Jukebox Heroes: Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer's soundtrack

Fans (or ex-fans?) of this column might recall that I went against the grain of popular opinion by pronouncing Age of Conan's soundtrack "adequate" rather than an "outstanding masterpiece." I think that I can extend an olive branch to the player army that's been chasing me since then, however, as I hold the expansion soundtrack in much higher regard.

Composer Knut Avenstroup Haugen returned for Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer, creating a 22-track journey through all new barbaric lands. Unlike his first score for this MMO, this one latches onto the Asian themes of the expansion and takes the score in a decidedly Chinese direction. It's well-done across the board and aided by a full orchestra. Really, my biggest complaint is that it's not easy to purchase here in the states for some reason. You can listen to and even download a few samples from the official soundtrack site, which still remains in operation.

So let's head to the far east for this week's exploration of MMO soundtracks, looking at the highlights from Rise of the Godslayer!

1. All Heroes Unite

All Heroes Unite is unquestionably the star of the expansion soundtrack. After a joyous fanfare, it launches into a mixture of fantasy and far east action riffs, all the while sounding very Conan-like in the process. Can one describe music as Conan-like? Well I just did. Deal with it.

I like how it breaks for a Battlestar Galactica-style drum solo (like Cylons, barbarians have a plan, although theirs usually involves crushing, slicing, and looting instead of techno-head games) before returning to the rising action.

2. Ambush from Three Directions

Percussion: That's all that this 1:12 track contains. Maybe you're not a fan of solo percussion, but I am, especially when it delivers such a tension-building atmosphere as this one does. Also, for the record, I like drumlines. There's just something about a good beat, yes?

3. Battle of the Factions

Here's another action track, with plenty of bombastic cues to let you know that, yes, you are listening to a Conan score. The Asian sound weaves between the much more heavy-handed horns and woodwinds (can flutes be heavy-handed?), and before you know it, this short track is over.

4. Northern Grasslands

Let's skew away from the action for a little while and focus on some of the softer and decidedly more Chinese tracks of the game. Northern Grasslands is a lovely, tranquil track that features a musical saw (unless I'm greatly wrong), which lends a weeping, emotional tone to the piece. This would be such a terrific track to play while exploring a zone, as I can imagine how it would greatly enhance the beauty of the visuals.

5. Villages of Khitai

I've always been quite partial to village themes, since they're usually upbeat, relaxing, and homey. When you hear music like this track, you know you're in a safe area with friendly people who don't mind you sitting a spell. It's not the type of music that's really in your face, as that would actually defeat its purpose. It creates the link of security and warmth in your mind to the place you're visiting, and I think that this is a great example of that.

6. Secrets of Dragon's Spine: Theme

OK, this is a little bit of a cheat. It's actually a theme to an update that came out after Rise of the Godslayer, but I wanted to sneak it in because who knows when I'll get around to doing more Age of Conan again?

The theme to Secrets of Dragon's Spine is strong and manly. It most likely has a chest full of lush, wild hair. The highlight here is the choir that bursts onto the scene around 1:40, giving it a much richer, more respectable exit than it would have had otherwise. Quite grand, quite grand indeed.

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!
This article was originally published on Massively.