What's that, you say? A cheap tie-in, you say? Oh, pish posh. It just so happens that I appreciate the rich oeuvre of Jeremy Soule, and the alignment of the planets is...
OK, it's a cheap tie-in. I can't help it; Guild Wars has been on my mind this past week, and since the full Guild Wars 2 soundtrack has yet to ship for DirectSong, this will do. Besides, as we well know, music doesn't age at the same pace as games. So why not hit up a soundtrack for the first Guild Wars while we dive into the sequel?
At the risk of understatement, I think it's safe to say Jeremy Soule is somewhat well-known in the field of gaming. As a composer, he's tackled projects like Knights of the Old Republic, Icewind Dale, and the last three Elder Scrolls titles. In the Guild Wars community, he is the voice of the musical soul of the game.
His compositions are the stuff of heaven: full, ethereal, dreamy. It's almost impossible to separate Soule's work on Guild Wars: Prophecies from the game, especially for those who played Prophecies extensively since its 2005 release. I'll be eager to digest and report on his newest work when it arrives, but until then, let's sample the highlights of his first foray into Tyria.
1. Eye of the Storm
For many Guild Wars players, pre-searing Ascalon holds strong memories; it's the place where we fell in love with this gorgeous title. Behind it all, Eye of the Storm floated between flute and violin to give us a bittersweet tune that's both on the edge of beauty and tragedy.
As much as I like this track, it always made me feel very lonely. In the middle is a lot of melancholy, and it fades out on an uncertain note. I like it, and I appreciate it, but it does strange things to my gut even so.
2. A Warrior's Heart
The title for this track is quite apt. It's an anthem that's just as much suited for the battlefield as it is for a cathedral, balancing the deeds with the drive of a fighter. Or maybe that's too pretentious; maybe it's just an epic-sounding piece that's great fun to listen to.
What I like about Soule is that he seems to play tag team with different instruments, allowing certain ones to rise above the rest before tagging another one to take its place. It keeps things fresh, in my opinion.
3. The Elementalist
Any track that begins with a pipe organ is either going to be brilliant or fall flat on its face. Fortunately, this is the former (or it wouldn't have been on this list, right?). I can't recall when or where this was in the game, but it's a terrific piece.
The Elementalist has a few of the Guild Wars motifs but mixes in this haunted house theme to make something truly memorable. At least, I usually associate echoey organs with haunted houses (the upscale ones).
4. The Moment of Truth
This sounds like the end of a great movie, as the track revisits many of the previous themes. My favorite point is at 0:51 when it launches into a short but oh-so-sweet march. The conclusion of this piece makes you want to stand up and salute Guild Wars, except that that would be silly and cause your friends to question your sanity.
5. Crystal Oasis
"I hope when I die, I go out listening to GW music," one YouTube commenter wrote. I guess it's an idea, although if that happened to me I'd be wondering why Jeremy Soule is assassinating me.
Anyway! Crystal Oasis sounds just like it's described: a very beautiful, peaceful oasis of music. As with pretty much all the tracks in Guild Wars, I'm always amazed when I take a step back and go, "This was in a video game? Not like in an art museum or being played as the first human spaceship landed on a planet? Huh."
6. Temple of Tolerance
I will forever associate this song with Guild Wars perhaps more than any other piece. It's not my favorite, but it's certainly listenable and memorable.
What I especially like about it is that it goes a long way toward selling the world of Tyria to me. Music isn't just emotional for me; it also triggers a lot of memories and imagination. My mind often listens to film and video game scores and tries to associate it with the setting, the story being told, the history behind everything, and the people involved. I don't know what Temple of Tolerance makes you imagine, but for me, it's a world that's graceful and cultured, something precious and worth preserving.
7. First Light
"When I first viewed Guild Wars, I was stunned to see how beautiful it was," Soule once said. "Of course, I soon found out that Daniel Dociu, the original art director from Squaresoft, was now in charge at ArenaNet. That was enough for me to know that I had to pursue working with this team. Fortunately, he liked my vision and approach for the music and the rest is history. "
It's interesting to me how much beauty he saw in the game before he added his musical touch to it. In any case, I'm going to end with one of my all-time favorite Guild Wars tracks, First Light. Like many others in Prophecies, it's the polar opposite of in-your-face action. Instead, here we have a swirl of gentle and majestic with the instruments continuing to play round-robin and dance in and out of each other. Awesome stuff.
So those are my seven picks from Guild Wars Prophecies, but I'd like to hear yours! Which ones were your favorite and/or make you the most nostalgic to hear?
MMOs aren't just about looks; they also have great soundtracks that often go unnoticed. Heroes don't stand for that! Every other Tuesday, Jukebox Heroes will check out a game's soundtrack and feature the best tunes to share and discuss. Your DJ for the hour is Justin Olivetti, and the request line is open!