For me at least, Mark Morgan isn’t a household name. Though I know we have all heard his work at one time or another. Still, as desperate I am for more and more news on the Planescap sequel from inXile, this little piece is surely worth sinking my teeth into deeper.
Mark Morgan’s credits include some of my favorite games of all time, so it is a real shame that I had to google his name at all when I read the tweet. Most notably, he did Fallout 1, 2, and Planescape: Torment. His credits do extend much further and much deeper into the history of PC gaming, and that’s what I want to explore here today.
Let’s start with one of his earliest game scores: Zork Nemesis.
I’ve never in my life played a single Zork game, and am not entirely sure if I had heard of the series before I began this article. It’s an adventure game series, which is probably my least played genre of games. Which isn’t on purpose, but I was a little young and then more of a console gamer during their last days of greatness.
All aside, this track is an excellent start because it showcases a really intense skill of setting a mood. Intermixing beautiful flickers of actual music into a dreary darkness of rain and storm, the entire affair feels somber and desolate and lonely.
Moving on, we have an excellent piece from Shattered Steel, Bioware’s first published game.
Again, Shattered Steel is another game that I have not played, though I have definitely heard of it. I’ve always been curious to see what pre-RPG (aka the other 98% of their catalogue not named MDK2) Bioware looked like. Though my love of Bioware has waned over the last few years, I’d love to see them do an action-RPG with mechs. It would give them an excuse to play around with first person at least.
And if they did, I would hope they bring back Mark Morgan. I was weary of this track at first, given the repetition, but I think the rest of the song builds around it perfectly. It really becomes pretty epic, pretty quickly. I can definitely imagine it backing up some serious mech combat and getting my blood pumping.
Now for the big three games that I do know Mark Morgan’s work from: Fallout 1, 2, and Planescape: Torment.
I think the reason why I didn’t remember Mark Morgan’s name as well as say Nobuo Uetmatsu for the Final Fantasy series or Jeremy Soule for the Elder Scrolls series is because all of these songs perfectly capture and blend into the mood of the game. With only a few exceptions (such as “Deionarra’s Theme” from Planescape), his music is not what I’d want to listen to outside of its exact context.
I hope that doesn’t sound like I hate it, because it’s honestly the complete opposite of hate. I feel like Soule’s epic score for Skyrim was absolutely amazing and I can listen to anything by Nobuo Uetmatsu at any time, but neither work on the deeper level of Morgan’s Fallout soundtracks. In the first two cases, the music is in a way a character in the game. You follow its arch, listen to its back story, and see where it grows as the game progresses. Morgan’s music is not a character – it is the setting itself, personified audibly and crafted to pull you into a dark and isolated world.
And as a bonus, Mark Morgan was already announced to be Wasteland 2’s composer: