Dark Age of Camelot has a strange soundtrack history. The game came out with an official soundtrack in 2002 that is (a) wonderful, (b) absolutely worth buying, and (c) only marginally related to the actual in-game music. There are really terrific tracks on this, such as Breton Melody and The Rap, which I do wish I could share with you. Unfortunately, Universal Music Group is quite aggressive on keeping this CD's tracks off of sites like YouTube, so you will have to take my word for it that it's worth pursuing in your own time.
Then, of course, there's the actual score that's heard in the game, and that's what we'll be focusing on today. The original score and the first expansion was composed by Rik Schaffer of Womb Music. Schaffer worked with the team to come up with a multi-track format so that DAoC could weave together songs based on where you were and what was going on all around you. "It's a really neat system that provides a real sense of atmosphere as you are playing -- almost like a movie soundtrack," said Producer Matt Firor in a 2002 interview.
We've got a lot of musical ground to cover, so let's start moving!
1. Main Title
Man, way to get the most mileage out of your synth's trumpet settings, eh? It's honestly not my favorite theme song in the world, nor is it in the running for that title, but I recognize that it has a lot of nostalgic value for fans. I will stay positive and say this: It does a terrific job setting a military medieval theme from the get-go. There's a catchy percussion riff in the middle. It makes me wonder how much better it would've been with a live orchestra because this sort of rousing intro deserves the full sound of real instruments.
2. Hibernian Village Dance
So tell me: How's your tolerance for bagpipe music? If the answer to that is, "I'd rather choke down moldy cabbage while attending an eighth grade rendition of 12 Angry Men," then perhaps you should skip ahead to the next song. But if you can stand and/or appreciate a half-minute of it, this isn't half-bad.
I'm kind of divided on bagpipes. I mean, there's that insect-like drone that digs into the back of your skull and starts excavating memories, but it's also cheerful and not subtle in the least. If you're going to dance to something, it should be a tune that you can't avoid, wouldn't you agree?
3. Combat Music 2
In my brief foray into DAoC, I must've heard this song just about every time I fought. Strangely enough, it never grew to be annoying. I guess it's got that right mix of frantic excitement and low-key notes that don't convalesce to become an outright melody.
The percussion is as much of a star as this song has, especially if you strip the synth while you listen to it. I think I'd be just as happy listening to it as such, really, but it's one of the better combat tracks that I've heard in my career.
4. Hibernia Town Music
Here's a collection of songs that are heard in and around Hibernain areas. There's a wide range of short bits, from folksy hoe-downs to harp music, although the piece at the very beginning particularly caught my ear. All of these songs have a peppy attitude to them as if to illustrate that these are places of life, not just places to be fought over.
5. Ambient Music
Remember earlier in this column when we were talking about how the composer created a whole bunch of mix-and-match tracks for the game? Well, an absolute bulk of the DAoC's in-game music comes from these ambient tracks. Several players have pieced them together for our enjoyment, and I picked out one at random as an example.
The ambient tunes I've heard range from sinister to hopeful, but most are like aural popcorn. You munch away on them while forgetting them the second they're done.
6. Midgard Town Music
DAoC's score keeps reminding me of EverQuest's. It's not just the synthy sound, although I'm sure that's a good part of it. I guess that it has this kind of high fantasy chestbeating nature to it that's at home in renaissance faires and The Princess Bride.
So here's another collection of songs revolving around Midgard. On the whole, it feels more urgent and full of action than Hibernia's town music is. I particularly liked the chiming bells that play the main theme (did you catch that?) and the short dance tune that plays at 1:31.
Again, it's just a real shame that there isn't more of this music out there to share with you. It's obvious that a lot of work went into giving this virtual world the support of a solid soundtrack, even if it was done in the dark ages. Sound off on your favorite DAoC songs in the comments!
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!