I’m going to make a bold statement here that might net me some haters, but here goes: I think that Guild Wars 2 is better off now that it’s cast off Jeremy Soule and moved on to in-house composers. Soule’s soundtrack was great in parts, but he’s not the be-all, end-all of good video game music. And his company’s unexplained decision to yank the soundtrack from its store (and not even offer a digital version) irks me beyond the telling of it. Good luck finding it!
So today I’m going to give tribute to the two men who have been forging ahead — spectacularly, I might add — with scoring Guild Wars 2’s ongoing living story updates. Maclaine Diemer and Leif Chappelle have been whipping up a wide variety of tunes to go with the various story elements and events. To ArenaNet’s credit, the studio has been posting these downloadable tracks for free on SoundCloud.
And while rumor has it that Diemer and Chappelle are already composing music for season two, I thought it’d be worthwhile to go back and share some of my favorites from their season one portfolio. I won’t be dipping into Super Adventure Box, however, as we did that last year.
1. Sanctum Sprint
This is a really fun, high-energy track that bursts out of the gate with an addicting beat. It then slathers on the horns at 0:42 and for all intents and purposes sounds like a Mexican dance. Perhaps it’s the combination of trumpet and tambourine that’s triggering that association.
Chappelle gives us some background: “To create this theme, I took the overall melody & chord structure of the Zephyrite ‘Alas’ song and reconstructed it into a high-energy dash, more of a triumphant cry to carry the Sanctum Sprinters on their accelerated sun dashes, wind jumps and lightning leaps. When Maclaine took it into the studio for mixing and mastering, he added some excellent little percussive touches, and even layered in some live guitar playing!”
2. Bash the Dragon
I love me a good shanty, don’t you? This track is infectious and (better yet) really easy to sing along to. “Bash the dragon, smash the dragon! Drive it back into its den!” OK, it’s not going to win a Grammy, but it’s certainly something you can picture inhabitants actually singing on a fictional holiday. Plus, branching out into shanty-town shows me that these composers are willing to experiment beyond a prim and proper score.
3. The Great Toymaker
The Wintersday soundtrack was chock-full of terrific pieces, but I’m particularly drawn to this one. Maybe it’s because it’s playful. Probably because it’s Asura Christmas music. It’s a madcap dance with bells and a piano, speeding up and slowing down at will, sweeping us along for a wild time.
More commentary from Chappelle: “Knowing that the toymaker Tixx is a fairly eccentric asura, I approached writing this piece by taking several elements from the asura theme and paired them with an unpredictable melody that can’t quite decide where it wants to go. The final section includes elements from the Bell Choir piece Beyond Fields of Snow.”
4. The Lunatic Court
Moving on (or back?) to Halloween, here’s a slightly crazy and deeply atmospheric track devoted to the Mad King Thorn festivities. It lacks a hummable melody, but something about it really nails that tone of insanity and dark despair that goes with this holiday.
5. Lion’s Arch Lament
I pretty much dismissed this one the first time that I heard it, but something about it called me back… again and again. I’ve listened through it at least a half-dozen times in the past day, and for the life of me, I can’t tell you exactly why. It’s slow like the part of the movie where the dog dies and the hero grieves in slow-motion and I wish that he’d just get cheap guild wars 2 gold.
I guess what has grown on me is that there’s an authentic array of emotions at play here. There’s sadness and loss, definitely, but also a tribute to the history that this place built over the years. It’s a funeral song that slowly, gradually, blossoms with a fierce beauty. This right here I’d put up against any of the tracks from the original OST.
6. Battle on the Breachmaker
This tune really caught my attention when I was playing through the battle itself because it sounded like such classic boss fight music. It’s really intense, moving through various phases (much like the fight), and gets you pumped up for action. The piano section is not as toe-tapping, but it’s certainly eerie and beautiful in its own right.