You can't deny that this is Guild Wars to its very core, as composer Jeremy Soule only adds on to the franchise's legacy rather than supplants it with a different direction. Even so, it represents a mastery that wasn't quite there in past albums. If I listened to this soundtrack without knowing its source, I would have pegged it as a major motion picture release rather than a video game with angry bears.
It was definitely a difficult score to pick a mere six examples from; I'd recommend that soundtrack enthusiasts listen through its entirety. For a Guild Wars 2 player, it's really interesting to go back and hear the early versions of tracks that Soule would later reprise for the sequel.
1. Eye of the North Overture
Horns! Horns! Horns! Truuuuuumpets! Like many of Soule's more epic pieces, this overture pumps out the brass as if you were a king returning to court. It's quick, touching on many of the album's highlights while ratcheting up the intensity until all you're left with is slack-jawed awe and goosebumps. At least I was.
If you like video game covers by fans, check out this piano rendition of the overture. It's pretty impressive when you consider that his piano is covering for a whole host of instruments.
2. Beyond the Northern Wall
This track begins on a note of apprehension before transitioning into a mighty march. It's a complex march that takes commercial breaks for semi-magical interludes. The music, coupled with the title, has little difficulty painting a picture of a savage frozen land that's as beautiful as it is unknown. I think it drags on a little too long at the end, but that's hardly enough to ding it off of this list.
3. Tome of Rubicon (Dwarf Theme)
You know how there are some songs that you'll hear and go, "Oh yeah, that is totally [game name] to me!" It's something about them that encompasses the entire feel of the game, and for me, this track is very close to the ultimate Guild Wars experience. It's got Soule's bordering-on-obnoxious horns, but I'll easily forgive that for the more subtle and beautiful moments that pepper the fanfare. I don't know much about the Dwarves from this game, but I have to admit that they have excellent tastes in music.
4. Under the Dark Span (Asura Theme)
As an Asura fan, I can't really match up this theme to the race that I know well from the sequel, but no matter: It's a terrific track no matter what. The opening strains of the harp provide an exquisite anchor for this entire piece, even when the horns come in and try to bully the competition. It's quite short, but I'd rather be left wanting more than be forced to wallow through drudgery.
5. Song of the Shiverpeaks (Norn Theme)
I agonized a bit over including Song of the Shiverpeaks, as this track got a reworked -- and much better-known -- reprise in the sequel. But it's not just the Norn theme; it's the Guild Wars theme, period. Kind of hard to ignore that, even if it shares its DNA with its descendant.
Connections aside, there's a tremendous, positive energy to this piece. It's exuberant and quite easy to whistle/hum afterward, which is my non-scientific measuring stick for how memorable music is. I always feel bad sitting still while listening to this track, as I should be doing something far more noble. Like making dinner. Making dinner LIKE A BOSS.
6. Iron Footfalls
Right from the start, I'm imagining little Dwarf feet practically charging into battle. This holds a breathtakingly quick tempo that is urgent, triumphant, and above all else, unrelenting. It just keeps pressing on, delivering rapid segments one after another until the listener is breathless.
But as I said, this is all just the tip of an all-around great soundtrack. What's your favorite piece from the bunch?
MMOs aren't just about looks; they also have great soundtracks that often go unnoticed. Heroes don't stand for that! Massively's Jukebox Heroes examines game soundtracks and features the best tunes to share and discuss. Your DJ for the hour is Justin Olivetti, and the request line is open!