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Jukebox Heroes: Ultima X Odyssey's soundtrack


Out of all of the MMOs that never made it to launch, Ultima X Odyssey could have really been something. It had a wonderfully stylized look, an immense amount of resources and talent behind it, the Ultima franchise legacy to draw upon, a cool morality choice system, and a pretty strong following. All of that fell apart when EA pulled the plug on the project in 2004, leaving fans in the lurch.

However, since UXO was far enough along in development, it's one of those cancelled MMOs that has an actual soundtrack (just like Project Copernicus, which I talked about a few weeks ago). Composer Chris Field completed and recorded an album for the game in 2003, and although it was never released, it was distributed into the wild for free, and certain portions of the soundtrack were repurposed for the game Lord of Ultima.

I have to say that it's a good (possibly even great) score, and it's a shame it didn't get to be in an MMO for us gamers to appreciate. That doesn't mean we can't have a listen right now and speculate on what players in parallel universes might be enjoying right now, yes?

1. Main Theme

Instead of being a full-on action epic, as fantasy MMOs so often are, UXO's main theme is almost dignified and restrained. I think it's a good choice, considering that the game was to be a direct continuation of the main RPG franchise. The theme seems to be carrying the weight and history of that legacy, and it doesn't mar it with over-excited drums or blaring horns. It's simply beautiful and emotional, ending on a note of uncertainty.

2. Desert Sun

You can hear some of the same tones as the main theme in Desert Sun, although it definitely evokes that arid setting as well. Around 1:35 it has a nice but short-lived transition into a tribal tune. More of that would have been welcome, but overall it's a solid track that I could see as perfect for an adventuring backdrop.

3. Gothic Combat

This piece would be right at home in one of the old epic film scores. If you give it a listen, I think you'll agree. It's got a darker, older sound to it, especially when the choir comes to join the party at 1:11. None of this is a strike against the track; in fact, I rather dig it. A quick run-time seems perfect for this type of music, as it could really wear out its welcome if it stretched into the four- or five-minute range.

4. The Mouth of Evil

Unless you're one of those types that does ritualistic sacrifice in your living room (by our records, that's 37% of Massively's readership), then you're probably not going to be replaying this track on a regular basis. It's all but projecting "DARK! EVIL! BAD! OH NOW THEY'RE SINGING ABOUT IT!" as these pieces are wont to do. Adequate for punctuating an ominous moment in a game -- not so much for providing delightful dinner party music.

5. Barren Plains

I like plains tracks from MMOs. You know, any sort of wide-open zone that is mostly peaceful if a little desolate. I'm guessing from the title and the tone of this track that Barren Plains was meant to cover just this sort of thing. It's definitely rich and soothing, almost sounding like something that could belong in Star Wars.

6. Felgol Forest

There's something slightly magical that runs underneath this mostly pastoral track. The flute and string work are my favorite elements at play here. It deftly switches between the full orchestra and quiet moments with one or two instruments at times. Definitely a recommended track if you like more tranquil pieces!

7. Bonus track: Rule City

I wanted to save one of my favorites for last. This is a softly sweeping symphony that takes the listener on an emotional rollercoaster. At times you can hear the formalities of the court, the vista of the city itself, and the rush of exploring it. At least, that's what's going on in my head. It's seriously lovely and needs to be cherished.

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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