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Jukebox Heroes: RIFT's soundtrack


From where I'm sitting, there seems to be a popular conception (at least within the MMO community) that RIFT's score was a letdown. As a player of the game, I actually shared that view for quite some time, as none of the music really popped out at me while I was playing.

That all changed, however, when I sat down to listen to the full soundtrack. While it's not uniformly excellent (there are a lot of forgettable songs), several tunes arrested my attention and made me look at the score in a new light. So as we examine the soundtrack this week, I just ask that any of you out there who shared my previous outlook on the score give it another try. Keep an open mind, is all I'm asking.

RIFT was composed by industry veteran Inon Zur (check out our interview with him from a couple of months ago). The score was originally released with the collector's edition, although it's recently become available in iTunes and Amazon.

1. Main Theme

I think I've said before how MMOs condition us to listen to the first part of the game's theme without keeping us around for the second half. Usually that happens because we're skipping through the character select and logging in as fast as possible, and sometimes the score just gets truncated.

I know I've done this with RIFT's theme particularly because it feels kind of lackluster. It was only upon listening through the entire song without cutting it off that I realized it gets really awesome around the 1:10 mark. It's almost as if there's a second song here completely unrelated to the first, so feel free to skip forward. Cue some wailing voices, an X-Files piano riff, and that slow, steady percussion... I'm in heaven. It's too bad that this wasn't what we were hearing right at the beginning.

2. Game Intro

RIFT's score has a lot of deep horns, choirs, and bells. It kind of feels like an old cathedral in a way.

That's how Game Intro begins before moving into a forgettable middle section. Fortunately, salvation is on the horizon! Like the main theme, this track gets better the further you get into it. Starting at 1:22 you get the "bum BUM bum bum BUM" beats, which is great if you like bums. Suddenly, what was forgettable is elevated, and we end on a strong, stirring note.

3. Guardian Theme

Sorry, Defiants, but the Guardians have a clear edge with their faction's theme. The Guardian theme, aka "that Sanctum song," is just hauntingly beautiful. While the track begins loud, at 0:43 the noise is wiped away for a soft, sacred humalong. That's like a singalong, just with humming, get it?

As the Guardians are the religious faction, it makes sense that this song has a spiritual quality to it. What I realized is that while we hear just a portion of it in Sanctum in the game, the full track is so, so much more. Listen to it all the way through, especially the final half-minute when it builds up into a triumphant proclamation.

4. Scarlet Gorge

This right here is the track that really shook me out of the "RIFT's soundtrack is a waste of hard drive space" funk. I don't ever recall hearing this in the game, but dang if it's not a tasty treat.

Scarlet Gorge begins with a peppy chase theme before transitioning into what honestly sounds like original era Star Trek fight music. From there, the song bounces around to all sorts of places, including an underwater tribal beat at 0:58. It's like a variety show crammed into one track.

Even though it's all over the place, it's a lot of fun to listen to. I'm hard-pressed to categorize it, although it does have a semblance of Western flavor that might go with the zone's design.

5. Stillmoor

What I found in many of these tracks is that Zur composed these songs to be a journey rather than whipping a repetitive chorus at us. So while Stillmoor begins with a somber requiem, it doesn't take long before we're over that and heading off to a new place.

So what does that new place sound like? At 1:16 it turns to the lovely flutes of Silverwood (more on that in just a bit), but it's at the 2:00 mark when the excitement express rolls in and I wake up from my pleasant slumber. Finally, at 3:23 we're left with a much more upbeat version of the first minute of the song, which has now gone through the fires and emerged triumphant.

6. Silverwood

It seems that many fantasy MMOs have a song like this, a tranquil piece for an idyllic landscape (usually in a lowbie zone). RIFT's scenic Silverwood is perfect for this kind of music, and I certainly felt swaddled in New Agey goodness when I heard this in-game.

The song adds some conflict in to spoil the mood at 1:20, but it soon returns to the Happy Monastery Fun Hour. All in all, a charming track.

Six up and six down, and RIFT is done! I'm not sure whether Storm Legion added any new music to the game; if anyone knows for sure, please relay that my way! In any case, I'll leave the comments to you. What do you think about this score, and what are your favorite tracks?

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!

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