I’m a huge fan of musical scores for movies and video-games; the sheer amount of feeling and emotion they can capture or create is incredible, from a soaring main theme, to a adrenaline pumping action theme, to a smooth and beautiful ballad. In the recent Blizzcast, Russel Brower (musical director for Cataclysm) revealed that there is a total of about 8 hours of new music going into the Cataclysm soundtrack; apparently this is about comparable to the amount of new music that was in Wrath of the Lich King as well. Much of it is already available for a listen on Youtube and there is some great stuff there.
For a game as heavily steeped in lore and story as World of Warcraft, good music is absolutely essential. So much of the questing experience is following a linear, scripted storyline so the music is a key element to experiencing that story. I know a lot of people who play Warcraft with the music or even all the sound off, but for me the music is so much a part of the game that I can’t imagine the experience without it.
You can tell the Blizzard budget for music has gone up… the Cataclysm music is heavily dependent on large choral arrangements, with the usual mix of strings, brass, percussion, and a few non-conventional instruments here and there. Like all Warcraft music, most of the pieces are designed as background music, almost ambiance, and so aren’t particularly exciting. Here’s a few of the new pieces I single out as excellent, stand-alone works:
(all links are Youtube links, open in a new tab to keep the blog post open as well)
Probably the best piece of new music I have heard so far… opens with a spectacular mix of strong female vocals and strings, with a mysterious, solemn sound to it. The music sounds ancient but still very much alive, almost timeless. Then it transitions into an exciting and fast-paced run through the forest to the beating of great drums. Good stuff.
Like most Horde-themed music, it makes strong use of drums and horns set in a minor key. Captures the feeling of raw aggression but also has a ponderous feel to it; this is the theme of something that’s going to take a minute to get to you but then knock you flat on your back when it hits.
A beautiful and powerful choir transitions into a sad flute/harp melody. The entire theme is deeply tragic and carries a lot of weight and emotion as befits a fallen world tree.
Dark, sinister male vocals give make it very clear this is a theme for the “bad guys”. Twilight’s Hammer may be an evil cult but they sure have a cool soundtrack.
Written as a theme for the icy, snowy Dwarven home realms. I don’t know what it is about plucking strings that captures that “cold” feeling, perhaps because its reminiscent of dripping icicles. The string melodies evoke cool mountain breezes and a wide-open feeling. There is also a tinge of sadness throughout the piece. Russel Brower commented in the Blizzcast podcast that he composed this piece while experiencing the last few days a beloved family pet and that feeling of loss comes through in the music at times.
(I apologize for all the Warcraft posts all of a sudden, but what can I say, it’s what I’m playing lately.)