Jukebox Heroes: A few of my favorite MMO soundtracks

Justin Olivetti
J. Olivetti|02.19.13

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Jukebox Heroes: A few of my favorite MMO soundtracks
Jukebox Heroes A few of my favorite soundtracks
I could hear some of you thinking in disbelief last week, "If Age of Conan isn't one of your top MMO scores, what is? And just how much am I not sending you a Christmas card this year, you loser?" You were kind enough to just think it and not say it, but I could hear it even so.

As we've mentioned countless times in this column, musical tastes are subjective. What's appealing to you may not be for me and vice-versa. What more is that musical tastes -- and favorites -- are always shifting around. I listen back to the jams that I enjoyed in the '90s and absolutely pity my younger self for such a deficiency in his musical diet.

So I thought that I'd take a week off our normal soundtrack reviews to bring to you my current top six favorite soundtracks. This list comes with the caveat that it's always subject to future changes as I continue to listen through more soundtracks for this column.

1. Vanguard

I've decided that it's a high crime against humanity that Vanguard's score is not available for purchase anywhere today. It's a game that exudes beauty, and the soundtrack is perhaps the most radiant part of it. I've never had such an enjoyable experience listening through a 100 or so tracks, and when I was finished, I instantly put this on my favorites list.

Sure, it's probably not a soundtrack that many are familiar with, but that doesn't diminish the joy in listening to it for me. I love the wide variety of themes, many of which focus more on painting a sound picture than thrashing my eardrums with generic fantasy cancophonies.

2. World of Warcraft

This is on my list of favorites not because of the game's popularity but because it's simply good music period. Blizzard has created a strong legacy of great soundtracks and obviously put forth its best effort in getting each and every one of the several WoW scores out there.

As a collective whole, the World of Warcraft soundtrack is an impressive beast that has a wide array of songs. These include everything from quiet, contemplative pieces and epic battle montages to quirky tunes and lovely snippets I could listen to time and again. I've never regretted purchasing any of these soundtracks, and they're definitely hard to top when put in comparison to other games.

3. Pirates of the Burning Sea

Yeah, I know, I was just as surprised as you. But I purchased the two-volume set of this soundtrack from Amazon a couple of months back and then was bowled over by just how toe-tapping awesome it was. Really, if you like good regional, piratey, and period-sounding music, this is right up there with the best of them.

The score was composed by Jeff Kurtenacker, who has done some work on World of Warcraft's soundtrack and has been tapped for the awesome-sounding (so far) music in WildStar. This right here may be the best soundtrack you've never heard. I kid you not.

4. Lord of the Rings Online

I think we've well established the phenomenon that it's easier to be fond of music from games you love. If I may indulge in one entry on this list that is a result of this phenomenon, it's LotRO. I've played this game off and on since launch, and this soundtrack is inseparable from the game experience. It's beautiful and rich and has gotten just loads better ever since Riders of Rohan released with a ton of new tracks.

5. Guild Wars

If I had to pick between the original Guild Wars and its successor when it comes to score, I'm sorry, but I'm going with the former. As much as I love the Guild Wars 2 soundtrack, it has yet to overcome the sheer majesty that was Jeremy Soule's creation over the course of four albums.

Sure, some if it can start to sound the same; Soule sticks really closely to his trademark themes and doesn't venture much outside of those boundaries. That's not a black mark, however. This is one of the most listenable soundtracks I've ever heard, especially if you go through each album in order and hear how the songs tell a coherent story from start to end. Ounce for ounce, there are more goosebump-rising moments in these albums than I have found anywhere else.

6. Spiral Knights

I'll wrap up with another "out of the blue" score that stunned me by making good music look easy. Harry Mack (Doctor Who: Worlds in Time, Gaslight) created a spectacularly playful and catchy soundtrack to Spiral Knights. While "Lucky Knight" was so addictive that I listened to it a dozen times in a row after first playing it, the rest of his two-volume composition is right up there. It's refreshing to hear fun music that uses a different audio palette than the typical fantasy bombardment, and I feel pretty secure putting this on my all-time favorites list.

Those are my favorites -- what are yours?

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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