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Jukebox Heroes: RuneScape's soundtrack


How much music does the average MMO contain? It depends, of course, but I doubt that many games are able to reach the number that RuneScape does. Are you ready for it? It's 982 tracks. I'm dead serious. It's not just that RuneScape has been out since the beginning of the internet but that the team continues to add new music regularly. It's really insane -- just check out this list of updates.

What's even neater is that RuneScape treats its music as unlockable content, just like other types of rewards. So while you start out with 70 or so tracks in your in-game music player, you'll have to go to certain places or perform certain feats to get the rest. Why have I never heard of this before? That's brilliant!

So obviously, even if I had all 982 tracks on my computer (which I do not), I'm not going to take a week off of work to review them all for you. I love you, but that love has limits. Instead, I've listened to perhaps a tenth of that (including the new stuff by Composer James Hannigan) and chosen a few tracks to share that I feel exemplify this MMO's score.

1. RuneScape 3 Official Theme

Man, this new orchestral track brings the power to the first note and keeps it going strong. It actually reminded me a bit of the opening beats of Oblivion's theme, although this tune quicky diverges into, shall we say, familiar fantasy tropes? I mean, it's a great track, don't get me wrong, but it's not going out on a limb either.

For giggles, compare this to the old theme from way back when (which is actually pretty good in its own right).

2. Arise Hero

This track gives me chills. I think that when I first heard this, I realized that I was doing my MMO musical education a disservice by not paying closer attention to RuneScape. Anyway, this is a short and incredibly epic piece that apparently takes place when your character is being knighted. I could totally see a movie trailer using this as its theme -- that's how emotionally powerful it is.

3. Draynor Market

I'm sure I've mentioned before that I'm a huge fan/complete sucker for the xylophone (and similarly sounding instruments like the marimba) in soundtracks. I think those instruments can convey a unique emotional tone -- say, exotic beauty -- that few others can. And you just don't hear it that often, so it stands out.

Anyway, that's why I'm going with Draynor Market. It's a gorgeous tune that's got a bit of oomph to it here and there, but mostly it is content to create a soundscape that's peaceful and alluring.

4. Kharidian Bustle

Break out that fiddle, mister, because it's time for a western hoedown! I mean, isn't that where your mind goes when you hear this? It's a frantic, tubthumping piece with rusty fiddles that evokes some wild west, almost sounding like a musical duel.

5. Supreme Champions

When is the cello not awesome? C'mon. However, it's kind of an odd pick for an action piece, a piece that gets even more odd as it progresses. There's a hint of darkness and of industrial noise in here, but altogether it's pretty memorable.

6. Player-Owned Ports Ahoy!

Another reason I admire RuneScape is that its devs have a particular fondness for putting sea shanties on the soundtrack. Even more than that, they're not afraid to make a music video of them performing one. This is that track. Any words that I write here will pale compared to what you'll witness if you watch the above video. It is pure majesty.

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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