It’s very sad when innovation truly makes a game great but leaves little room for marketing, resulting in games that are loved by the critics, but underappreciated by the masses. We’ve seen that with underappreciated masterpieces like Beyond Good and Evil, Grim Fandango and the game we’re talking about today, Outcast, released in 1999 for Windows by Belgian developer Appeal and French publisher Infogrames (RIP both)
Outcast was a game with many firsts, including a revolutionary agent-based AI system and a gorgeous voxel-based graphics engine. The latter isn’t always enough to make the game as immersive as it can be, so composer Lennie Moore went to the Moscow Symphony Orchestra to help create a soundtrack that was not only one of the first orchestra soundtracks in video games, but also one that would give Jesper Kyd and even John Williams a run for their money. After all, if anyone has a history in classical music that’s almost as overlooked as this game, it’s the Russians.
The game starts in the snowy region of Raanzaar, where ex-SEAL Cutter Slade wakes up and finds out he’s in one hell of a mess, having to save his own world as well as the alien world Adelpha from the results of an experiment gone very wrong. The music in this level fits like a glove – it says “Wow, you got into a serious mess and to make things worse it’s freezing over here” – just what you need for that sweet, sweet immersion.
After Ranazaar, the player is sent directly to Shamazaar for a compelte 180 degree turn in emotion. Just like Raanzar makes you feel like you’re in deep trouble, the music of the lush green Shamazzar really goes hand in hand with the pure beauty of the level. Remeber – this is a 1999 game, but the level design makes it look at least a few years younger.
It’s great that these two regions have to be visited back to back at the beginning of the game because it just shows the contrast from negative to positive. After the first visit to Shamazar, the player is free to expore the other regions. Let’s take a look at the music there.
Okriana is Adelpha’s capital city in the dessert region of Talanzaar, with very fitting Middle Eastern music . Maybe a little obvious, but the track does its job perfectly, especially with the amount of Arab-inspired architecure.
The mountain region of Morazaar, where the oppressed populace mines crsystals to make weapons for the local dictator’s army, is obviously very harsh, so the music has to have a feel similar to that of Ranzaar. It creates the suspense nessesary to get you paying attention to a place where practically everything tries to kill you – the lava pits, the cacti shooting volleys of needles at you, the streams of fire erupting from the ground and more.
Just like Motazaar, the Okasankaar theme creates a lot of suspense and for a good reason. Very few things are more scary than swimming around in the water that covers 90% of the region and is full of sharks that can kill you before you know it.
Less suspense, more action. This is the only uninhabited region in Adelpha, with only a couple of friendly NPCs, so there is plenty of fighting involved. The tribal drum music really helps push the feeling of jungle across, plus the primitve savage race known as Oogoobar will never pass up a chance to ambush you.
The soundtrack of Outcast was not only incredibly well written and performed, it was also one of the first orchestra soundtracks ever made. Unfortunately, it didn’t help Outcast gain much ground in terms of sales, which is a real shame because it (or its soundtrack at least) could have been a late 90s classic up there with MGS, Ocarina of Time and the other iconic gems released in that time period.