Tunes of Magic – I

For months and months I’ve wanted to publish an article on MMO soundtrack, pretty much ever since opening this blog. Somehow, this has proven to be a most difficult endeavor: whenever chancing on another blogger dedicating time to this beloved subject, I was reminded of that painfully pending topic in my inbox that I just couldn’t seem to finish. The truth is, I am such a huge sucker for themes and game OSTs that making a final choice of the countless songs I have cherished in my life just proves too great a challenge. I fail.

So, I’ve given up trying. I will never be able to link all the goodies or even my “ultimate cream of the crop” to you – things would get out of hand and the heavy wall of links would ultimately wear you down, undermining my entire intention (you know, candy overkill). Instead, I will consider this the first post of more to come, allowing me to return to the topic whenever that particular mood strikes. Wahey.

How I came to love game soundtrack

A while ago, I explained how I consider video games works of art. Where some just see playable content and entertainment, I see fantastic, inspiring settings and compositions for the finer senses; the design and aesthetic, the artwork and music that breathe life into our virtual worlds. Almost 2 years before WoW launched, I was among those obsessing over every little snippet of new concept art and sneak peek, things just looked that fantastic. And had they not – had Blizzard not always been so outstanding when it came to design, trailers and the full package, I might never have played WoW in the first place. Art is not everything to an MMO’s success; but I’m not the kind of player that can overlook plain ugly. If it’s offending to the eye or if the soundtrack is a careless, loveless excuse for music (or worse: missing) a game is off to a very rocky start with me. I want everything that way.

I’ve collected concept and artbooks, along with game (and some movie) OSTs for many years. I think my first tracks were SNES midis from this place and if Chrono Trigger or Castlevania mean anything to you, you know the kind of music I was particularly interested in. Long ago, Squaresoft was on console what Blizzard in many ways became on PC for me: a benchmark. An incredible smithy of musical and visual goodness (besides delivering awesome stories and near spotless technical realisation). My private RPG sound library ranges up to around 1998. After that, I gradually left the scene and got hooked to PC RPGs and online games.

Taking a pick

In order to acquire new MMO soundtrack, I usually keep my eyes open for collector’s editions. Youtube has also become a great source for me to discover music I might otherwise never come to know, because I clearly can’t play or even try out every MMO in existence. I am still also collecting tunes from the odd console RPG (there ain’t that many these days) or classic PC game which is why I have included one in my list of picks for you, too.

I have thought about breaking things down into typological sub-sections, like “battle themes”, “ambiance”, “sad themes” and so forth, but then I decided to pick 6 random favorites for a start that I currently listen to and that might not been so well-known as others. Were you to ask me about my personal preferences in general, I’d have to say that my tastes are quite diverse, but there’s definitely a red thread for what delights me the most:

  • When I’m in the right mood, I enjoy very epic, bombastic tunes of grandeur and a bit of pathos. Not too much pathos mind, and certainly not all the time. If it sounds like another Hans Zimmer spin-off, it’s not for me.
  • I love pretty much any spooky, creepy or fairy tale-esque tune you can think of. Needles to say Danny Elfman is my hero here.
  • I love sad, melancholic and quiet tunes that usually blend into the background. The sort of song that fits your mood perfectly some days, but is too painful to listen to on others.
  • I love merry, bouncy tunes that make me want to grab a walking stick in Bilbo Baggins fashion. It’s a rare kind of music that makes you feel like sailing out to distant adventure.

For any type of music, I appreciate tracks that change often and are more like the arrangements you find in classic music or opera, rather than repetitive “verse and chorus”-patterns. I like songs to tell an evolving story (which is also why Bohemian Rhapsody will always remain the greatest “pop song” ever written!). Basil Poledouris was hands down the greatest (fantasy) film composer of all times for this reason.

If you ever come across a great tune fitting any of these descriptions, think of me and send me a note! I would LOVE to hear about it! And now finally, I will shut up and hope you enjoy my picks! =)

Allods Online – Main Theme
My first choice is brought to you by Allods Online which I still consider the most underrated MMO presently out there. So much potential, such bad timing. This track will greet you right at the menu screen and is what I consider a grand, yet interesting and evolving piece. After 0:50 secs latest, you will know what I mean. God, I love this song!

Age of Conan – Memories of Cimmeria
The reason why I spent most of my time in AoC in Cimmeria, that rough and snowy landscape of the north. Riding down Conall’s Valley for the very first time as the sun was just about to set over the mountains, this song crept up on me like a clear, fine rain. The Norwegian singer could not have been cast better with her voice of crystal bells.

World of Warcraft – the Shaping of the World
I could easily dedicate an entire article on the music of WoW, so taking just the one pick is hard. Yet, people always seem to know about “A Call to Arms” or “Legends of Azeroth” for the classic era, not necessarily about this track here which is my personal favorite of the first album. This is goosebump material and encompasses everything WoW ever was for me.

Granado Espada – Main Theme
Also known as “Sword of the New World”, GE is a remarkably unique MMO in many ways, with its Baroque European setting and unorthodox battle system. In terms of music, there is a very unhappy, grotesque mix of beautiful classic piano and horrid techno trance going on. Yet there are several gems to be found here for those who still look for them.

Final Fantasy XI – The Rebublic of Bastok
Tunes like this one are so much what Square games have been about for decades – merry, playful, adventurous and exotic. The uplifting theme of Bastok holds a special place in my heart, having finally arrived in that city with my companions after a long and tedious travel by foot, after countless corpseruns and great laughs on the way. Long live our noob days!

Fable II – Oakvale
As promised, my non-MMO pick. There is nothing I can possibly say about this song that would make it any better. Danny Elfman is not from this world.
I can see Winona Ryder dancing in the snow while listening to this – can you hear it too?

I did it! I chose 6 tracks only!!! *exhale*

And with this, a very happy, bombastic, spooky, ponderous and merry weekend to you all!

7 comments

  1. Not MMO music either, but I always have the Chrono Cross soundtrack in my playlist, and the Chrono Symphonic collection is fantastic.

    I collect OSTs and other assorted game music on CD, though. It’s easily the biggest slice of my music collection.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. @Tessy
    MGS was awesome; I only every played part one, but I remember how we stared at the joypad vibrating over our couch table at the Psycho Mantis encounter! *shiver*
    there are some fabulous action tracks and also creepy ones there, thanks for the link! =)

    @Tesh
    Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross and Xenogears are possibly my most beloved albums of the classic RPG lot. I am a huge fan of Mitsuda’s work, even though Nobuo Uematsu did certainly create similar magic moments for me in the past, especially in FF7 and FF8.
    The symphonic editions are wonderful. I guess you already know about the Creid and Kirite albums too; if not, I can really recommend them! :)

    @Issy
    Lmao@Erasure! x)
    now that is just plain vile, Issy!

    @Angelya
    Glad you enjoyed the track (and pictures)!

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