A symphony of sand and sun: comparing Pharaoh’s original and remastered soundtracks
The time has come: Pharaoh: A New Era, the remake of the 1999 city-building game by Impressions Games and Sierra On-Line, has been released, and thanks to its strong template it’s able to enchant us again. The remake, produced by Triskell Interactive and published by Dotemu, is controversial discussed due to some technical problems, missing features like real-time battles on the city map that were available in the original Pharaoh, and some questionable design decisions. Yet, many of the points raised by fans and critics are, in my opinion, far less critical than reported, and could be fixed with updates in the near future. At its core, Pharaoh: A New Era is an all-around successful remake that pays homage to its origins, adds minor improvements, and catapults the game’s technology into the present, especially visually and acoustically.
I was particularly impressed by its music, which was composed and recorded from scratch, but based on the fantastic original soundtrack. So get ready, because I’m about to take us on a little musical adventure.
More than just a collection of digital samples
The creator behind Pharaoh: A New Era’s soundtrack is Louis Godart, a French composer and musician who has been fascinated by Egypt since childhood. He started playing the piano at the age of 6 and later learned to play guitar, bass, drums, and various other instruments. He also studied music theory, composition, and orchestration at the Conservatoire de Paris, making him the perfect candidate to redefine Pharaoh’s original soundtrack. So it was no surprise that Godart was tapped by Triskell Interactive to redefine a soundtrack that would take the game’s atmosphere and immersion to the next level. He agreed and set himself the goal of creating music that would reflect both the historical accuracy and the artistic vision of the game, which with A New Era has taken on a more comic art style (that looks fantastic, in my humble opinion).
To achieve this goal, Godart conducted extensive research into ancient Egyptian music and culture. He drew inspiration from a variety of sources, including traditional Egyptian folk music, modern Arabic pop music, film scores by Hans Zimmer and Jerry Goldsmith, and even video game soundtracks by Jeremy Soule (known for Skyrim, Guild Wars, Company of Heroes) and Jesper Kyd (Hitman, Assassin’s Creed, Borderlands). He also exchanged ideas and feedback with the creators of the soundtrack for the original Pharaoh and its sister games Caesar 3, Zeus and Emperor, Henry Beckett & Keith Zizza.
In addition, Godart also incorporated authentic instruments from Egypt and other regions of Africa and Asia. Some of these instruments (which I’ve never heard before) include the Oud, a pear-shaped stringed instrument similar to a lute; the Ney, a bamboo flute with a warm and breathy tone; the Goblet drum, a goblet-shaped drum played with the fingers, the Daf, a tambourine-like instrument with jingles, the Santur, a hammered dulcimer with metal strings, the Kora, a harp-lute with 21 strings, and the Duduk, a double-reed woodwind instrument with a melancholic sound. These instruments give the music an overall exotic and authentic feel, transporting us to ancient Egypt and immersing us in the world of the game, just as the music of the original did.
Pharaoh: A New Era – Music Dev Diary
Blending the old and new
Godart recorded most of these instruments himself in his studio, but he also collaborated with other musicians who played some exotic instruments that he didn’t have access to, like Mohamed Amine Kalai, a Tunisian violinist who plays an electric violin with an Arabic tuning. The production process took about two years, during which Godart faced several challenges. He wanted to find the right balance between authenticity and accessibility, while avoiding clichés or stereotypes that might offend or misrepresent Egyptian culture. His goal was to create music that would sound realistic, but also catchy and memorable for both modern audiences and players of the original Pharaoh.
The result is over 40 tracks, each tailored to different scenarios and locations in the game, praised by fans and critics alike for their quality and variety, and perfectly complementing the Pharaoh: A New Era’s scenario and graphics. I strongly recommend giving it a try (preferably with good speakers or headphones) to truly appreciate Godart’s musical prowess and the immersive experience it brings to the game:
Direct comparison between Pharaoh’s original and remastered soundtracks
Pharaoh Classic: Stha
Pharaoh: A New Era: Stha
Pharaoh Classic: Setup
Fun fact: This particular track still gives me strong feelings of anticipation. It was playing on a loop in the background during the installation of Pharaoh Classic on my PC in 1999. The installation took many hours because my computer had only a 133 MHz CPU, 64 MB RAM, and a tiny 2 GB hard drive split into 2 partitions. It was a struggle to install Pharaoh on this system, and it was even harder to get it to run. Once managed to start it, the game only ran in slow motion, and the sound and music kept jerking. But that didn’t stop me from spending days and nights in front of my PC, building and managing my Egyptian cities out of sand.
Pharaoh: A New Era: Setup
Pharaoh Classic: AMAKH
Pharaoh: A New Era: AMAKH
Pharaoh Classic: Khepera
Pharaoh: A New Era: Khepera
Worth playing, not just musically speaking
In my opinion, Louis Gordart and everyone else involved have done a great job. They’ve created a monumental, modern and catchy soundtrack for one of the best and immortal city-building games of all time, and they’ve done it with skill and reverence for Pharaoh Classic. I can’t get enough of it and would love to buy and listen to the soundtrack separately from the game. Unfortunately, that’s not possible at the moment. So I highly recommend experiencing the full glory of the soundtrack while building your own Egyptian empire in Pharaoh: A New Era. It’s available on Steam for a reasonable price, and it’s definitely worth checking out.
Pharaoh: A New Era at a glance
- Personal rating:
- Triskell Interactive
- Release date (Steam):
- 15 Feb, 2023
- City Builder
- Where to buy:
Hero image: wallpaper for Pharaoh: A New Era from dotemu.com.