XCOM: Enemy Unknown – Gameplay Music Rewrite

XCOM: Enemy Unknown was in its infancy just as I finished working at 2K in late 2010. By far, it was the release I was anticipating most after I left. Firaxis was absolutely the top choice to resurrect the esteemed franchise. Proven masters at turn based strategy games, they made the leap from world based strategy to squad based strategy naturally. When XCOM finally released, I celebrated by naming my squad after friends of mine in the hopes they would be invested in the characters on screen, their own personal success and demise unfolding before their eyes.

When I first launched the game, I turned off all the music with the intention of creating videos like these to write my own soundtrack. Never having listened to a single note of the original score, I have no clue as to how similar or disparate my music is from the real thing. Once I’m finished creating these videos, I look forward to finding out. To be clear, this is not the original game music. I did not write any music for this game.

I designed the music to showcase its use as in-game music for similar games in the genre. This particular track was written to augment the gameplay with a subtle yet driving intensity. Some keywords I apply to music like this would be covert, mysterious, sci-fi, anticipatory…. It’s a hybrid of indie, sci-fi, and modern warfare genres. The tune’s pulse is delivered by the bass, and a steady thumping one at that. Without implementing a drum kit in the beginning, and instead utilizing atmospheric percussion, the music doesn’t overpower the gameplay during moments of relative calm. If a dynamic music system was at my disposal, I would consider adding a drum kit layer that kicks in when combat intensity is high, matching the player’s adrenaline.