The Music of MASS EFFECT: an N7 Day Retrospective

Mass Effect, when the press had first mentioned it almost a decade ago, was described as sort of like an open world RPG in space. This had my attention as I had just put in hundreds of hours in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I was addicted to exploration, and I was excited to see what the tech of that PC/console generation would allow.

I had just purchased my first HDTV, a Sony 50” 1080p rear LCD projection that is still my gaming TV to this day. I had a monumental moment when I booted up Mass Effect, as it was going to be my very first HD gaming experience. When the title sequence began, Jack Wall’s Vigil began playing.

I had no idea just how much emotional attachment I would develop for this story. Images of characters from the game that I wasn’t familiar with yet faded in and out of view, and I just sat and listened to the music, not knowing exactly what was in store, but I had a feeling it was going to be something incredible.

This sense of awe and wonder of the infinite reaches of space continued on as the intro of the story progressed, but then it fully manifested when I accessed the galaxy map for the first time. Sam Hulick’s Uncharted Worlds began playing as I witnessed this vast new area of space to travel and explore.

The soft synth bass lines repeated, booming throughout, as arpeggiated 80’s style synthesizer lead tones layered together to create this complex but really palatable soundscape. Then a beautiful pad faded in, layered on top of the complex synth tones, making this one of the most captivating sci-fi arrangements I had ever heard.

This laid the groundwork for what I think is one of the greatest stories ever told, and arguably one of the most important sci-fi series in history. Cosplayers are constantly creating some of the most impressive Mass Effect costumes, musicians have released many covers of Mass Effect tracks on YouTube, and there is even talk of a full blown theme park dedicated to the universe of Mass Effect

From the first installment to the conclusion of the story of Commander Shepard, Mass Effect’s signature soundtracks have enabled the story to impact fans on a powerful, intimate level. Whether you’re choosing which one of your comrades has to be sent to die for the cause, if you’re bombarded in a gunfight with a horde of various enemies, saying goodbye to the character you shared a close bond and fell in love with, or you’re headed straight into the belly of the beast with Suicide Mission playing, the music of Mass Effect has struck a very personal chord with millions of players worldwide. 

On this N7 day, I’d like to not only reflect on how monumental an achievement this trilogy is in gaming and storytelling, but just how this universe was brought to life with the incredible music of its talented composers Jack Wall, Sam Hulick, Jimmy Hinson, Sascha Dikiciyan, David Kates, Richard Jacques, Christopher Lennertz, Chris Velasco, and Clint Mansell.

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