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Jukebox Heroes: Wurm Online's soundtrack

Justin Olivetti
Justin Olivetti|August 20, 2013 8:00 PM
Jukebox Heroes Wurm Online's soundtrack
When is a soundtrack not a soundtrack? When it's Wurm Online, of course. This cult sandbox has one of the most unusual scores that I've ever heard paired with an MMO. It's made up of sparsely used incidental music that just so happens to be folksy blues songs (with lyrics), composed by Joss Sanglier and performed by 21st Century Blues. It's catchy, don't get me wrong, but it comes with a case of mental whiplash if you were expecting the typical fantasy fare. Think of it this way: All of these songs sound as if they were originally made for a steakhouse commercial.

"In Wurm, we don't play music constantly," explained Lead Designer Rolf Jansson. "Instead we play a song every now and then often based on the setting or a special event such as when you form a village. If you ever played the Lara Croft Tomb Raider game, the rare music scores really enhanced special situations, and that's what I was aiming for as well."

To make matters more interesting, recently the Wurm Online team has sponsored the creation of not one, not two, but three concept albums that will be worked into the game itself. The first such album, Meditation and Work, is now out and is quite good. While we're going to look at the "classic" Wurm tunes today, I didn't want to overlook this new project. Perhaps we'll even get back to it some day!

1. Main Theme

This track opens with distant old West-type notes, projecting a feel of dusty fields and a lonely landscape. That doesn't last long, however, as it quickly flips into a low-key rock anthem, Wurm is Waiting. Depending on how you listen to this, it could either be kind of creepy (the voices welcoming you home sound ominous to me) or a total earworm. In any case, I can't recall another video game, nevermind an MMO, that has a theme song expressly welcoming you. It's... interesting.

2. Founding Deed

This track definitely sounds like pure fantasy, what with the piano and blaring horns. And like the theme song, it abruptly transitions into a blues rock ditty about starting up a new home. The whole track clocks in at under a minute, so it really doesn't have time to be anything other than a celebratory moment without any serious melodies. I guess it's the "Link opening up the treasure box and finding the boomerang" equivalent for the Wurm generation.

3. Disband Deed

What's even better -- and shorter -- is the disbanding deed tune. It's a near-acapella track that quickly conveys a bittersweet milestone as players pack up and move on to other lands. I want to applaud how well it gets this emotion across in a mere 23 seconds. Listen to it twice, won't ya?

4. Sunrise

"Feeling the sun rise... watching it glow." How good is this track? So good. So very, very good. It's a languid Western ballad about dreams at the start of a day. It kind of just washes over you like, well, a welcome sunrise. Love it. Hug it.

5. Village Work Song

This tongue-in-cheek song marks the effort a community goes to in constructing their abodes, all put to the style of peppy jazz. Because when you think "fantasy sandbox," you think jazz, right? I'd actually be a lot more open to this being in a cartoon when all of the talking animals come together to make a new utopia far away from the farmer's homestead. That's just how my mind works.

6. Traveling

Harmonicas don't get a lot of play in soundtracks. There's one in Traveling, because this is Wurm and why not? This is a terrific road trip tune which probably has to be played a few thousand times because your avatar has a top run speed of 11 mph. It definitely gets me moving in my seat and reminds me a little of "Radar Love." Doesn't it? It does.

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!
Jukebox Heroes: Wurm Online's soundtrack