The Top 25 Soundtracks 2012: Number 17

Number 17: Civilization IV

So you're a composer for video games now! Excellent! You've got great pay, plenty of musical talent at your fingertips, and of course, plenty of work to be done! Your first assignment has just come in the door! Looks like you need to make a soundtrack for a futuristic space FPS! No problem! Some rock, some techno, maybe a little bit of pop music and you've got yourself a standard FPS soundtrack. You compose for a few weeks, but nothing is overtly rough about it. 

Your second assignment is in! It's a platformer! You spend a few weeks making sunny, happy-go-lucky music and all is well.

Then one day the Game Director announces the new project that you are going to be a part of. "It's an ambitious game." he says. "We're going to cover the history of Civilization from the stone age to the future." 

You raise your hand. "So..." you say. "stone age music?"

The director shakes his head. "No no no. ALL history."

You raise your hand again. "So stone age, some ancient styles, middle ages and modern?" You say with a pit in your stomach,

"Close." The director says. "Strone age, bronze age, democracy, republics, the renaissance! We'll need music for the Celts, the Romans, the Mesopotamians, the Aztecs, the Mayans! We'll need music for wars and human achievement! Music to chronicle human history by!"

At this point, the rest of the meeting fades into a dull void as your brain tries to figure out how you're going to put all of human experience into a soundtrack. This is how I imagine every Music Lead for the Civilization series feels whenever a new Civ title is brought up.

To be fair, Civilization IV almost invalidated itself for this list, for reasons which I'll get into in a moment. First, a bit of detail about the Civilization IV soundtrack. It's long. Very, very long. How long? I spent over four days listening to it while I worked. This soundtrack is massive, which is fitting considering that it must fit all of human history. But how did it manage that? Well, that's the part that almost invalidated it for this list. You see, the majority of Civilization IVs music was never composed for the game, but written as symphonies and orchestra pieces long before. It wasn't actually written for the game, but for music aficionados dozens or hundreds of years ago. And so I was faced with a quandary. The music wasn't written for the game but pulled from other sources. Should I let that slide?

Well obviously I did, but not without some balances. Even though almost none of the music was written [i]for[/i] Civ IV, it was written by humanity, and in the case of a game about the course of humanity, what better choice could their be then some of the greatest compositions humanity has produced? So I decided to give Civilization IV a pass on the origins of it's compositions. However, I did penalize it somewhat at the same moment. It would automatically lose any ties, and I couldn't give it a perfect score, because it would be cheap if any soundtrack could simply pick up some of humanities greatest compositions and automatically ride to the top of the list based on work that was around long before the game was.

That said, Civilization IV is a wonderment of a soundtrack to listen to. If you have a few days to spare, I'd recommend listening to the entire thing here, because it truly is a shout out to some of the greatest classical compositions of all time, with entries from Beethoven, Bach, and many, many others.

So what more is there to say? Listening to Civilization IV is like listening to a greatest hits compilation that spans thousands of years of human history. Pretty much all of it is pretty spot on, even the few songs produced by the games composers. Nothing on this soundtrack scored less the a 4, and it even went as far as to pick up two 4.5 scores and (of course) the bonus point for Non-Gamer Appeal, although not for Nostalgia (it is not old enough, also, it'd be a little cheap considering the source). 

Civilization IV Complete
Enjoyment: 4.25
Stand Alone Quality: 4.5
Composition: 4.5
Emotional Reaction: 4
Game Representation: 4.25
Non-Gamer Enjoyment: 1
Nostalgia: 0
Total: 4.5

In the end, Civilization IV is truly one of the best soundtracks out there, even if it does come by that honor in a slightly less then usual fashion. Civilization IV takes its place in the history of this list at position 17.

Number 17--Civilization IV by Humanity


Almonihah said...

Ah, Civ IV. Probably my favorite installment in the series, though playing Civ V more might change that opinion

Anyway, on the subject of music, Civ IV is the first Civilization game I remember the music in. Civ I didn't have any music as I recall, Civ II just had a few tracks, and Civ III, I don't remember having much either. So having this musical journey through history as you played through history was a new experience in Civ IV, and I do think they pulled it off admirably. Some of the tracks wear a bit thin after 30 or 40 playthroughs, but it's hard to do anything about that.

Bill said...

Honestly, I'd put this on the list solely for "Baba Yetu." And since it's just one of SEVERAL songs, all the better!

Beyond the Controller said...

Dang! I totally forget to mention how Baba Yetu cleaned up at the Grammies last year when they finally admitted it! Another feather in Civ IV's cap!