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Total Annihilation – “Forest Green” (Jeremy Soule)

June 3, 2010

Total Annihilation (1997) was a PC mech RTS game and an early composition by now-famous Jeremy Soule (pronounced ‘soul’; Secret of Evermore, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion). The game is the struggle between two ‘human’ armies, one, the Core, which is composed of humans whose consciousnesses have been transferred into machines, granting them indefinite life; and the other, the Arm, which resists the government’s mandate that all people transfer their consciousnesses to machines. The soundtrack is characterized by a combination of martial and inspiring music similar to Star Wars but also somber, muted and mysterious music describing tragedy and brooding silence. One of my favorite tracks from here, “Forest Green”, is a member of the former category. You can check out the entire soundtrack at LostVGM.

Total Annihilation – “Forest Green” (Jeremy Soule)

“Forest Green” contains an instrument selection similar to that found in the forest theme of Odin Sphere (“Battle of the Forest of the Witch”) as well as the Gamecube trailer “Rebirth” – strings, triangle, and trumpets, which capture the bustling energy and verdant life of the forest. This section builds quite nicely to the energetic trumpet break (beginning 0:56) is reminiscent of classic WarCraft II and III Human themes (not that surprising, considering they’re the same genre), and the well-defined melody makes the track very memorable.

Soule recorded the soundtrack through a live performance of the Northwest Sinfonia orchestra, hence its superior sound quality to many other games of the time. With a background in the limitations of game audio for the SNES (still a powerful system, but nowhere near the capabilities of CD audio), Soule took full use of the properties of Redbook Audio to not only provide high-fidelity audio with track switching for events, he also allowed users to insert their own audio CDs to create custom soundtracks. Very few games today grant users that much freedom over their soundtracks, making Total Annihilation even more impressive.

Not only was Total Annihilation superbly designed (winning the best RTS award from Gamespy in 2004, beating out the more widely known StarCraft), but the game has an outstanding orchestral soundtrack which won the Best Soundtrack award from Gamespot. Total Annihilation’s spiritual successor is Supreme Commander (2007), also composed by Jeremy Soule.

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