When a hack & slash game claims to be 'as addictive as Diablo', it is normally nothing but a farfetched, empty promise. However, there is always the occasional action RPG game that can actually live up to these lofty expectations. Legend: Hand of God is, most certainly, one of them. In addition to its great Diablo-like gameplay, fine graphics, and top-notch audio samples, Master Creation Studios' title introduced some fresh ideas (e.g. the mouse cursor as an NPC) which makes it more than just another clone of Blizzard Entertainment's masterpiece. The positive reviews in the Polish press speak for themselves. But how about the soundtrack? Is it at least nearly as good as the game itself? Let's take a closer look...
Composing or selecting an appropriate soundtrack for a video game is a rather important issue these days. The tracks are expected to be professional and cinematic (soundtracks nowadays must be more sophisticated than Super Mario Bros.) and must fit the overall atmosphere of a given title. Luckily, Master Creation could not have chosen a better music studio: their choice, Dynamedion, is known for composing fine soundtracks for titles such as Ankh, Drakensang, Gothic 4, Sacred 2, and the entire Spellforce series. Dynamedion's soundtracks are particularly special in their outstanding care for music detail, as well as in the unique harmony of their seemingly-disparate tracks (while the songs individually don't seem to fit the general ambience of the soundtrack, they work beautifully as a whole). These attributes often result in a soundtrack that is often better than the game itself. Is Legend: Hand of God's soundtrack better than the game?
The soundtrack starts out with an epic symphony called "Hand of God", performed on a tasteful concoction of several wind instruments and some membranophones — mainly kettledrums — which help the track achieve a rather dense ambience. There is a slight sense of danger lurking somewhere over the horizon. The next two tracks, namely "Forlorn Monastery" and "The Great Plan", sustain a similar tone, but increase in intensity: they begin to build up a nearly tangible, dark atmosphere, deprived of the light, lofty motives typical in most heroic cRPG games. The gathering clouds of unease are lifted, albeit slightly, by "Turint" — a tranquil, melancholic tune gifted with a simple, yet tasteful form. The atmospheric difference is mainly due to the empowering effect of a female vocal that seems to grace the track with a dim beam of optimism.
Unfortunately, this sense of hope is quenched almost instantly with the next two tunes: "Through the Deathdowns" and "The Crypt". The names of these tracks boldly state that the grim ambience has returned, and this time, is here to stay. Now, however, it is built by slightly different means; the sense of danger and mystery is achieved by distorted and distant choirs, drums and chimes. Generally, the ambience created within the first two tracks is basically maintained throughout the entire album, which is a rather rare feature for these type of productions.
But although the overall atmosphere seems to be preserved, the second half of the soundtrack is definitely a bit brighter and more optimistic. There are no changes in the chosen set of instruments — the main parts are still performed by drums, chimes and wind instruments, and supported by female choirs in the background. What strikes the listener the most is probably the repetition of certain motifs used in the earlier tracks. For instance, in the track "Misty Highlands", numerous parts of "Turint" are utilized, and then reinforced with several new musical bits.
The soundtrack of Legend: Hand of God concludes with two tracks titled "The Dark Lord" and "Dark Legend". The former is definitely one of the finest tracks on the album. While maintaining the grim atmosphere, the track seems to be more dynamic. By moving the choir to the forefront and increasing the tempo, the track is infused with an 'apocalyptic' feel; the climax at its end provides the audience with a true catharsis. After this track, listeners are instantly rewarded by yet another moment of peace: "Dark Legend". A deceiving title, this cue turns out to be a cheerful ending for the epic adventure. This tranquil symphony bears much resemblance to "Turint" (the heavy use of recurrent motives provides obvious linkage between the two pieces.) However, it differs it from the rest of the soundtrack in its usage of string instruments, which fill the 1.5 minute track with a very distinctive character.
All of the tracks discussed above — and the whole soundtrack, to be frank — have not been composed for an orchestra. Instead, the soundtrack is produced by a few selected instruments, with synthetic musical parts added to fill in the gaps. The above fact may seem important enough to have been mentioned at the beginning of this review. However, thanks to the stunning quality of both instruments; sounds and digital samples, the usage of the latter is barely noticeable, and thus bears no impact on the final, positive opinion.
The soundtrack should be recommended for its universal nature. The tracks fit in very nicely with the soundtracks of other dark fantasy games — it could probably easily replace another soundtrack seamlessly — but alternatively, the soundtrack can just as easily stand on its own as an independent final product. Unfortunately, the expression 'nothing is perfect' rings true for the Legend: Hand of God soundtrack. The recurrent themes, as mentioned a couple of times above, can occasionally spoil the joy of listening, which otherwise flows with a steady stream. Fortunately, acquiring the album is both inexpensive and easy thanks to CD Projekt's release of Legend: Hand of God in a 'black edition', which contains the game as well as the soundtrack. As many people interested in purchasing the game might not be willing to keep their soundtrack CD, we can safely assume that getting your own copy will not be much of a problem.