The legacy of the Halo games isn’t just in the incredible multiplayer or the heroic Master Chief’s narrative. The moment we load up any of the games, we’re treated to a booming introductory theme, audibly revealing to us the massive scale of the adventure that is about to unfold. That music follows through to key points in the game, weaving the narrative into and out of our control and emphasizing the most epic moments.
Music is important to Halo proper.
With the Halo Wars games, spin offs of the main adventure that play very differently, the soundtrack must also be approached as a unique undertaking. The focus on a single character can’t possibly be there, and the audio needs to be as tactical as the gameplay is. That said, there are natural ties that need to bind the games to their FPS brethren. While the first game in the Wars series was designed to be a self-contained project, allowing for an almost “just make it sound cool” soundtrack theme direction, the OST of Halo Wars 2 links the strategy series to the mainline games much more at its core.
Halo always began with that opening theme, and the HW2 take on it, a track titled “Barren”, takes it and morphs it. It’s still Halo, but it’s different enough that the beat sequencing seems to indicate a faster, less repetitive course. That’s true for the majority of the tracks on the two disc album. They seem to raise and lower, twist and turn much more than what we’ve known from the IP, seemingly indicating that we’re in the middle of a great conflict. In fact, it ties the entire game closer to the multiplayer side of the series. We are at war, war is chaos, and the audio needs to heighten our sense of urgency. The soundtrack accomplishes that, with moreso of a focus on the first disc than the second, and never seems to want to let up on the gas.
This is one of the more pulse-pounding gaming soundtracks I’ve ever listened to. I’d reckon that if my Apple Watch’s heart rate monitor was keeping tabs on my the numbers would have gone up.
Sci-fi gaming soundtracks aren’t necessarily going to be the kind of thing you might listen to on your car ride in to the office or on a flight out to Boston — I know this, I’ve tried — but they’re great to work to, and perhaps even better on a jog. I found the Halo Wars 2 OST to fit right into my actual office routine, and during lunch-time elliptical outings the tracks kept me aiming towards accomplishing my goals. Heck, I almost felt heroic when I finished a sprint and “Infamy” came on.
I’ve been listening to orchestrated gaming soundtracks more and more lately, and enjoying the live instruments over the bleeps of some of the retro or electronic compositions. The Halo Wars 2 OST, composed by Gordy Haab, Brian Trifon & Brian Lee White, never feels like an instrument is out of place or shoehorned in. For nearly two hours of music, there is just enough variety to keep the unexpected coming, and more than enough Halo heritage to service fans of any of the games.
The Halo Wars 2 OST is available in stores and streaming music services. This review is based on a copy of the soundtrack sent to SideQuesting.