Jukebox Heroes: ARK: Survival Evolved’s soundtrack

    
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If you’ve been hiding in a cave on Mars with your fingers in your ears and your social media feeds on the fritz, you might not have heard about this little game called ARK: Survival Evolved. This survival sandbox has taken the gaming world by storm thanks to its crazy hodge-podge approach to tossing dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures onto an island and then allowing players to shoot them in the face or tame them.

Who would have thought that having your own T-Rex minion would be so appealing? Seems kind of blindingly obvious in retrospect.

Today we’re going to explore some of the music from this early access title. The soundtrack is being composed by Gareth Coker, who’s also worked on the Minecraft OST. If you’ve never played the game (and I haven’t), I think you’re about to be pleasantly surprised.

1. Main Theme

There are echoes of Defiance’s theme in here, mostly with the weepy violin, as well as a nod to many modern sci-fi games that incorporate the piano. But what’s arresting in this piece is how it bursts forth with this slow, majestic, and even (dare I say it?) inspirational battle hymn. It feels incredibly grand for a game about smacking Triceratops around, but I’m not complaining!

2. Halloween Theme

Let’s stay on the topic of themes for a little while here. I’m impressed that ARK’s already had seasonal events, not being officially launched and all. You can hear how the main theme is reworked with more of a spooky aspect, with additional emphasis placed on the piano. It’s got that cheery madcap tone with some creepy carnival music that I adore in the holiday.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzrZf6LbyCA

3. Winter Wonderland Theme

One last theme variation (indulge me, OK?) and we’ll move on. Here’s the theme with a strong holiday twist — sleighbells, echoes of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and all sorts of chimes. Not only is it a great Christmas theme, period, but I like how it brings out the ARK theme as this rising and falling waltz. Something you could dance (or at least sway) to.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yldz1VfMRmw

4. Sunrise

It’s a new day! While this track is very short, it’s a charming little cue that is warm and lovely. Makes me think of emerging from a cave and stretching as the new day’s rays splash over my face.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSkG46Wyulo

5. Combat 1

Combat themes have a heavy job to perform. They’ve got to crank up the tension, get players pumped about the action, and keep energy levels high until the fight is over. I think this track does all of these roles admirably. I like how it rises in intensity after a while — it’d be epic if you killed a big dino right as that happened.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjHLaTngP8s

6. Loading Screen

Not every game gives loading screens a theme, but I think they’re really important (more so the longer a player has to endure one). This track doesn’t so much as go anywhere as establish a kind serious-slash-adventurous tone and then sustain it for the duration.

MMOs are meant to be heard as well as seen, and chances are that music ties your memories to these games more than you might realize. Every two weeks Jukebox Heroes listens through a game soundtrack and picks out the highlights to share and discuss. And if you like this column, then don’t miss the author’s MMO music podcast, Battle Bards!
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zoward

It’s weird to see holiday themes in a dinosaur survival game!  Having said that, they are well done – the Hallowe’en theme has the whole spooky/magical thing down pat.

Gareth Coker also did the soundtrack for Ori and the Blind Forest, which I highly recommend.