Total Annihilation Soundtrack, Jeremy Soule, 1997
There’s no doubt that real-time strategy games peaked in popularity during the second half of the 1990s. Their commercial success was kickstarted by the hugely popular Command & Conquer and Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness. For a few years, RTS games were all the rage (not that the genre is dead now). As a result, a glut of similarly-themed products soon hit the shelves. Differentiation – either by quality, innovation or style – became paramount for more ambitious developers.
Total Annihilation was the lucky case of differentiation through all those three markers. It didn’t rewrite the rule book, but made many tweaks that updated genre conventions in smart ways. And while its look wasn’t too different from the hordes of Command & Conquer clones, its music easily stood out. For that, gamers could thank Jeremy Soule, who back in 1997 wasn’t yet the star composer he is now. To set the game apart, Soule proposed a live orchestral soundtrack – nearly unheard of in 1997.