It's time once again to take a week off from looking at specific MMO soundtracks and open ourselves up to a theme instead. The topic? Battle music. Yeah, it can be some of the most obnoxious music in the game, especially after hearing it for the 3,000th time, but every once in a while I hear a piece that has some merit to it. These are the ones we want to examine today.
What makes for a good battle music track? I think it has to get you excited without being annoying or grating and not so loud or incredibly noticeable that you can't help but get tired of it sooner rather than later. It was actually pretty tricky to pull together six such tracks for this column, but I managed to do with with the help of Colonel Bugle up there. He's got the best MP3 collection around.
While this track certainly fails the "don't be too loud or noticeable" criterion, I suppose I'll let it slide on account of its being absolutely awesome. It's basically a guy doing speed metal on an electric guitar, which is exactly what you'd think of in a fantasy setting.
There are a few spots when the tune takes a quick breather before launching back into the fray. It's almost as if you need it because the track is operating on high octane otherwise. It certainly made me want to launch into a fit of hyperactive frenzy, but since there are no Jenovas or whatevers in my house, I made a sandwich as furiously fast as I could.
I've highlighted this track before in Jukebox Heroes, but I think it deserves a spot on this list even so. It's got a low-key electronic sound to it that gradually builds in intensity as it plays on. There's a lot of quirky percussion that pretty much takes over in spots, although I'm not complaining. Toward the end it downshifts into a wistful melody for a while before resuming course.
This is a long track, too, clocking in at near seven minutes. That's pretty cool because you're not going to get a lot of musical repetition during a fight.
Like my first pick up there, this battle theme is not one to sit in the back row and play the flute. It's pure guitar hero thrashing from beginning to end, but it manages to keep from being too over-the-top for my sensibilities. I think I like it because the theme comes out clear even though there's a lot of fancy finger-work going on.
If I heard this in the game? I would be mashing all of my buttons simultaneously to see if I could get my character to kill everything in the world in under 30 seconds. The ultimate limit break, as it were.
There are a few different battle themes from this game, but this track is the one I've always preferred. It starts with a rapid-playing lute (or some other stringed instrument) giving us an older-sounding fight theme. It's almost, almost western in tone, and if were played more slowly, I could picture it being a bardic tune floating through a tavern. The strings are soon joined by darker notes (waves of horns and cymbals, mostly).
What I like about this theme is that it fits the atmosphere of the game perfectly. It's not modern at all, but it delivers a fight theme that feels more appropriate to the denizens of Middle-earth.
Who said that MIDI music can't rock out? Not I, that's for sure. This short-but-sweet track begins with deep bass before peppy high notes come out and tell us to suit up for some major butt kicking. I think 52 seconds is the perfect length here; the energy level is good, but there's a lot of noise going on that it could get annoying quickly if left unfettered.
With battle music, I appreciate a good percussion line almost more than anything else. Drums, bongos, wood sticks, what have you -- they all seem perfect for a good brawl. It's essential to getting pumped up to hear the thud-thud-thudda-thud of a beat. These combat tracks have pretty enjoyable percussion underneath somewhat bleary synth. The mix of the two makes for decent tracks, although this is a good example of combat music that's nice to listen to a few times before shutting off forever and ever amen.
These tunes are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to battle music. What are your favorites?
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!