Shadow of the Tomb Raider was not as loud of a premiere as it was supposed to be and frankly, I don’t remember feeling so indifferent towards a major release, especially when said release had an entire list of reasons to be excited about (from personal sentimental bias to music).
Some things, however, made Shadow of the Tomb Raider bleak and lacking as it charged head on other releases of better visual quality, art or better production (considering improvement from the previous release). Additionally, Rise of Tomb Raider left the series in a weird spot — it was both accomplished and boringly resembling the previous game (and suffered from enormous amounts of hype that Microsoft generated when marketing the game as an Xbox exclusive).
Some things, however, made Shadow of the Tomb Raider bleak and lacking as it charged.
By the time Shadow of the Tomb Raider hit the shelves, the playerbase had been already satiated and passive towards the game as the title wasn’t presenting itself as a very innovative one. I…liked the game, as it was more of the same, and I frankly will never have enough of Tomb Raider. Moreso, I adored the music and I think it has the best composition from the reboot trilogy, making new Lara’s final adventure the most enjoyable musically, despite all the flaws I noticed. Brian D’Olivera (with Martin Stig Andersen’s help) delivered.
Looking back, Lara went through a horror music phase under the direction of horror professional Jason Graves, and while I admire his approach and great, ethnic-like sound design that made the game unsettling, it didn’t leave me emotionally attached to such an important gaming character that is becoming the Tomb Raider. Bobby Tahouri did a great job for the next game and his adventure music was a fitting choice, even though it sounded repetitive at times. That said, I enjoyed both of them, hoping to hear some middle ground between them in the third game. To have both of it in one. My prayers were answered.
I was more than happy to see Brain D’Oliveira, ethnic music enthusiast and performer known for Papo & Yo and Tearaway as the Shadow’s composer. He knows his stuff, has his own studio which he directs and leads and includes a proper research in his workflow. Martin Stig Andersen is known for his inhuman ambient skills which he showed in Playdead Studio games (Limbo and Inside). My heart was broken to not see more of his tracks released to the audience, because it’s only a few. Although, his direction and care for Shadow’s sound and ambience well-being makes up for it. That said, Brian D’Oliveira composed the music almost entirely and he managed to did what I’d been hoping for.
Brian D’Olivera’s soundtrack with small additions from Martin Stig Andersen is the type of music that Lara’s devs should be aiming for when designing new adventure’s for Lara.
The game’s main theme lets you anticipate a really well-mastered soundtrack, devoid of layers of unnecessary samples and having smartly crafted percussion section. Then the strings join up, playing ardently and foreshadowing the end (Overture), later appearing in the pleasant Lara’s Dream and Sacrifice, quoting James Greaves’ theme from the first game in the reboot series. The middle of the soundtrack brings us closer to the jungles of South America. In Paititi, Cenote and Return do Paititi we can hear nervously whistling flutes, pulsating drums and rattles — both in action pieces and ambience-centered moments. The latter exceeds at submerging you in the jungle with precisely designed soundscapes, making the listening session of this soundtrack a remarkably spacious and immersive experience, showing the score’s technical craftsmanship.
If Shadow is the last game and soundtrack of the reboot series, then musically it is a fitting farewell.
Darkness ensues around Baptiste of Fire, a track that isn’t far stylistically from Jason Graves’ howling drones for Far Cry Primal. Electronic growling, flutes drilling through your skull and sharp strings distress the player in style, showing D’Oliveira’s talent for multiple subgenres (be it lyrical pieces, action music or ambience) but it’s the albums conclusion that elevates the soundtrack above others in the series for me.
Classically sounding The Chosen includes sacral choirs, while Goodbye Paititi as a chillout song, with its vocal work and rearrangement of the main theme, completely enchanted me. Then I decided to listen to the ambient piece by Martin Stig Andersen for underwater sequences called One Last Breath. It blends the line between music and sound design Inside-style,recreating the unpleasant whirring we hear when diving underwater. Even though it’s not much, it shows the composer’s gift for creating exceptional sounds and soundscapes.
It doesn’t stagnate, it moves you and boosts the suspense — Brian D’Olivera’s soundtrack with small additions from Martin Stig Andersen is the type of music that Lara’s devs should be aiming for when designing new adventure’s for Lara. It has everything for an adventure game about a pistol-wielding archeologist looking for lost civilisations in very specific, ethnic environments, not only bonding the player with the story, but with the game’s world we explore.
If Shadow is the last game and soundtrack of the reboot series, then musically it is a fitting farewell. If you are looking for well-crafted and well-mastered score that use its ethnics purposefully and intelligently (which isn’t, sadly, a common thing), it’s a safe bet. It will surprise you, just close your eyes when listening.