between making itself noticed in context and staying out of the gamer’s way, being part of the environment. There are the occasional moments like the “Battle march” that inspire and motivate me and I got a serious Star Wars vibe from this particular theme. “Writhing swamps” with its subtle tribal sound is another highlight for me. I like how simple and efficient most of the cues are: nothing is exaggerated and the music feels like the beautiful and fast run of a horse that doesn’t have to carry any extra weight on its back.

“Creation” is the warm and emotional core of the album as strings and subtle percussion remind me a bit of the atmospheric magic of “Ori and the blind forest”. It’s almost like a signature from the composer on this musical canvas. The music gets back then to its relentless and pulsating action pace until the final three cues of the album. “The overseer” explodes with a choral section that comes like a sandstorm that covers everything in its path. This is epic game music at its best and I can’t get enough of it; the cue gets so spectacular that it makes me think of trailer music. “Ascension” has a subtle Oriental vibe and a grandiose motif that both make me think of the score for the 1999 “The mummy”. I can only imagine how exiting the end of the game music be with music like this.

“ARK: survival evolved” is just another proof that Gareth Coker is one of the best game music composers out there; the variety and range in his music show that his craft matches his vivid imagination. As always I’m looking forward to what comes next from him.

Cue rating: 89 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 34 / 74

Album excellence: 45%

Highlights:
Main Theme
The Origin of Combat
ARK Battle March
Writhing Swamps
Good (and Bad) Things Come in Trees
Creation
The Broodmother
Scaling the Island’s Peaks
The Overseer
Ascension
End Credits

 

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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