Let’s Get Musical

April 15, 2010

I’ve made posts about the soundtracks in MMOs before, but I’m playing a whole new set of titles now with more of that musical goodness to stir up my emotions while I’m playing my games. Does that sound nerdy? Maybe so, but when soundtracks are done well, they just add to the immersion, and very rarely do I substitute the original game music with my own mp3s when I play. I’m curious as to how other people feel about this. Is game music not a big deal to you, or are you like me and have favorite tracks in games that you like to listen to as well?

My current favorites from the games I’m playing now:

1. OST in STO

Even though there are a ton of good tracks in Star Trek Online, my favorite track has got to be the main title, especially at 1:30. It’s already epic by itself, but it’s especially more powerful when I’m in a crazy space fight and that part comes on. It’s invigorating, and in those few moments I actually feel like a Star Trek captain with the lives of 200+ crewmen in my hands, so I damn well better blow those enemies out of the sky before they do the same thing to me (okay, I know…nerdy again). Another reason I like this is that it sounds distinctively Star Trek-y, but I know others might not agree with me about that. I don’t know why the STO music gets bashed so much, but I do like it and wouldn’t mind getting my hands on a soundtrack if Cryptic ever releases one.

2. The hills of the Shire are alive with the sound of music

There’s a lot of good music from Lord of the Rings Online, and on nights I can’t sleep (which happens often) I would play the soundtrack on my iPod and listen to the more soothing tracks to try and catch some Z’s. My favorite track has to be The Hills of the Shire, though in-game you actually only get to hear snippets of it (at least that’s what I’ve noticed while questing in the Shire). The full version is so beautiful, I don’t know how anyone can listen to this and not be moved by it. Let the music take you away to a warm, summer night in the Shire, and you’re sitting under a starry sky around a crackling campfire with a lute in your hands, playing a little song with three of your closest friends. This is LOTRO.

3. The haunting hymns of Hyboria

I have a feeling this is just me, but Age of Conan is the first MMO I have ever played where a particular song will come on and I would go find myself a nice little place to hide so I can listen to it. My character is Aquilionian so I hear this one, Hamlets of Aquilonia, quite a lot when zoning in and out of Old Tarantia, but I never get tired of it. My praise to the composer Knut Avenstroup Haugen for the AoC soundtrack, because it’s so perfect for this game. Like someone mentioned in the comments for this song, it’s clear he wanted to give back the same amazing melodies that Basil Poledouris did with Conan the Barbarian. As someone who really liked the score to that movie, I can really appreciate the effort that went into creating the music for this game.


  1. I actually turn the music off and the sound effects down. Gives me a headache. That said I do try to get a feel for the music, to know what I’m missing at least at first.

    Jeremy Soule tends to write a fairly good tune. KOTOR, NWN, Oblivion, morrowind, all the guild wars games. i find it impressive he’s so consistently good.

    • Yeah, I do tend to turn down ambient sounds and combat noises, because they do get annoying after a while (and detracts from the music 😀 ) Some games also throw in the “fight music” whenever you enter combat and always disable that feature too.

      And yes, I enjoyed Jeremy Soule’s work on KOTOR quite a bit, and was a little disappointed when I found out he wasn’t going to be scoring for SW:TOR. However, they’ve picked Mark Griskey instead, who did the music for KOTOR II. I’ve never played KOTOR II but I’ve heard some of the music, and it’s just simply phenomenal. I think he’ll be just fine for TOR 😀

  2. I can’t say I’ve ever cared about a games soundtrack. I’ve tried, like when I buy collectors editions that come with the soundtrack. I’m not a big fan of classical, and indeed lyrics are the more important part of any song to me, so I find listening to songs without them, while fine, does nothing for me emotionally. Most of the time anyway.

    In short, I think I was raised poorly, unable to appreciate something that is clearly beautiful.

    Also I don’t think I’ve ever heard music IN GAME and realized it was a specific song or been able to tell the difference between it and others.

    • Nah, I don’t think it’s an indication that you were raised poorly 😛 It’s just personal taste, and I only ever notice music in games when there’s something distinctive about it to my ears.

  3. Awesome, GeeCee. I like to listen to the in-game music too, although I often have to turn the LotRO music down when I’m in a fellowship so I can hear everyone on voice. There’s nothing quite like music for triggering memories.

    One exception in STO, though, there’s an operatic piece that often plays during combat that I really don’t like.

    • I know exactly which piece you’re talking about and it also drives me completely bonkers.

  4. I have only WoW and STO to really reference in terms of MMO soundtracks, but like you, GeeCee, I prefer them over listening to my own MP3s. WoW in particular is very cinematic and thematic to each region (though not completely unique to the region). I actually have the ambient sounds turned up and the music at about half, interestingly enough for about the same reasons you give for the opposite, the music creates the mood, but the ambiance contributes to my immersion in the world.

    With STO, it’s a little different. While I love the music, it doesn’t seem unique to each region of the game. I actually turned it all the way down this past Sunday–it had become irritating–and haven’t turned it back up. I was listening to Billy Joel for a while, but that didn’t fit either.

    The music from the Shire and Aquilonia sound wonderful.

    • WoW has some fantastic music. I was floored the first time I ever stepped foot into Stormwind and heard the music that plays when you’re crossing the bridge over the Valley of Heroes. You know the song I mean? It’s like, holy crap, I didn’t even know that much about the lore of the humans at that point, but that music already told me so much about their proud (and elitist?) history.

      And I get what you mean with STO. I like a lot of the tracks on there, but they do tend to get repetitive because like you said, they’re not unique to any region in the game.

  5. I will say that after reading this, I did enjoy the STO music a bit more when I was in a large space battle today. Up until it went to some song with a male singer that just kind of AHHAHH AAAAAAHHHHHH’s it up for a second or two, then nothing. That part was just really weird.

    • I actually thought it was a really deep-voiced female O_o

  6. AoC’s soundtrack is really wonderful, as it is so close to the movie soundtrack that really knocked me off my socks. Basil Pouledoris really brought the world of the first Conan movie to life, and it is one of the very few movie soundtracks that I ever listened to on CD.

    • Yeah, it really works for the game! Your comment reminds me, I need to get my hands on that movie soundtrack.

  7. I absolutely love the Helene Boksle tracks on the AoC soundtrack. The rest of its great as well but these are the best imho. Best of any MMO I’ve every played.. and I’ve played almost all of them.

    I have never been a fan of the lotro music, but STO has been good except that one everyone hates Ahhhhhh!

    • She’s the singer that provides the vocals, I’m guessing? If so, props to her. She’s got an amazing voice, gives the music a really haunting feel that’s so appropriate for the game. There are some tracks that are specific to Cimmerian zones that come to mind immediately.

      • Yes she is the singer that does those tracks.

      • Thanks for that! Simply amazing voice.

  8. […] Same as I wrote last year, the song “Hills of the Shire” remains my favorite LOTRO track, even though the Tom Bombadil theme comes close (seriously, doesn’t that song just make you want to kick off your shoes, put on a floppy hat and prance around in a flowery field outside) but ever since I hit level 30-ish this “Red Stone and Golden Leaves” song has started growing on me. It’s probably not a coincidence that this is around the time you get to Rivendell, and that’s the song that plays when you enter the city. […]

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