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Dragon Age Inquisition by Trevor Morris (Review)

posted Dec 29, 2014, 5:42 PM by devon@filmmusicmedia.com

An open world fantasy role playing game like Dragon Age Inquisition creates a great opportunity for a composer to produce a unique musical landscape. It's a fine line between creating music to match the scale of the gameplay, and music that will help drive the smaller moments forward, all without feeling repetitive. Trevor Morris came to my attention with his superb work on The Tudors television series, so I was excited to dive into his latest video game work, as his prior effort on Command & Conquer and Army of Two fit the games well, but felt stuck in the "electronic loop land" of video game scores. In Dragon Age Inquisition, Morris creates a layered and exciting score that suffers slightly on an overlong album.

One of the best themes of 2014 (in any medium) is heard in the opening of the score. It's a rousing theme that integrates some beautiful string and choral writing, two aspects that continue throughout the album. It has a hint of the heroism from Morris's Olympus Has Fallen that fits very well here. It's difficult to not get excited about exploring new lands and finishing quests as the percussion kicks in and really elevates the cue. Morris is able to break up and create motifs out of this main theme, as you can hear in "Journey to Skyhold" and "The Western Approach". With a beautiful choral rendition of the main theme in "The Dawn Will Come" that contains some really lovely lyrics. The darker aspects of the score have a distinct sound on their own, most notably in "Lord Seeker". The orchestral swells and Danny Elfman like percussion help to accentuate the tension in the cue. "Lord Seeker" represents the best aspects of the score as it keeps the momentum going, but has noteworthy elements to really maintain interest while playing. The score balances out the bombast with some world exploring atmospheric writing as well. Most of these cello led cues create a relaxing soundscape that then build up into more action oriented pieces as heard in "In Hushed Whispers" and the longest cue on the album "The Lost Temple".

Overall, on the album there is a real sense of an arc to the music. Not having played the game, one can get a real sense of the journey that your character goes through. From the inciting incident moment of "Escape the Fade" to the final climax that begins in "Battle in the Sky" and continues until "The Scar". You feel as though you have had a narrative experience with the music alone, so I can only imagine what an impact it would have while playing the game. The denouement of "Return to Skyhold" and "Epilogue" cap the story off nicely with stoic restatements of the main theme and a cliffhanger of a cue. The album then presents 3 themes in suite form and the trailer theme. While the cues do maintain a sense of progression, as presented on the album, some of them do become muddled and shorter cues like "Sacrifice" and "In Your Heart Shall Burn" overpower some of the longer atmospheric cues.

Beyond the presentation, Dragon Age Inquisition is a great fantasy score and is one of my favorites of the year. Definitley worth checking out.