Might and Magic Heroes Chronicles -All Chapters- Original Soundtrack
Might and Magic Heroes Chronicles -All Chapters- Original Soundtrack
Good Old Games
June 23, 2011
Download with Game at GOG
After two expansion packs, developer New World Computing wasn’t done yet with its successful franchise sequel Heroes of Might and Magic III. Instead of moving on to the next title, New World Computing came up with a creative distribution model that in retrospect feels like a precursor of today’s DLC. Heroes Chronicles is a series of eight short games based on a limited version of the Heroes of Might and Magic III engine. Six of these games were offered as physical retail copies at a low price, which in combination with the titles’ low difficulty level was supposed to attract new audiences, namely casual gamers. The remaining two games were offered as downloads once the retail titles had been installed on the owner’s computer. Given that Heroes Chronicles was basically an extension of Heroes of Might and Magic III, the return of composers Paul Anthony Romero, Robert King and Steve Baca for this game compilation was no surprise. As with other Might and Magic titles, their work on Heroes Chronicles only found a dedicated outlet when GOG.com released the game as a download in 2011 and offered the soundtrack as a free bonus item.
Heroes Chronicles‘ running time of more than 80 minutes might seem impressive, but there’s a snatch to that number. 61 minutes of Heroes Chronicles is simply the score for Heroes of Might and Magic III, included ad verbatim on this album. Given how closely the title is modelled on its parent, the return of that game’s music shouldn’t be a surprise. Since there’s already a review of Heroes of Might and Magic III‘s score on this website, this review will focus on Heroes Chronicles‘ exclusive content. As for that hour of reprised material: suffice it to say that Heroes of Might and Magic III was potentially the perfect starting point for any score fan new to this venerable franchise. It’s the most consistently excellent score in the franchise and its bright fantasy stylings that stick pretty closely to genre conventions will make it easily digestible for most listeners. The pieces are shorter than its predecessor, but they pack so many ideas into their short running times and develop them in such convincing manner that this is never an issue. And of course, there are more gorgeous melodies on display here than you can count. The score manages to fuse Heroes of Might and Magic II‘s richly symphonic manner with Might and Magic VII: For Blood and Honor‘s impressive ability to mix manifold moods and emotions in one single composition. The result, despite the once more less convincing battle tracks, is a must-have for every lover of lushly orchestrated game music.
Is Heroes Chronicles‘ then some kind of extended release of Heroes of Might and Magic III that adds even more amazing material to what’s already an outstanding soundtrack? To answer that question, we’ll have to crunch some numbers before getting to the actual music. Avid listener will discover that the file size of the Heroes of Might and Magic III pieces on Heroes Chronicles is smaller than on its original album release. However, that doesn’t mean that the release presents the score’s music in diminished sound quality. A spectrum analysis reveals that the cues on both soundtracks are of the exact same quality (128 kb), only differently encoded for whatever reason. It’s difficult to say if New World Computing or GOG.com are responsible for these needlessly confusing circumstances. But as with Heroes of Might and Magic IV, there’s a good chance that the music was stored on the game’s installer disc in this particular sound quality and that this is as good as the score will ever sound, unless somebody goes back to the original sound files to craft a new release. In any case, as long as you keep in mind that you’re listening to synthesised game music from 2001 that will always be characterised by certain technical limitations, you won’t find much to complain about this release’s sound quality. Yes, a 128 kb release is never ideal and the instruments on Heroes Chronicles don’t sound like their real counterparts, but that has much more to do with 2001 chip synthesis than with the album’s bit rate.
A more important issue is the shape in which Heroes’ Chronicles original material arrives. These new 20 minutes of music are split up into 27 cues — you can guess where this is going. A good number of the pieces are short jingles, and only six of these tracks run for more than a minute. Obviously, this severely limits these compositions’ chances to develop — a shame, since this was one of the parent score’s strongest points. It speaks for the composers’ talent in creating charming melodies and orchestral textures that these brief compositions still feel reasonably worthwhile. But the sheer mass of these vignettes hurts Heroes’ Chronicles‘ album flow considerably, particularly since they’re almost all grouped together at the beginning of this soundtrack release. That means that the listener will have to work her way through twenty minutes of bits and pieces before getting to the more substantial part of the album. And now matter how attractive the music is, some pieces simply don’t get a chance to go anywhere and develop a satisfying structure.
Stylistically, the new pieces fit nicely with the already existing tracks from Heroes of Might and Magic III. They’re written in a similarly melodic idiom, slightly less lushly orchestrated and generally nice to listen to, even though they’re often inevitably a lot slighter than their predecessors. If there’s a notable difference between the two title’s music, it’s the fact that the Heroes’ Chronicles sounds more subdued and cautious, contrasting with Heroes of Might and Magic III‘s optimism. This change of emphasis is underscored by the fact that the solo instrument of choice on Heroes’ Chronicles‘s exclusive material is the cello, whose melodies often add an elegiac mood to the proceedings. Only on a few pieces such as “Campaign Music 9” and “Campaign Music 10” does the mood lighten markedly. Of course, Heroes of Might and Magic III hadn’t been without its darker moments either, particularly during its Gothic “haunted mansion”-type compositions — a style that returns here on “Campaign Music 11”. But those excursions into more foreboding territory were always mixed with an alluring sense of lightheartedness that is absent from Heroes Chronicles‘ original material. Of course, most new pieces simply aren’t given enough time to achieve the same seamless juxtaposition of contrasting tones that allowed light and gloomy atmospheres to co-exist on Heroes of Might and Magic III.
If you already own Heroes of Might and Magic III‘s soundtrack, there’s no reason to buy Heroes’ Chronicles. Its twenty minutes of exclusive material are split into too many short cues that are composed with skill and panache, but these tracks can still only go so far in 60 seconds or less. The mood on these new compositions is somewhat darker than on the previous score. But all in all, its original pieces don’t add anything that hasn’t already been presented in more convincing shape on the parent score. Then again, that doesn’t change the fact that Heroes Chronicles‘ album contains close to an hour of excellent music, all imported from Heroes of Might and Magic III. For this reason, neophytes might want to download Heroes’ Chronicles to get Heroes of Might and Magic III‘s score and a bunch of short compositions on top that they might decide to keep or not. While this prospect makes the release a viable buying option, it is a much less consistent listening experience and thus a weaker album on the whole.
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Posted on August 1, 2012 by Simon Elchlepp. Last modified on August 1, 2012.