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Jukebox Heroes: EverQuest II's soundtrack


I figured that after the last column's focus on World of Warcraft, I might as well feature the other major November 2004 MMO release: EverQuest II. EverQuest II embraced high fantasy to its core, and the soundtrack for the original game certainly reflects this.

SOE tapped composer Laura Karpman for the project in the early 2000s. The four-time Emmy-winner spent time getting acquainted with the first EverQuest before creating the music for the sequel. Following EQII's completion, Karpman remained on staff at SOE from 2005 to 2006 as the resident composer. She would leave the team after doing the score for EQII's first expansion, Desert of Flames.

"This was one of the most rewarding opportunities I have ever had," Karpman said in 2003. "We had an amazing time recording the score in Prague, a wonderful city with equally great players."

The one-hour soundtrack came with the collector's edition of the game, and a friend mailed me his copy, which I deeply appreciated. There's a lot to enjoy about this score, so let's dig in!

1. Main Title (Long)

EverQuest players undoubtedly recognized the familiar strains of the game's theme when EverQuest II's title screen came up, but there were differences as well. The song evolved from a tinny MIDI tune to a full-fledged orchestra experience, all with Karpman's own spin on it.

It is a tremendous theme, to put it lightly. Other MMOs should be so lucky to have had something like this greet the players every time they logged in.

I picked the longer version of the main title because, as usual with main themes, players are most familiar with only the first minute or so. The full song is just so dang upbeat, with marching drums and trumpeting, er, trumpets.

2. Antonica

I'm not sure whether Antonica sounds more like something from a Disney film, a comedy, or Harry Potter. Well, no matter, it's from EverQuest II, and it kicks butt. This boisterous nature and cheery disposition is in several of these tracks.

There's a waltz at the center of this track, which just strikes me as strange for zone music. Was SOE hoping that players would be skipping, twirling, and prancing their way through the area? If so, I'm sorry I missed it.

3. Qeynos

The oh-so-cleverly named Qeynos has one significant advantage over its Freeport counterpart: the music. Freeport's theme gets a big pass from me, but I really like what's going on in this track.

I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about something I've noticed about this entire soundtrack. It's just not subtle at all. That's not a bad thing, of course; it's just a much different sound from what I'm used to in MMOs. The Qeynos track is more appropriate for the return of royalty to the realm than the slumming of a mud-caked level 5 pig farmer. I guess the town has a deep budget for rooftop musicians.

4. Tower of the Drafling

I confess I'm not that well-versed in EverQuest II's game world, so all the title of this track keeps saying to me is "Tower of the Drafty." And then I start wondering, how cold is it? Is the property value way down due to the incidences of pneumonia?

Anyway. The music. I think this was the first EQII track I ever heard outside of the title, and I latched onto it right away. It's quite playful, don't you agree? I got a kick out of someone who commented that this was (is?) the hold music for SOE's call center. If I had known that, I would've called there several times a week to ask them to transfer me between departments.

5. Blackburrow

For the last two tracks on this list, I wanted to highlight something that diverges from the high horns and high fantasy that's so dominant elsewhere in this score. Blackburrow arrests the attention with a pulse-pounding tribal beat overlaid with a flute. It's very Native American and perfect for exploring the wilderness.

My two-year-old daughter immediately started pounding her fists on my desk in perfect rhythm to this song, which has to say something about how intuitive it is. At least it amused me. Drum on, little girl, drum on!

6. Commonlands

The melody here is so close to the EQII main theme that they'd form inbred flipper-babies if they got married, but I'm not complaining. Urgent drums and a fast tune convey a sense of purpose and travel, which kind of strikes me as odd. I would think that zone music would be a lot slower than this. Again -- not complaining. I think it just goes to show that EverQuest II had ambition from the get-go and wasn't content to be a retread of the past.

So that's six out of a whopping 28 from the core game. Which are your favorites from the soundtrack, and which MMO would you like to see plucked from the music tree for next time?

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!

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