No more Jack Wall for Mass Effect. They said they’d finish the fight and while that is true it looks like they’re leaving behind a key element to what made Mass Effect great- the music. Jack Wall, who has been composing for videogames since 1997, has been officially dropped as the composer for Mass Effect 3. Well, maybe the word “dropped” is wrong word. Jack, when addressing the news that he wasn’t going to compose Mass Effect 3 stated:
“Well, I’ve had a great relationship with BioWare for five years, and I think, you know, as with any important relationship it’s complicated. Now I’m working with other clients and it feels fresh to me and I think they feel the same way, so I think it’s just time to move on. I have nothing but love for those people. I’m sure I’ll see them again. It’s just time for a break, maybe.”
What can we take from this? Well, it clearly implies that there was some kind of rift between Wall and Bioware and that they perhaps had a difference of opinion of where the score of Mass Effect 3 should be taken. The role of composer for Mass Effect 3 has been given to Clint Mansell, a film composer whose first video game project will be Mass Effect 3. But, what could this mean for Mass Effect 3? Does this change mean anything?
When I first heard the news that Clint Mansell was on board for the Mass Effect 3 soundtrack I rejoiced at the news. I said to someone, “Clint Mansell and Jack Wall! I bet Clint Mansell will do the main themes to the game much like Hans Zimmer did with Modern Warfare 2″. I assumed Jack Wall was still a part of it. I assumed Bioware wouldn’t simply drop the person who, in my humble opinion, made Mass Effect truly great. But to my utter shock it was soon revealed that Mansell wasn’t merely composing the main themes but rather that Jack Wall was to have zero input on the project entirely. I was stunned. Now, before I go on this isn’t an article bashing Clint Mansell. In fact, I’m a huge fan of his work and I think he’ll bring something great to the table for Mass Effect 3. However, I don’t think gamers, and seemingly Bioware themselves, understand what impact this decision may have on the Mass Effect 3. Jack Wall is an important piece of the Mass Effect puzzle and I really think Bioware slipped up here big time.
The score of a game, much like a film, is paramount. It sets the tone, the mood, it adds atmosphere and generally holds everything together. The score to both Mass Effect 1 and 2 were critically hailed and the sheer idea of a Jack Wall-less Mass Effect 3 truly boggles the mind. His input to this point has been crucial in many ways. One thing I love is the musical evolution the series has taken so far. If we go back and listen to the score to Mass Effect 1 it’s a very electronic synthesiser driven score. Over the course of the game the score expands in scope to the point where it becomes epic during the fight against Saren. Now, take Mass Effect 2. The score has evolved. Over the course of Mass Effect 2 an orchestra is introduced whereby once entering the “suicide mission” against the Collectors the score, which has been increasing in grandeur over the past two games, explodes in a pulse racing track that pretty much requires the English language to invent a word that trumps “epic”. The score has been evolving just as much as the characters in the Mass Effect universe and now that evolution has been halted, stomped out of existence and brought back to the beginning. I think it goes without saying here that Jack Wall had a plan set in motion right off the bat with Mass Effect 1. Where was he leading us? How would his Mass Effect 3 sound? Sadly, we’ll never know.
However, it could have been worse, dear readers. In his own right Clint Mansell is a wonderful composer and if someone needs to take the reins, I’m glad its him. The first Clint Mansell score that really stuck in my head was for Darren Aronofskys film, The Fountain. It’s an incredibly beautiful score but to look at a Mansell score that may give us an indication of where he may take Mass Effect 3 I think it’s best to take a look his score for Moon, directed by Duncan Jones. To me it resembles what Jack Wall has done with Mass Effect so far and very may well be what we could be in for when we boot up Mass Effect 3 on that cold December morning later this year. But as much as I think they Clint Mansell can handle it and not show disrespect to what has been done up until now I really can’t help but feel that Jack Walls vision surely must have been the best choice.
I’m sure Jack Wall will move on to bigger and better things. He’s an exceptionally impressive composer and it’s a great shame that his days of working on Mass Effect are past him. Maybe Bioware just wanted a change? Maybe Jack wanted to move onto a different project? Or hell, maybe EA are pushing in on Bioware and demanded a “famous” composer take the reins, you know, like the guy who composed Black Swan! Maybe the heavy hand of EA is shaping Mass Effect 3 in ways that will truly hurt the final product. Maybe, just maybe. But in all fairness to both parties, anything beyond any official statements is just speculation. For now we’re left wondering where it’ll lead the franchise. Will Clint Mansell stay true to the sound of Mass Effect that came before him? Will Jack Wall have any input whatsoever? Will Mass Effect 3 come together as planned? Time will tell, time will tell. But like I said during the opening, dear readers, it looks like Bioware will be finishing the fight with yet another squad-mate not at their back. A shame.
But here’s to Jack Wall! Thanks for the music and the memories and when us gamers are bringing the final fight to the Reapers we’ll be thinking of you, Jack.