Last week, the laid-back folks at Sony Online Entertainment released the 118th expansion for EverQuest II, Chains of Eternity. Fortunately, it's available as a digital download so you won't have to suffer the embarrassment of a store clerk yelling, "PRICE CHECK ON 'CHAINS OF ETERNITY' FOR THIS PERVERT HERE -- THE ONE IN THE 50-SHADES-OF-GREY COAT" over the loudspeaker.
Even more fortunate, for us, is that the expansion continues to grow EverQuest II's already immense symphonic library. SOE's been adding to the score with not only the game's expansions but also several of the larger content updates, and it's absolutely impressive to behold. As in most scores, there's a lot of forgettable noise that could probably be replaced by humming bees, but there still remains quite a few great tracks to appreciate, cherish, and adopt into one's own music library.
Instead of focusing on the game's initial soundtrack, we're going to be skipping around to look at many of the terrific pieces of music that have come out of Norrath post-2004.
It's definitely one of those dark, brooding songs, but there are excited strings in the background that make me think of Batman. Am I wrong? I love how the song takes a couple of pauses for lofty bridges and then dives right back into the fray. This is music that is unapologetically great, and if I were hearing this right before heading into a game, I'd be so pumped up for it.
2. Freeport Guild Hall
I read a player criticism of EverQuest II's music by saying it was "too grandiose" for the game. In my opinion, that's exactly what it should be. EverQuest II is about high fantasy, big moments, and a complete lack of subtlety. The score should reflect that. Sometimes, grandiose music can propel its setting to even greater heights all by itself.
So what if this is "just" a track for guild hall music? Zur makes it sound as if it's from a major award ceremony right after rebels blew up an enemy space station or something. The whole orchestra gets into it, building and building, until it fills every crevice in your ear. Heck, I wish I could hear this upon arriving home every day.
If the title of this track rings a bell, it might be because I included it with our initial look at EverQuest's score a few weeks ago. While EverQuest II's score is mostly new stuff, there are several pieces that are reimagined tracks from the original -- and Kelethin is one of them. I thought it'd be educational to include this for comparison's sake and because it's still an incredible song.
While the most obvious change is the shift from the bleeps and bloops of MIDI music to full instruments, Kelethin II: Electric Boogaloo is more than that. The composer added a touch of choral singing, really well-done flutes, and light percussion, and it creates a version that takes the excellence of the original and does it justice in every way possible. Beautiful.
4. Skyshrine Merchants' Quarter
The Skyshrine update to the game received a host of new music tracks (I wasn't kidding about SOE pumping out the score for non-expansions), but it's the Merchants' Quarter that caught my ear. It has a touch of an exotic tone to it, but what really strikes me is the mournful cello (at least, I think it's a cello) that sails through the song while the rest of the notes skitter about it. I appreciate when songs can include two opposites -- in this case, upbeat and melancholy -- and somehow make them work together without jarring us. This is a good example of that.
5. Vasty Deep (Conservatory)
If I had just listened to this song without knowing where it came from, there's just no way on earth I would've placed it as a video game track. A sad romantic movie in which the lead actress dies from a vague disease that leaves her beautiful, perhaps. Or something involving puppies running in slow-motion; I don't know. But a video game? Get out of here.
Vasty Deep (Conservatory) is dominated by the piano, which forges through a grand yet bitter accompaniment. It's equally the music of revelation as it is regret, and even as it summits, there's never the sense that you should be 100% smiles. It's definitely beautiful, and I appreciate how it ends with a light chorus doing its "Aaaahhhhhh" thing and some interesting water dripping sounds.
6. Character Menu
Character creation music is tough to get right, yet it's crucial that the composer nails it. If it's too loud, too distracting, or too annoying, it can sour the game experience before the player even sets his or her first step into the new world. But it shouldn't be completely forgettable, either, because this music will be listened to extensively while players fine-tune their choices. It's an opportunity to present a musical overture for the game proper, and I think that EverQuest II demonstrates how it can be done perfectly.
I love this theme and always have since first trying out the game years ago. It's really light on percussion, which is good for keeping headaches down, and heavy on whimsy and enchantment. It's just hard to listen to it and not end up in a good mood by the time it's done.
It might be a long while before we come back around to EverQuest II, so to tide us over, I'd love to hear any additional tracks that you've loved in the game. Share!
MMOs aren't just about looks; they also have great soundtracks that often go unnoticed. Heroes don't stand for that! Every 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!