I just got done playing the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot (after picking it up at a surprisingly low £3 on steam). I thought I should take a look at how Jason Graves’ soundtrack accompanies the game and discuss my thoughts of it. If you’d like to stream the soundtrack while reading this review you can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wR1xUHm4rs . I make reference to moments in the game a couple times but have tried my best to lay this out so that anyone can read it.
The first thing that stood out to me about the soundtrack is the sound design and usage of these sounds. Namely, the vast amount of attack sounds used in series. It’s all too easy to climax too early when trying to create a crescendo, at times I felt the score came close to over doing but overall, I think that Graves has achieved a variety in these sounds that is able to consistently keep up the tension while still providing the shock and awe from an attack sound that is typically used to climax tension in a score.
The other thing that I enjoyed, especially while playing the game, was the use of instrumentation. When the player is in an area with enemies a conga section can be heard in “Scaling the Ziggurat” the sound chosen for this is beautifully appropriate to the setting, providing that kind of familiarity with western audiences and yet a sound out of the ordinary of most modern large scale scores and this sets us slightly on edge. The rhythms used are very effective at keeping the tension high, they are both uneven and unpredictable.
Sweet and ominous string passages have been combined beautifully in “First Blood” and sets up the motifs in “Reaching Roth” really well, allowing the listener/player to feel some kind of solace in these structured motifs which is exactly what the player needs at this stage in the game. Overall the score tends to shy away from strong chord movements and motifs but I feel those use are a nice grounding to the rest of the composition.
Perhaps my favourite piece in the score is “Entering Himiko’s Tomb”. The harp glissando which plays when the player walks into a tomb is the perfect way to establish a bright curiosity. It is this and many other harmonic sounds that are used throughout the score to provide some familiarity to the listener .
Overall I feel the score is particularly heavy on flipping between the relieving moments and the intense ones. I feel this is partly due to the game for which it was composed; the game utilises the technique of bringing the player into moments of security before amping things up again, something which I feel has been overused in the game and reflects in the narrative of the score.