First and foremost a huge thank you must be given to Regulus Sound Productions and Caleb Vaughn-Jones who you can not only hear as one of the soloists in the soundtrack in the “Kongo Medieval theme“, but also kindly gave me access to rather special version of the soundtrack for my perusal.
I was extremely excited to talk about the Civilization 6 OST because, as someone with a degree in music, I don’t get to talk about why music excites me so much and this particular soundtrack brought that to the fore.
This is partly because of the way the structuring has gone about this time for Civilization 6 as a whole, which folds into the way the music now works in the game itself. In past Civilization games, although there were some original compositions, there were also plenty of well known classical works included – as Germany, you would expect to hear some Beethoven or Mozart, as England you would here Elgar, as America, Copland, etc.
The pieces would also reflect what was happening in the games: Civilization 5‘s themes were whether you were at war or at peace, for example, which would merit you different tracks depending on what was happening in the game.
Although this was good, Civilization 6 has mixed it up for the better as, even having now over 50 hours of in- game time logged, I am still enjoying the music. This is partly because of the new structure and the way the music develops in the game.
Each Civilization has one central theme to it, which suitably reflects their nation and, more importantly, the age that you are in at the time. So Brazil, for example, who happens to be one of my personal favourites from this soundtrack, has four distinct sounding tracks – one of the Ancient, Medieval, Industrial and Atomic era.
As with the progression of music and tonality itself through the ages, each theme has a distinct flavour to it. The Ancient themes are the most simplistic and often feature just one or two instruments (like a guitar for the Spanish or pan-flute for the Aztecs) and even if there were multiple instruments, there was almost no harmony in these ancient themes.
These Ancient themes tend to have slightly more variations to them, since it is largely the soundtrack you will hear at the start of the game before you meet other Civilizations, which I will explain shortly.
Once you reach the Medieval era you suddenly start to hear a different version of the same track, this time with more embellishment and some harmony inclusion, which is much like harmony itself progressed around this time.
The two later era themes, Industrial and Atomic, had the full orchestral experience by this time with most modern instruments in play and, as such, the orchestration for these particular movements is not only much more verbose, but also grandiose in orchestration.
The theme is always still clearly heard, although Geoff Knorr (the composer behind much of this music) is not shy to throw in some dissonance to make sure you know what era you are in, and does some amazing work manipulating those original Ancient Era melodies into a full modern orchestral fabric.
This is not the only music you will hear throughout the game though because, as with any Civilization, exploration is one of the keys to success and this also puts you in touch with other nations as well.
When meeting these other nations in Civilization 6, you will soon find their own themes transitioning into your music playlist before you even notice it, and this happens throughout the game. Once you have explored the reaches of whatever map you are on, you will have a whole plethora of nation’s music keeping you company which may also differ if you are in different ages to each other, which tends to mix up the music really nicely at various stages of the game.
Although the game’s soundtrack is brilliant, one would be remiss not to talk about the new opening theme, Sogno di Volare (“The Dream of Flight”), penned by the brilliant Christopher Tin.
Most known for the main theme of Civilization 4, Baba Yetu, which featured the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili and a very ‘Africanistic’ approach, Tin decided to take a different approach for Civilization 6 and this time turning his head to Europe for a more Euro-centric feeling.
Using words by Michelangelo, Tin uses classic Western orchestral techniques (such as ostinato strings) to evoke the feeling of flight to great effect, and it quickly surpasses Baba Yetu as my favourite Civilization opening theme to date thank to the tunes hopefulness and exuberant joy it exudes throughout its duration.
It captures everything a Civilization game is meant to be in music – the joy of exploration and discovery, and although it may be cheesy to some, for most of us this is glorious orchestral writing.
If you are a fan of orchestral music I cannot recommend this soundtrack enough if you are looking for something new, interesting and perhaps a little bit different; Civilization 6 will not let you down.
If you’d like to know more about the game itself make sure to check out our rather extensive Civilization 6 review.