Guild Wars Collector’s Edition Soundtrack
Guild Wars Collector’s Edition Soundtrack
April 28, 2005
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Guild Wars was admired by gamers on its release in 2005, both for its beautifully realised fantasy world and lack of subscription fees. The MMORPG enjoyed tremendous popularity over the subsequent years, through a succession of new episodes, and has inspired an upcoming sequel. At the height of his career following his roles on Morrowind, Dungeon Siege, and Icewind Dale, Jeremy Soule was an obvious choice to score this epic project. He created a richly orchestrated score that beautifully complemented the world of Tyria. The soundtrack for the original campaign, Guild Wars: Prophecies, was included in the collector’s edition packages of the game in North America.
The soundtrack opens with the iconic main theme for Guild Wars. The simple rises and falls of its melody immerse gamers into the world of Tyria. With rich strings and spiritual chorals, the track certainly attains the epic quality it desires and manages to prove sad yet motivating at the same time. It’s a great pity that Soule focused more on virtual instruments than full orchestral performances to realise this theme. Six years on, the schmaltzy orchestration and excessive reverb come across as an embarrassing attempt to hide the deficiencies of some of the samples used. Yet despite its dated production approach, this track is classic Soule and it is a strong one to define Guild Wars‘ world. With its memorable shape and emotional emphasis, the theme makes welcome reappearances across the score, most notably in the more intimate theme for Gwen.
The most delightful moments of Guild Wars: Prophecies are the lighter pieces. “Over the Shiverpeaks” is a pensive duet for violin and flute ideal for traversing a snow-capped mountain. The phrasing here proves expressive yet structured — almost reminiscent of Handel — and the performers bring a realistic, human quality to the music. While blatantly synthesized, the dabs of Soule’s trademark suspended strings adds to the spine-chilling sound. “Sands of Kryta” is a classic piece of Soule-styled fantasy orchestration and, with its soaring strings and frivolous woodwinds, has a genuinely cinematic quality. “Eye of the Storm” is equally thought-provoking, emerging from a fragmented minimalistic introduction into a deep fully-fledged composition. But perhaps the most scenic of all these compositions is “Crystal Oasis”, which is soundscaped in a way that perfectly complements the distinctive scene.
The darker moments of Guild Wars score are a mixed bag. Most impressive is “Guilds of War”, which captures the ever-changing tides of battle with its contrasts between dark and light textures. The sudden chromatic shifts in the string chord sequences are particularly striking here. Less impressively, the female warrior Devona is portrayed with formidable brass leads and string basso ostinati. While fitting to an extent, the composition is rather weak in both development and implementation, much like Soule’s bass-heavy themes for the Warhammer universe. “Abaddon’s Mouth” is immersive in context with its use of dark ambient sound effects, though lacks apepeal on a stand-alone basis, while “Cynn’s Theme” and “Eve’s Theme” further blur the boundaries between music and noise. Those wishing to fully explore the darker side of Guild Wars are advised to check out the Sorrow’s Furnace Pak and Battle Pak.
The soundtrack approaches its close with “Ascension Song”. This track emphasises the artistry of Soule’s scoring approach while channeling a spiritual focus. While the individual elements of the composition are minimalistic, they come together in an emotionally satisfying way thanks to Soule’s subtle orchestration. The collector’s edition edition release of the soundtrack ends anticlimactically with four cinematic cues that span between 60 to 80 seconds each, including the clichéd ambient piece “The Charr”. While the expansive nature of Guild Wars production meant no grand finale was possible, a little more consideration to the soundtrack presentation would have gone a long way. Those looking for a more rounded and complete experience should head for the DirectSong release instead, which features a number of bonus tracks.
Overall, the soundtrack to Guild Wars: Prophecies captures the fantasy world of Tyria with its rich orchestral colours. Generally, Jeremy Soule maintains his characteristic sound while taking steps to portray the individual settings and characters of the game. However, he also leaves room for much more thematic and stylistic exploration in later soundtracks in the series. Those wishing to enter the musical world of Guild Wars should start with the original game, but it’s better to purchase the digital soundtrack than the scarcely available and badly presented physical edition.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Chris Greening. Last modified on August 1, 2012.