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20 Years of Music in Tomb Raider Video Games

by Pieter Smal on 07/18/16 01:06:00 pm   Featured Blogs

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

1. Introduction
2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the Tomb Raider franchise that includes a host of games, spin-offs (such as Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light), mobile games, books, merchandise, and even two movies. In celebrating the franchise, I am presenting a musical overview of the Tomb Raider games.

The first Tomb Raider game was developed by Core Design , released in 1996. Five more games were developed under Core (Tomb Raider- II, III, The Last Revelation, Chronicles, The Angel of Darkness) which are grouped together as the Original Series.

The games released after Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness were all developed by Crystal Dynamics, starting with Tomb Raider- Legend, Anniversary, and Underworld. These three are grouped together as the Tomb Raider Trilogy since they share the same cyclic story. Finally, Crystal Dynamics rebooted the franchise and released Tomb Raider (the same name as the original game in 1996), and Rise of the Tomb Raider. The last two entries are group together as the Reboot series.

The aim of this article is not to bring anything new to the table, but to introduce the reader to the music of the Tomb Raider games. Seven composers contributed to eleven games over a period of nineteen years (1996 - 2015). I will introduce the reader to the composers and their notable output, whereafter I will introduce the Tomb Raider games with selected musical examples. My article will exclude the music of expansion packs, focusing on the main Tomb Raider  games.

 

2. Meet the Composers

Nathan McCree
 

Nathan McCree is a British video game composer and audio editor. Besides music for the Tomb Raider franchise, McCree also did work for FIFA 2006EurosportChime, and Silent Hill: Downpour.
 

Peter Connelly

Peter Connelly is a British video game composer and sound editor. His output includes work on games such as WatchdogsThe Crew, and The Fast and the Furious (video game).
 

Martin Iveson

Martin Iveson (also known under the alias Atjazz) is a British composer known for his work on video games as well as independent contemporary album releases (house, hip-hop, and other genres). His notable output includes Project Eden, and the Tomb Raider games.

 

Troels Folmann

Troels Folmann is a Danish composer, known for video game- and trailer music. His notable output includes work on Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, as well as Counter Strike: Global Offensive. He is also a founding member of the sound library software company named 8DIO.
 

Colin O'Malley

Colin O'Malley is an American composer whose output includes work for CNNThe Walt Disney CompanyUniversal Studios, and others. His video game soundtrack output includes Madden NFL 13, and Superman Returns.


Jason Graves

Jason Graves is an American video game composer, with an output including notable titles such as Dead SpaceThe Order: 1886, and Far Cry: Primal.

 

Bobby Tahouri

Bobby Tahouri is an American composer. His output includes work on Despicable Me 2Game of ThronesClash of the Titans, and Iron Man.


 

3. The Tomb Raider video games

Tomb Raider

The first Tomb Raider was released in 1996, with a scored composed by Nathan McCree and sound effects by Martin Iveson.


Tomb Raider II

Tomb Raider II was released in 1997 with a score composed by Nathan McCree.


Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft

Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft (1998) is the third installation in the Tomb Raider franchise. Nathan McCree wrote the score whilst Martin Iveson returned to supervise sound effects.


Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation

Peter Connelly composed the soundtrack for 1999 installment of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, also compiling the sound effects for this game.


Tomb Raider: Chronicles

Soundtrack and score for Tomb Raider: Chronicles (2000) were composed by Peter Connelly.
 


Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness

Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness was released in 2003. Peter Connelly and Martin Iveson both contributed to the soundtrack for this game.
 

Tomb Raider: Legend

Tomb Raider: Legend was released in 2006. Troels Folmann wrote the soundtrack for this game.
 

Tomb Raider: Anniversary

Troels Folmann returned for the soundtrack of Tomb Raider: Anniversary, released in 2007.
 

Tomb Raider: Underworld

Colin O'Malley was the composer for Tomb Raider: Underworld (2008), whilst Troels Folmann acted as the music supervisor.
 

Tomb Raider

Jason Graves wrote the soundtrack for Tomb Raider, released in 2013.
 

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015) was scored by Bobby Tahouri.


 

4. The Main Themes of the Tomb Raider video games
Every Tomb Raider game has a 'Main Theme' that is usually heard in the main menu. This theme might be presented throughout the game or heard in several music cues. The original Tomb Raider Main Theme was composed by Nathan McCree, consisting of a repeating four-note motif. This theme was used in all the Tomb Raider games until 2013 when Jason Graves wrote a new theme for the Reboot series. Here are the Main Themes of all the Tomb Raider video games:

Tomb Raider

 

Tomb Raider II

 

Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft

 

Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation

 

Tomb Raider: Chronicles

 

Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness

 

Tomb Raider: Legend

 

Tomb Raider: Anniversary

 

Tomb Raider: Underworld

 

Tomb Raider

 

Rise of the Tomb Raider

 

 

 

5. Tomb Raider and Anniversary
With advances in MIDI technology between 1996 and 2007, the quality of synthesizers and digital sound libraries improved dramatically; synthesized strings (for example) now sound like orchestral instruments. Troels Folmann recycled material that Nathan McCree first composed in 1996, with the following examples comparing the original soundtrack and the Anniversary score.

Main theme

 

T-Rex/Bear theme

 

Where the Depths Unfold/Waterfall Theme

 

 

 

6. Excerpt highlights
Finally, I am presenting excerpt highlights from all the Tomb Raider video games. This selection does not represent the best tracks per se, but a personal choice of favourite music from the Tomb Raider games. These tracks are not all my favourites either, but a small selection of the amazing music available in the Tomb Raider video game series.
 

Tomb Raider II

 

Tomb Raider III

 

Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation

 

Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness

 

Tomb Raider: Legend



 

Tomb Raider: Anniversary

 


 

Tomb Raider: Underworld

 



 

Tomb Raider

 


 

Rise of the Tomb Raider

 

 

 

6. Conclusion
The music of the Tomb Raider series can be grouped into three categories reflecting the categorisation of the games themself: the Original series, the Tomb Raider Trilogy, and the Reboot Series. The music of the Original series sounds synthesized, consisting chiefly of a Main Theme and a series of music cues called stingers. Although there are accompanying ambient music (both active and inactive), the bulk of the music in the Original series consists of stingers. The soundtrack for Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness is the first truly orchestral soundtrack in the video games, containing many accompanying ambient tracks scored for a fuller ensemble.

Troels Folmann reinvented the music of the Tomb Raider Trilogy series; the soundtrack for Tomb Raider: Legend is especially postmodern, juxtaposing ethnomusical and Western art/contemporary idioms. Folmann's work on Legend later won him a BAFTA (British Academy for Film and Television Arts) award. Colin O'Malley brought the music of the Tomb Raider video games to a climax, using a composition technique called 'thematic transformations' in his soundtrack for Tomb Raider: Underworld. This particular peak was the perfect ending for the Main Theme of the first two series, creating the opportunity for a new Main Theme in the Reboot series. Although the music for the Reboot series is still rendered digitally, the music is predominantly orchestral.

My interest in the music of the Tomb Raider video games was sparked by playing the first Tomb Raider game as a child. Later, as an adult, I wrote my B.Mus. long-essay about the music of the Tomb Raider Trilogy. The search for adventure in Tomb Raider continues to thrill me, both as a gamer and as a musician.
 

'Lara Croft' conducting the London Symphony Orchestra
during a recording session for Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness


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