The Surviving Mars OST Will Keep Me In High Spirits When I Blast Off Into Space

Image: Paradox / Haemimont Games / Kotaku

Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s ongoing hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-ass sounds they make. Today, let’s listen to a soundtrack that’s out of this world: that of Surviving Mars, the Paradox-published 2018 city builder from Haemimont Games.

The dream of Mars is no longer a fantasy, but it might be a nightmare. Fact: Surviving on Mars would be extremely difficult. A lack of drinkable water (maybe). A pervasive threat of sandstorms (definitely). Scientists are still somewhat uncertain about the long term physical and psychological effects of living on an extraterrestrial planet—what horrors the human body might suffer following a mixture of radiation, isolation, and the incessant, nagging pull of homesickness.

After trudging through its two-hour tutorial, I’ve been playing a lot of Surviving Mars (playlist / gameplay / VGMdb / Amazon) lately, and have found myself filled with renewed hope that a mission to the red planet might not be so bad, actually. But I’ll fully admit that notion might just be because of the soundtrack. It’s impossible to listen to George Strezov’s Surviving Mars music without feeling the plucky euphoria of baseless optimism. You can hear it right in the soundtrack’s opening number, “AG.” (Most of the songs are named after elements.)

Paradox / George Strezov (YouTube)

It starts off much like any music you’d hear in a sci-fi game, little more than an urgent thrum of synths. A few measures in, you start to hear the piano melody. It’s all peppy and upbeat for a few bars. And then, at 0:37, the strings kick in, and it’s blastoff from there. This is the type of tune you’d hear looking out over a Martian vista—not one that’s covered in red dust but one that’s green and vibrant. Halfway through, at 2:11, the bassline comes out of nowhere, auguring a different tone. “Okay, you’ve seen the dream. Now it’s time to work for it.” Whenever I hear the bass in-game, I go into overdrive, building electricity grids and life-support systems like my life depends on it. (Yes, I suppose the not-real lives of my in-game Martians’ lives really do depend on it.)

The track “FeCl3” strikes a similar chord.

Paradox / George Strezov (YouTube)

You needn’t be a music expert to hear the similarities between “AG” and “FeCl3.” They convey the same tone, with near-identical instrumentation, at the same brisk tempo. In fact, much of the soundtrack—from “HCl,” to “SiO2,” to songs that play during tense moments, like “Cold Wave”—fits into that mold. It’s the type of cohesive soundtrack that makes you push forward. You hear it, and you’re suddenly down to work toward a bigger picture that once didn’t seem possible, a dream that is no longer a fantasy.

Just don’t listen to “SO2.” That one’s a little too ominous.

And that’s it for today’s Morning Music! If you could go to Mars, would you? What if doing so meant palling around with Elon Musk? Yeeeah, maybe not. So, if not another planet, what are your plans for escaping reality this weekend? Catch you next week! (Monday’s a holiday, so...Wednesday!)

Staff Writer, Kotaku


Julia Q.

If you could go to Mars, would you? What if doing so meant palling around with Elon Musk?

This always struck me as a weird question. Like the whole idea of signing up for going to mars like a decade ago. The base concept is interesting, Seeing a new planet and experiencing that sounds fantastic on paper. Until you realize there’s likely no way back, and you’re stuck with a handful of people you may or may not even like, eating the very basic food that you can grow on your ship or worse yet, space rations until they run out. Also, let’s face it, elon musk is a bullshit artist who’d only go to space if he could go comfortably and survive in adoration while cloyingly attempting to stay relevant with pot smoke and memes. fuck that guy.