Rafael Dyll, a German composer who is known for his orchestral/electronic work on the original Söldner-X: Himmelsstürmer, was brought back to compose for the sequel, Söldner-X 2: Final Prototype. Featuring a mixture of electronic and orchestral fusions, it's a soundtrack that definitely sounds more mature in nature. Given that the game was much more intense in nature and longer, how did Dyll adapt his music to fit the new scenario?
There are three distinct categories of themes on the soundtrack, akin to what was found on the Söldner-X: Himmelsstürmer Original Soundtrack Complete Edition. The themes you'll be hearing the most during your playthrough of the game are definitely the stage themes. "Sector Zeus," the stage one theme, sets an adventurous tone through its use of futuristic synth. The various synth harmonies and the trance style accompaniment really accentuate the overall atmosphere of the piece, especially during the piano line in the B section of the theme. Now, if for some reason, you get critically low in health, a Berzerker theme will override the stage theme and will continue to play until you regain enough health.
Each stage has its own unique Berzerker theme as well, something that also carried over from the PlayStation 3 version of the first game. "All Systems Down," the Berzerker theme for stage one, has a very tense atmosphere with some trance accompaniment, although not as prominent as in "Sector Zeus." At the same time, there are some brooding orchestral hits in the accompaniment and some choral effects added for some dramatic measure. It's another melodically sound theme and really complements the normal stage theme quite well, particularly during the latter half of the theme when some beautiful piano lines are thrown into the mix that add a touch of beauty to an otherwise tense theme. When you make it to the end of a level, you'll also be faced with a unique boss theme for each stage. "Mech Alert," the boss theme for stage one, is one of my favorites. It's a very tense electronic/orchestral theme with a variety of synthesizer manipulated passages and beats to really add to the atmosphere. In particular, I really love the frenetic alarm-like electronic sections near the beginning that really give it a nice sense of tempo.
Moving on to stage two, "Entering the Complex," is another thing of beauty. A steady techno beat, a layered trance melody, and some industrial touches really bring about a sense of adventure. The piano in the melody line, in particular, really adds a sense of grace and heroism into the mix, while the synthesizer melody line really helps keep that futuristic tone intact. The subtle choral tones heard from time to time are also a nice atmosphere booster as well. The corresponding Berzerker theme, "Complex Situation," is much tenser in atmosphere compared to "All Systems Down." It manages to cast a very dark shadow on your situation and reminds me a lot of something that one of my favorite electronic duos in Japan, k.h.d.n., might do for one of their soundtracks. The boss theme, "Death on Rails," carries over the intensity heard in "Mech Alert," but at the same time, manages to create an entirely different atmosphere due to the various synthesizer harmonies and melodies. In fact, it reminds me, at least, melodically, of something that Jonne Valtonen, under his Purple Motion moniker, might have created when he was still in the demoscene.
One of my favorite stage themes belongs to stage three, "City of the Fallen." It's another rhythmically intense theme that serves as an interesting contrast to the more calm, collected, and hauntingly beautiful melody line. Exquisite choral work and some brighter, bubblier sounding electronic passages really help bring a bit of unique contrast to the overall atmosphere. The end result is something quite exhilarating, despite its slower tempo compared to some of the other stage themes. "Facing Onslaught," the subsequent Berzerker theme, also carries with it a sense of mellow atmosphere with it. There is a sense of omen to it, mainly due to the sharp piano strikes, but at the same time, it is masked greatly by the exquisite strings work in the melody line. Although it may not seem to me like a Berzerker theme, especially if you are on the verge of dying, it is a strong composition. The first thing I noticed about "An Eye for an Eye," the third boss theme, is that the chiptune-like electronica in the theme seems like a slower, remixed version of that alarm-like electronica heard in the boss theme. However, unlike the previous two boss themes, there is a stronger focus on orchestra here. It's about an equal split in terms of the melody, but it manages to cast a very ominous shadow over the player.
Of all the stage themes, I think that stage four, "Woods of Ellje," is the weakest. That isn't to say that it's a bad track, as there are some elements in it that I do find quite appealing, such as the dark, brooding synth heard in the B section of the track and the various electronic tones heard throughout. I think the biggest weakest in this theme comes with the orchestral accompaniment in the A section. I just don't think it is executed as gracefully as some of the other themes that focus on orchestra. Speaking of orchestra, the four Berzerker theme, "Desperate Measures," gives a foreboding martial sense of mood. Unlike "Woods of Ellje," I really like the orchestral execution of this theme. There is an instilled beauty due to the choral highlights, the militaristic percussion, and the electronic elements. In the end, despite not being as upbeat as some of the other Berzerker themes, it does give that really ominous sense of impending doom. The boss theme, "The Root of the Problem," is an electronic focused theme, in contrast, with warbled synth distortion and the sharp synth hits that help heighten the tension. It's a fairly repetitive theme, but it manages to capture that essence of battle quite well.
"Dive!," the theme for stage five, is definitely one of my favorite stage themes as well. I really like how it opens up with those underwater sound effects that accompany the gradual synth buildup in the melody line. I really enjoy how the lovely ethnic percussion and pictoresque piano sections enhance the atmosphere of the composition, giving the feeling of being in or around a large body of water. Aptly named, "Deep Trouble" serves as the Berzerker theme for this stage. Unlike the aquatic atmosphere heard in the regular stage theme, the ominous nature of this Berzerker theme manages to create, at least to me, what I would expect to feel if I were trapped underwater with little time remaining. Some of the elements of "Dive!," such as the piano line, are maintained yet give a much darker tone. I also like how the electronic beats and distortion really lend itself to creating a bleak sound. The boss theme, "Underwater Carnage," is one of my favorite boss themes. Intense electronic beats, akin to something you might hear from Supersweep, really create a great tension in the track while the uplifting electronic and piano melody lines manage to give off a sense of valor at one moment and during others, a sense of overwhelming pressure.
"Caves of Iya," the stage six theme, is quite mysterious in nature. I really like the focus on ethnic percussion, ambient electronic harmonies, and a futuristic and robotic sounding melody line. It really manages to create a feeling of unease. When the pace quickens a bit, the feeling is a bit lost, but at the same time, the addition of the various electronic harmonies and piano manages to create a valiant atmosphere. The Berzerker theme for this stage, "Escape," manages to incorporate some elegant piano passages that combine quite nicely with the ominous beats. I think the incorporation of piano with electronic music is something that Dyll succeeds at time and again. He manages to use it in a lot of different ways, despite the frequent use of it in some of the earlier themes. The boss theme, "Cold as Hell," is another top notch creation in my eyes. I really like the rhythm that Dyll incorporates into the heavy techno beats, while at the same time, creating an extremely foreboding sense of doom through the synthesizer melodies and harmonies. I would also say that the "rock" like electronic riffs and the choral accents really help accentuate this feeling as well.
The final stage in the game, prior to the expansion that was just released, incorporates a couple themes heard in the first game. The stage theme, "Lurking Evil II," is an arrangement of "Lurking Evil" from the first game. While I prefer the first game's version, I do find this version to be quite appealing as well. Rather than focus on robotic and industrial tones to open, as he did in the first one, he creates a much more menacing sound through the use of some ethnic percussion, some brooding piano chords, haunting choir, and some electronic and industrial vibes. It really manages to capture the same atmosphere, but I think the execution was slightly more appealing, at least to me, in the original. The melody, as it was with the original, is quite strong and I really like the interplay between the piano and synthesizer to create a very strong arrangement.
The Berzerker theme for this stage, "Massive Attack Syndrome II," will also be very familiar to series' players. Unlike "Lurking Evil II," I enjoy this version much more than the orchestral/electronic fusion of the original. The electronic accompaniment is much more sinister in nature, the orchestral tones are much stronger, and the addition of some slight choral sampling is also quite lovely. In the end, I think it's the robotic electronic accompaniment that manages to really push this theme to the next level. The last boss theme, entitled "Hit Fast, Hit Hard" blends drum 'n bass and entrancing piano elements, building into quite an intense, yet magnificent, battle theme. Dyll really manages to capture a sense of finality while at the same time providing a sinister soundscape as well. It's a great way to end the game's final battle.
In the end, I think that Dyll succeeds in creating a soundtrack that surpasses the original in terms of both execution and in terms of overall appeal. The stage themes, boss themes, and Berzerker themes all feature a variety of components, some organic and some more electronic in nature. If you were a fan of the first game's soundtrack, do yourself a favor and pick yourself a copy of this soundtrack as well. You won't be disappointed. Dyll was able to evolve the sound heard in the original game and bring it to a whole new level. In a way, it really manages to go well with the overhaul of the game as well. It's more intense and much more difficult in nature, and I think Dyll's music goes a long way in helping create a very solid product.