Guild Wars 2 Original Game Soundtrack
Guild Wars 2 Original Game Soundtrack
July 8, 2012
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Guild Wars… a game series that means much to me, but made all the more meaningful through its music. I remember when I first played Prophecies and heard the Guild Wars theme. The majestic melody suggested I was in for a real adventure. Sure enough, I was visiting large cities, roaming the countryside along with my friends, and getting involved in some legendary battles. This tapestry of epic proportions was illustrated by the brilliant music of Jeremy Soule. When I first learned that Mr. Soule would be scoring the soundtrack for Guild Wars 2, I was relieved. After all, it is my firm belief that none other could describe the world of Tyria than Jeremy Soule. He even released a four disc soundtrack for the title through his record label DirectSong. The big question is whether or not the actual product met with my initial expectations. It did tenfold.
The first disc is very solid with many themes that are mainly from the Human campaign in the game. I must admit that these are my favorite pieces on the entire soundtrack and putting such strong work at the front of the score is a bold, but prudent move. To start things off, “Overture” provides a more fleshed-out version of the Guild Wars theme. It has more bass and seems more substantial in its instrumentation. I like how it suggests that this game is darker than its predecessor, yet full of the same wonder and adventure as one would expect. Reminiscent of Mahler and Wagner, “The Seraph” is a musical powerhouse that is full and majestic complete with horns and accented strings. The melody is quite regal especially with the choir leading it first then followed by the brass. “Heritage of Humanity” is another majestic composition that features much of the same style as “Overture” and “The Seraph”, but instead of using French horn to drive the melody, Soule uses trumpet. Though it’s a pity a game of this scale didn’t benefit from full orchestral performances, trumpet sampling is top notch and I am impressed by how realistic it sounds.
Soule really shines melodically in this score just as he did in Skyrim. As someone who always prefers the more thematic cinematic scores, that for me is a good thing. One of my favorite tracks on the first disc is “The Vigil Goes to War”. It has such a heroic air about it and the melody is so well done. The soaring string passages lift the spirit and the progression is masterful. A definite highlight! “Bear’s Spirit” and “Call of the Raven” change gears from the bold and crisp to the flowing and serene. The former is quite subdued and calm, the latter is more melodic with gorgeous string writing and strong melodies. Just when you feel relaxed we are treated to something different. This comes in the form of “Snaff’s Workshop” with its pizzicato strings, celli feature, Bach-like woodwinds, and dreamy harp. In many ways, this bouncy, yet quirky, composition reminds me of the Fable soundtracks. Keeping with the bouncy theme, “Walls of Ebonhawke” starts bouncy; however, in a more serious manner. The chord progression is well done, original, and captivating as it moves along. I am thoroughly pleased at the classical influences that Soule implements. They are perfect for getting listeners into the genre as well as providing a fresh and modern spin on the style.
As I said earlier, the first disc delivers on everything and there are so many tracks that would make worthy reviews, but this is certainly not a track by track review. Other honorable mentions for this disc are “Ventari’s Legacy” which features a slightly mysterious tone and is different than any other Soule composition. “Logan’s Journey” is a bright and uplifting composition as it is serious and epic. “Sea of Sorrows “ features a beautiful cello melody and is very somber, subtle, and gorgeous, while “Ruins of an Empire” reminds me of a dawning morning thanks to its utterly beautiful oboe writing. Finally, “Tyria Reborn” reminds me of Stormwind from World of Warcraft but more powerful and grandiose. The intricacy in its writing is impressive, and its melody just soars to the heavens. It gives off the feeling of power, glory, victory, and an perseverance that is unrivaled. It is a perfect theme for the Humans.
The second disc has more to do with the Sylvari and has some strong themes including some of my favorites. Yes, there are a lot of favorites for me, but there is a lot to love for a fantasy music fan like myself. “Farahr” is dreamlike and sorrowful. It doesn’t have the strongest melodic presence in the score, but it does have raw emotion. I was moved by the swells of sorrow this brings. It is as if I am seeing the fall of a civilization through dreams and memories. “The Tengu Wall” sounds reminiscent of Native American music in its primitive sound. It has this organic style that is moving and lyrical. When the strings come in full I just get chills. It has this call to me, to my very being. Jeremy Soule has this innate ability to touch not only the emotions of the heart, but also the soul (no pun intended, of course). “Lornar’s Pass” is moving, yet relaxed. The piano melody is simple, yet it is so appropriate. It gives the feeling of a big journey without having to be loud and busy with complex orchestration.
There are so many great subtleties in how Soule approaches the music: “Tyria Awaits” sounds like it could belt out a wall of sound, but it is very reserved; “Dawn in Shaemoor” sounds so much like Bach, though a modernist influence creeps in; and “Kormir’s Whispers” is mysterious, foreboding, yet it isn’t dark or sinister. “Bear’s Spirit” sounds like Skyrim in the way that it has the sound of the north. It gives off a cold feeling. I see mountains and snow fields littered with pine forests when I hear this composition. “Michoti Battle March” is tense and imposing as it suggests a musical ferocity with its driving percussion and brass. “The Darkness Will Fall” is a great theme involving the main theme of Guild Wars. I love this variation as it is hopeful and yet it holds this sense of sadness and loss. The kind of feeling that one gets when an impending threat is looming. “A Land Restored” features some of the most gorgeous vocals and melody. I love the operatic sound the vocalist gives and the flute/harp features are just catchy and are as beautiful as the stars above.
“Explorer’s and Artifacts” is another example of classical influence. It starts with simple exchange with the woodwinds then evolves into a much grander tapestry of sound complete with the entire orchestra palette. I love the melody and the progression is flawlessly done! “The Shiverpeaks” is another composition that does so well in its progression. The chord work almost reminds me of Dragon Quest because of its relaxed, flowing sound. I love it when Soule puts oboe as the primary instrument and this one is no exception. The French horn is gorgeous as well and again reminds me of Skyrim’s majesty. “Plains of Ashford” has a nice feeling of pride and prowess that represents the Charr perfectly. This would be one of those times I forget that these instruments are sampled. The mixing is one of the highest I have seen from Mr. Soule.
Disc three has some interesting gems as well featuring some of the more strong compositions melodically. “The Saga of the Norn” is my favorite theme from the entire Guild Wars series. I remember this one back when I played Eye of the North. I was tickled to hear this version is much more epic and heroic sounding than its previous incarnation. The horn driven melody just gets me ready to face any challenge and inspires courage. The drums and the strings just add to the ferocity of this one. Completely amazing! Moving onwards, “Hero’s Canton” is a very moving work. The strings and xylophone start this piece with vivacity like no other. It builds as more instruments add to the beat to a wonderful violin, cello, piano, oboe, and percussion ensemble exchange. The melody is well done here and the harmony between the instruments is pure gold. I wish Jeremy would write more unique pieces like this!
Another strong composition is “The Great Wall Has Fallen”. I love the string rhythms and the meandering melody. It makes me want to dance to its hypnotic style. I listened to this one on repeat a bunch! “Out of the Dream” is another beautiful theme and one that is associated with the Sylvari. The harp and the oboe are just gorgeous. The melody is sad, yet hopeful. “Gendarran Fields” is a delightful atmospheric composition. The harp chords are hypnotic and just when you get used to it, the strings come in with a sense of caution and urgency while the oboe and upper strings play a soft melody. This composition is solid through and through. “Journey Through Caledon” is featured in one of the forests in the Sylvari area of the game. Those who play the game have heard this theme quite frequently. It is a very simple and subdued tune featuring warm strings and light piano with some soft French horn for good measure. Among other decent additions, “Melandru’s Calm” is as beautiful as it is playful and “The Last Great City of Men” has a solemn yet reassuring tone. “Battle of the Vanguard” is another rousing battle theme featuring military orchestrations and sampled instruments. This is obviously a winning combo for Jeremy Soule, though this isn’t the best example. I wish the melody would have gone to other instruments and I felt the horn was a little too loud this one.
“Hope Falls” is very depressing and goes along the previous statement I made that Guild Wars 2 has more of a darker tone than its predecessor. The dark chords here are so somber and hopeless as the title suggests. Sadness ebbs and flows as the piece continues. “The Vaults of the Priory” is an appropriate mood changer taking us from the hopelessness of the previous track to the serene and mysterious with a vocal and string composition. “Knight of Embers” starts off moving and just when I think it was going to get loud and bombastic it goes quite with the flute leading the charge. I must give credit that this one surprised me. I love the subdued sound here and it is definitely a refresher. “The Charr Triumphant” is a visceral and aggressive sounding. It actually has a terrifying sound even though it is brass driven. The screaming effect toward the end is a nice touch.
The fourth and final disc of this score has some filler tracks, which in my opinion should have been spread over the course of four discs rather than included them all on the fourth disc. Tracks like “Journey to the Mists”, “Once Friends Now Enemies”, “Whispers in the Dark”, “Adelbern’s Ghost”, “The Heart of Rata Sum”, “We Fight”, and “Malchor’s Leap” are simple ambient tracks and honestly I skip past them. Beyond these tracks, the final disc is suitably darker and heavier than other tracks on the album, to reflect the approaching climax. “The Orders Unite” is a rousing piece that features the Guild Wars series theme as well as tight orchestration. The flutters in the woodwinds, the bouncy strings, majestic brass, and heroic melodies all make this piece a strong composition. At 1:43, the horn melody just gives me chills every time. “Raven Speaks” is another aggressive piece and I like the choral part the style harkens to Mahler.
However, the best compositions that make this disc worth it are toward the end. “March of the Legions” is a great Charr battle theme that not includes the brilliantly written Charr theme but also manages to create a more tense and aggressive sound. My only qualm with this one is that it could have had a rendition of the first section before going into the frantic part toward the end. I wanted at least another loop of that first part as that transition was a little rough and abrupt. “Here Be Dragons” is a great battle theme complete with blaring brass, choir, and strings. Its worse attribute is that it is too short! I need more, Mr. Soule. “Scales of Issormir” is imposing with the choir starting the chanting right off the back. Relentless is what I would use to describe this one as I am sure the dragon Issormir is equally relentless against his foes. The mixing here is top notch and again I forget that these are sampled instruments. Following this one is “Trahearne’s Reverie” and it is a very calming and solemn work. It is very short and could use more elaboration but this is quickly forgiven when I immediately hear Jeremy’s best vocal work to date: “Fear Not This Night”.
In fact, this composition is probably Jeremy’s best yet in my opinion. “Fear Not This Night” is a vocal piece featuring full orchestral accompaniment. It starts off serenely with the piano, as heard in the trailers, as the orchestra comes in slowly and somberly. The orchestral writing resonates deep in my heart and fills me with despair, yet the entrance of the beautiful vocalist Asja restores my hope. The lyrics are surprisingly emotional and well done — pertinent to the game’s story, in which heroes face the evils of Ascalon. I love the bridge of this piece with the strings driving the orchestra toward the gorgeous climax. I am simply blown away by the expert writing of this composition and I only hope that Jeremy Soule writes more music like this in the future.
When I look at Guild Wars 2 I see high production value and passion throughout the work presented. The music reflects this attention to detail on all fronts from the mixing to the compositional quality of each piece included on the four disc set. Although some compositions needed more elaboration or were simply filler, most track still shine brightly above not only its predecessor, but also that of many MMORPG scores out there. Not to mention it has a brilliantly written vocal work that is the most gorgeous I have ever heard. My hat is off to Jeremy Soule for creating this soundtrack as it not only pays tribute to the genre of fantasy music but also harkens back to the classical greats of old. Nothing gets me more excited for EverQuest Next than listening to musical brilliance like this.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on April 23, 2014 by Josh Barron. Last modified on April 23, 2014.