The Far Edge of Fate: Final Fantasy XIV Original Soundtrack
The Far Edge of Fate: Final Fantasy XIV Original Soundtrack
Square Enix Music
June 7, 2017
Buy at CDJapan
The Far Edge of Fate: Final Fantasy XIV Original Soundtrack covers music from patches 3.2 to 3.5 of the Heavensward expansion, bridging the music releases from the Heavensward base soundtrack up to the next expansion, Stormblood. Much of the music is handled by lead composer Masayoshi Soken, with additional tracks from composer and arranger Yukiko Takada and a few others. As usual for the game, the soundtrack is available on Blu-ray and digital platforms, with exclusive content for the Blu-ray release. With just 50 tracks, it is the leanest of the full-priced Final Fantasy XIV soundtrack Blu-rays, although it still manages to clock in at a substantial 3.5 hours. This is partly due to recycled tracks from previous releases, as well as loops of most of the tracks, as was the case on the earlier soundtracks. Still, it is a solid extension of the music of Final Fantasy XIV, with some great new tracks as well as wonderful new arrangements of older themes.
First off, 14 of the 50 tracks come from earlier soundtracks, being either from Before Meteor, Before the Fall, Duality, or Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. Most of these are rather average, like Tsutomu Narita’s stately “Holy Consult” or the atmospheric “Enraptured”, while a few others are more significant, like Soken’s grand “Primogenitor”. The three Tactics Ogre tracks are more likely to be new for fans of Final Fantasy XIV, and all three are solid, with Yoshimi Kudo’s eerie then gothic “Fog of Phantom”, Azusa Chiba’s downcast “Notice of Death”, and Masaharu Iwata’s energetic and alluring “Blasphemous Experiment”. There are also two songs that originated within these patches but were included on Duality: “Fiend” is an industrial metal track for the Sephirot trial that changes things up with whisper verses, but it is far too repetitive for its 8-minute track length here, and shows the cracks in Soken’s more simple compositional style for these kinds of tracks; “Revenge Twofold” is a wonderful update to the Heavensward boss theme “Ominous Prognisticks” that also draws rousingly on “Torn From the Heavens”, helped by great orchestration and choir. But regardless of their quality, these recycled tracks may lower the value of the whole package for those who already have them.
As for the new tracks, a large portion of them accompany dungeons, and they are some of the most memorable tracks, helped by motivic links. Soken’s “Teardrops in the Rain” is a neat piano-centric track that has playful aspects, and even appears to loosely reference the Final Fantasy IX battle theme. But it is more significant for being the motif for three other tracks: Ken Ito’s battle version in “Torrent”; Yukiko Takada’s eccentric but beautiful “Shadow of the Body”; and Soken’s own gothic “Promises”. The latter two are especially great for working in new material alongside the motif. Ito’s “Apologies” is a wonderful arrangement of “Roar of the Wyrm” which is more orchestral and urgent, even fitting in a neat hallucinatory piano section. Takada’s “Another Brick” is a successful reworking of “Serenity” into a militaristic theme, and is subtly heartbreaking for it. More stripped down is Takada’s “Bibliophilia”, which reworks the brilliant “Ink Long Dry” into a piano and strings piece. In being more straightforward it loses a lot of what made the original so unique, but it adds more drama and emotion to work on its own terms. Similar is “The Ancient City”, a piano solo arrangement of “The Scars of Battle” that is quite nice, though the piano’s sound could be more warm and resonant. Elsewhere, Takada’s “Down the Up Staircase” is a lovely new waltz track that begins quietly with light baroque stylings before unexpectedly expanding its sound and emotion. Some tracks are just alright like “Grounded” and “The Merry Wanderer Waltz”, but overall the dungeon themes are very successful, with strong melodies and multifaceted arrangements that wonderfully expand the sound of the growing world of Final Fantasy XIV, and remarkably don’t get too tired even after looping.
The soundtrack only provides a handful of other area and event themes, all done by Yukiko Takada. “Piece of Mind” and “No Sound, No Scutter” both have a sort of jungle sound, but while “Piece of Mind” is fairly pedestrian, “No Sound, No Scutter” has a more interesting central instrument and melody to carry it. The new seasonal themes are “The Kiss” as the Valentione theme with a catchy melody and fun arrangement, and “Up at Dawn” as the standard and predictable Halloween theme. Then there is “Hyper Rainbow Z”, a bright concert band track that is rather irresistible in its positivity, but one that feels very out of place on the soundtrack. Last here I should mention the short but emotional “Only the Dead”, which is a piano rendition of “Nobility Sleeps”. It doesn’t get much development, being just over a minute in length, but it serves as a nice break from the rest of the album. Nothing very essential here, but nothing bad either.
The remaining tracks to be discussed are all battle tracks, most of which are grounded in established themes and motifs. The wonderful “Revenge Twofold” has already been discussed. Yoshitaka Suzuki also gets a hand at arranging the same “Ominous Prognisticks” melody in “Freefall” which has great thick strings on the melody, although it could use more variation. His “Revenge of the Horde” is much better, mixing another key Heavensward melody with new material, supported by a strong orchestra and choir sound. Sachiko Miyano’s orchestral closer, “Scale and Steel”, is an arrangement of the Heavensward battle theme, and her orchestration expertise gets to shine here with a varied and layered arrangement that is alternatively elegant and powerful. Ito’s “The Gauntlet” also uses this melody, but instead opts for an electronica angle that works very well, managing to work in strings and piano in a way that gives it continuity with the Final Fantasy XIV sound. A couple of tracks are rock, like “Starved” which is an arrangement of “Hard to Miss”. The track works in its melodic sections, but in between those is repetitive filler that brings the track down. Better is Soken’s “He Who Continues the Attack” which arranges “Unbreakable” and has distinct enough sections to carry it over its length. A few others are less conventional as battle tracks, like dark circus-themed “Dancing Calcabrina”, the calm and choral “A Thousand Faces”, and the atmospheric “Blackbosom”, but it is the grander orchestral themes that make an impression here as far as the battle tracks are concerned.
Lastly there are the tracks specially made for the Primal battles, of which there are several here. Significant is “Battle to the Death”, which arranges the Final Fantasy VI theme of the same name. The track is a straightforward pseudo-orchestral arrangement, preserving what made the original great while not adding much other than beefed-up instrumentation. It serves as a theme for the Warring Triad, though each primal of the Triad additionally gets their own themes. “Fiend” for Sephirot has already been covered. Zurvan gets a pair of instrumental tracks, the synth plus light orchestral “Penultimania” and the rock-orchestral “Infinity”. Both tracks are fine, though I would have liked “Infinity” to build more on the lovely undulating figures of “Penultimania”. But the standout of these is Sophia’s exotic vocal theme, “Equilibrium”, sung by Ayumi Murata (one of the vocalists from “Oblivion”). As usual the English and pronunciation are a bit spotty, but the melody is enchanting, the lyrics are thematically interesting, and the restrained pace and unique arrangement is a nice break from the metal and rock Primal songs that Soken has done up to this point.
Then there is the continuation of the Alexander raid tracks. “Exponential Entropy”, “Rise”, and “Metal – Brute Justice Mode” are new tracks with Soken’s band, The Primals, which are largely more of the same. “Exponential Entropy” builds off of the rhythmic profile and sound of “Locus”, but although it has a great sound and instrumental buildup, the verses and chorus are way too repetitive. It can be hypnotic during the game, but it can get grating on its own. “Rise” is more chaotic and distorted, but its vocals are completely unintelligible (although the lyrics are basically fun nonsense anyways) and the chorus lacks a strong melody. The chaos of it all is in a way part of its appeal, but I often find myself skipping these two tracks after a minute or two. While Soken’s early tracks with the band got a pass on their more simple compositions because of the novelty of their sound as MMO boss themes, at this point Soken needs to step up and develop his sound for the band more. Thankfully this is more or less addressed by “Metal – Brute Justice Mode”, which combines elements of “Metal”, “Locus”, and “Exponential Entropy” into a big and brassy track that’s loads of fun. The trumpets and concert band additions fit remarkably well, and help the track leave a strong impression. As for the other tracks, “Out of Time” and “Stasis Loop” basically function as interludes, but I would have loved to hear “Stasis Loop” incorporated into one of the other tracks, since it is neat but goes nowhere on its own. “Moebius” is a great orchestral take on “Locus”, which surprisingly gets a lot out of the original’s simple motifs and makes them into its own thing. It is more conventional in sound, but it is nevertheless effective.
For those who purchase the Blu-ray, as with previous releases the songs can be downloaded as mp3’s, or they can be heard in a Blu-ray player accompanied by screenshots. Unfortunately, due to space considerations, the soundtrack portion does not come with videos like the arrange albums have, so this function does not carry much appeal. However, the Blu-ray does include bonus footage of the Keiko’s piano and The Primals’ band performances from the 2016 Fan Festival in Tokyo, similar to the Before the Fall Blu-ray. The footage quality here is a step up from the footage included in Before the Fall, but both the video and audio fall short of the quality that one would want in a proper video release of the event. Still, as bonus to a soundtrack album, the footage is fine. Some highlights include Soken and Keiko’s goofy piano duet of “Imagination”, as well as new arrangements of the game’s main vocal themes performed by Susan Calloway accompanied by Keiko on piano. It’s all quite substantial, and for some will be enough to justify purchasing the Blu-ray over the digital edition.
The Far Edge of Fate: Final Fantasy XIV Original Soundtrack is full of great tracks, although it is hampered by repetition and redundancy. The album largely succeeds thanks to its strong melodies and thematic threads throughout, linking the tracks together not only within the album but also with songs from previous soundtracks in great new arrangements. The overall sound is also improving, with Soken and his team finding their own voice within their sound libraries rather than attempting to replicate a concert hall orchestra setting, a stylistic problem which held back many compositions on A Realm Reborn and Before The Fall. Michael-Christopher Koji Fox also continues to be quite thoughtful in his lyrics, which offer much for those invested in the lore of the games. The concert footage on the Blu-ray is a nice bonus, but the soundtrack as a whole still has an issue of content for its cost, as Square Enix seems committed to their price point and content patterns for Blu-ray releases. Too many tracks here are recycled from older albums, and there is a lot of padding from the tracks being loops, which occasionally even makes the tracks overstay their welcome. These issues make it harder to recommend a package whose contents are in themselves quite good, but which comes at a hefty price. Fans of the series should find enough to like in the entire release, but others would probably be better picking out what they like from the digital version.
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Posted on August 8, 2019 by Tien Hoang. Last modified on August 13, 2019.