Even though it's fashionable to bash Warhammer Online these days (or every day since 2008, I guess), I still have a lot of affection for this particular game. It was the MMO that got me into blogging, connected me with many of my current online friends, and provided exciting experiences for well over a year. So when I hear the music, there's a rush of nostalgia that floods my brain and runs down to my extremities.
That's not to say it's a particularly terrific score. I'd probably classify Warhammer Online's soundtrack as slightly below average; it does the job it needed to do, but it doesn't provide any stellar breakout tracks that will endure long after I've logged out. Still, it's worth examining.
The score was handled by Mythic in-house composer Brad Derrick (who also helped to make an amusing Dwarf ballad while he was there). What did he come up with to represent this savagely twisted world? Let's find out!
1. Main Theme
Well, I don't think anyone was expecting happy trilling flutes or the tinkling of merry bells for this score, do you? WAR's main theme is heavy and ominous, although it does contain a hint of a triumphant hope. Deep sounds dominate the track, which has a marching quality to it. This sounds like the theme of armies heading out to the battlefield with the intent to sour the grass with blood. That doesn't make for a hummable tune, although it probably shouldn't.
This track kind of reminds me of the sound of a certain MMO-which-shall-not-be-named, particularly in its quieter moments. The interludes here give me a feel for the world and its people, although they're a little too brief to derive much meaning from.
2. Met With Honor
Here's a rousing little war tune for our enjoyment. The track continues with the strong emphasis on bass and percussion that runs throughout this entire score, although there's a fun energy that overrides it. My biggest complaint here is that it's over way, way too quickly. Right as the tempo picks up, the song ends instead of developing into something greater.
3. A Eulogy for Hope
Shedding the booms and clanks of the main score, A Eulogy for Hope takes us on a somber, moving ride. It begins all quiet-like but gradually builds into this eruption of emotion. The star player is the violin that sings a story of loss and of the future, a wonderfully subdued performance that draws more attention to it because of that. I think that this is one of the best tracks that WAR has to offer right here.
4. The Length and the Measure
Here's some good Dwarf music for you, full of strength and resolve. Booms and clanks are like the universal musical language for "Dwarves," however I particularly like the triumphant horns that burst out toward the end of the piece. It's an uplifting track in a game that needed a little pick-me-up now and then.
5. The Call of Stone
One thing I do love about this soundtrack is the attention given to titling the tracks. I've seen some really lame titles for score tracks, but WAR comes up with some pretty descriptive ones that put me in the right mindset for what I'm about to hear.
The Call of Stone is little more than horns blasting across the mountains and some chimey bells to accentuate the moment. It's simple and clear, but that's what I appreciate about it. Sometimes it's best to trim your talent down to a couple of instruments instead of having every musician play just because you paid for him.
I'm going to end this column one pick short, mostly because after listening through the soundtrack twice, I found that these five tracks are the only ones that I think are worth highlighting. Maybe I'm wrong and maybe you have favorites that aren't on this list. Enlighten me, will you?
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!