God of War Ghost of Sparta Original Soundtrack :: Review by Dave
Following the official end of the God of War trilogy on PlayStation's home consoles, many were surprised that Sony Computer Entertainment announced a portable successor with God of War: Ghost of Sparta. The game's sales were disappointing perhaps in part due to the decline of the PSP since the earlier spinoff God of War: Chains of Olympus though its presentation was generally praised. Whereas Chains of Olympus featured approximately 13 minutes of new music, Gerard Marino and Mike Reagan returned to score over 40 minutes of new music for Ghost of Sparta. The game's soundtrack was released digitally and was free downloadable content for those who pre-ordered the game.
Easily the greatest highlights on the score are Mike Reagan's setting themes. While lacking the thematic definition of past openers, "Atlantis" is an excellent start to the score, given the way it plunges listeners back into the Greek tragedy while reflecting a novel scenario. It's especially effective how world instrument performances courtesy of Reagan himself are incorporated here and the hammered dulcimer is a particularly good complement for the city. "The Caldera" is another clear favourite on the score, with the tremolo cello and heavy percussion elements depicting the engulfing lava, while the mountains of Aroania are made all the more immersive with the spell-binding soprano voice on its setting theme. Anyone who has experienced Darksiders will realize that Reagan is an excellent vocal writer and this eerie track further reflects his talents.
Gerard Marino's contribution to the game is largely dedicated to underscoring the game's dramatic and emotional story, which features Kratos exploring his haunting past. "The Brother" is particularly impacting and revealing in the series it is used in with its large-scale orchestrations and choral work, capturing the full melodrama of the Greek tragedy like past instalments. Further explorations of the sibling's relationship are offered in the pensive and understated "The Fallen Brother", as well as the edgy and climactic "Brothers in Arms"; yet like many themes in the series, they are principally effective in context and are a little too brief to fully satisfy outside it. For budget and technical reasons, all the choral and orchestral elements are sampled here, but it is not a significant detriment to the score thanks to cutting-edge technology.
It is notable that Marino bases most of these themes on the central motif of the original God of War theme. It helps to bring the series round full circle thematically in both the musical and literary sense while still offering fresh perspectives on the saga. An even more notable reprise is featured on Mike Reagan's "Ghost of Sparta", which undergoes a considerable dramatic arch during its three minute playtime. As its title suggests, this track is rather encompassing through the way it incorporates different emotional and worldly features throughout. However, it is also less melodramatic than Marino's contributions, which will appeal for those looking for a more subtle approach to representing Kratos' internal and outward conflicts. Well, subtle for gaming's most overstated series at least...
The final three tracks are among the original compositions Gerard Marino created for God of War: Chains of Olympus, which otherwise featured reprised music from the rest of the series. "Caliope" and "Persian Combat" capture the series' characteristic brutality with their heavy orchestral texturing and Middle Eastern tonalities; it's particularly impressive how Marino incorporated an epic chorus to complete the gigantic former and a Persian vocalist in the latter to add to the sense of place. "The Wrath of Charon" also features impressive soundscaping, descending from a rasping orchestral introduction into eerie ambience. Overall, these tracks are a pleasant bonus and makes the library of officially released God of War music significantly more wider and complete.
The soundtrack for God of War: Ghost of Sparta stands up well alongside the main instalments in the series. Some tracks were clearly intended for purely contextual purposes either too overblown or too brief to really satisfy as musical works in their own right but a number of contributions make up for this and Marino's setting themes are especially remarkable examples. This digital release is largely well-presented and complete, with the bonus tracks being particularly welcome highlights, though isn't quite as rich or vast as God of War III preceding it. Either way, it is worthy of downloading, available both as a pre-order bonus and worldwide commercially through iTunes.
Overall Score: 8/10