Massively OP recently reviewed the soundtrack, finding it to be a much darker and more dour score with the occasional bright spot. “Mordor’s OST is very competent and does a great job helping to sell the corrupted, death-strewn nation,” we wrote, “but it’s not anywhere near as fun to listen to as, say, Thomas’ adventurous Riders of Rohan or his classic Shadows of Angmar work.”
My concern stemmed from the source material. Mordor is evil, through and through, and I knew that this would call for an oppressively dark soundtrack. I felt that no matter who scored it, it wasn’t going to be an eminently listenable album, and I worried that Thomas’ efforts would be hamstrung by this setting.
After receiving an advance copy of the score (which will go on sale digitally November 1st), I found my concern borne out. Mordor’s OST is very competent and does a great job helping to sell the corrupted, death-strewn nation — but it’s not anywhere near as fun to listen to as, say, Thomas’ adventurous Riders of Rohan or his classic Shadows of Angmar work. That said, there are a couple of standout pieces and some very interesting elements going on with these tunes, so let’s go through it track by track to grok this latest chapter in the LOTRO musical archive.
“Lots of these plans were noodling around in my head since 2007 or 2008,” he said, “although active development of Book 9 was going on for about a year in advance of Mordor — it sounds like a lot for fifteen minutes of gameplay, I know it, but that’s the curse of the game designer. Everything takes longer than you think it does.”
Speaking of Mordor, Composer Chance Thomas announced that the expansion’s official soundtrack will be released on November 1st. We’ve heard it’s the same playlist that Gollum used when he was on his final road trip, so you know it’s something special.
The team announced on Twitter yesterday that it has begun testing Update 21.2, which contains the aforementioned promised content: “Bullroarer is being updated with a preview of 21.2, including instances, Allegiance quests, and more!”
Speaking of the Allegiance system, one of the game’s writers posted a lore piece about the Battle of the Five Armies that ties into the Dwarf storyline of the expansion. Or if music is more your bag, hang out with Mordor Composer Chance Thomas for an AMA this afternoon! When asked by Massively OP as to when the Mordor OST would release, Thomas said that there is nothing official yet but the publisher is aware of the demand.
“People assume all the time that I take the movie themes and re-work them,” Thomas said. “I went to the source! I took from the source material the feelings, the ideas, the colors, the themes, and the harmonies that are a reflection of that world.”
If music isn’t your bag, what about gorgeous concept art? This year, the studio has commissioned renowned Tolkien artist Ted Nasmith to create three pieces for Update 16, 20, and 21. The Mordor wallpaper in particular is drop-dead awesome, and you can download all of them to your computer for use. You can check them all out below.
“This music transformed my career and gave me a platform so that I could take all of these places that we love in Middle-earth and bring them to life musically,” Thomas said. “I hope this collection of music will carry you away on the wings of your imagination. So here’s to all of the great memories… and the memories yet to come.”
You can hear the announcement and listen to an interview with Chance Thomas after the break!
Saying that “it was a long time coming,” the announcement marks a reunion between Thomas and LOTRO after many years apart. Thomas was one of the key composers who wrote music for the base game and its expansions up through Riders of Rohan, but he’s been absent from the project since 2012. In the livestream, Thomas said that the lawyers had to wrangle things out to make a way for his return.
The composer said that the Mordor expansion will be a “different feel” than what he’s done for the game in the past — and will be quite dark, indeed. He’s currently reading through the design document and looking at various pieces of Middle-earth art to help inspire his composition. Thomas has just now started writing the score but said that there will be live orchestral recording of at least some of it.
Thomas and Standing Stone teased a second special announcement that will come next week. You can watch the full interview after the break!
In response to concerns that the gift boxes didn’t initially impress, Standing Stone said that there’s more to this anniversary than meets the eye: “When developing for our 10th anniversary, we made a decision to focus on both items and content. What this means is that the 10th anniversary has far more playable content associated with it than any other anniversary we’ve had. We also have more than thirty items available in the scavenger hunt. We appreciate the feedback on the gift boxes themselves, though. I would caution that I’d wait until you see the fireworks before passing judgement, though, as they are pretty sweet.”
We’ve got the first three tracks and Thomas’ comments for you after the break!
Today, Standing Stone Games announced a special two-month scavenger hunt that will kick off on April 20th and continue through June 13th with a trio of new quests every week. “Each quest brings us back to the places we have been, and gets us some cool stuff in the process,” the studio said.
Also coming this month is the anniversary fireworks event (see — we told you), a series of special videos with former LOTRO Composer Chance Thomas talking about his favorite pieces, and a 12-hour developer livestream. Presumably there will also be anniversary gifts and other promotional items, so keep your eyes peeled!
I am of the opinion that there is something special and magical about getting to experience music in person, especially so when it is a large orchestra performing some of my favorite pieces of game soundtracks. I loved seeing Video Games Live several years back and felt happy at the time at seeing two of my interests meet together and earn some legitimacy as an artistic performance.
We can’t always be there to see such performances, of course, but a nice consolation prize for those wanting to simulate the experience is to watch musicians and composers filmed while they do their work. It adds another layer of appreciation and can even cause you to look at a piece in a whole new way, even if you had heard it a hundred times before.
Today let’s check out some live performances of MMO scores and see if we can’t get any goosebumps going!
So it’s with keen interest this week that I turn my attention to LOTRO’s lesser-known predecessor: Middle-earth Online. Known to some but not to all, Turbine wasn’t the first MMO studio to take a crack at Tolkien’s license — no, for that we have to travel back to 1998 and revisit Sierra On-Line. It was this company that had a brief but memorable run designing Middle-earth Online, also known as “What if LOTRO had permadeath?”
It’s a fascinating glimpse into an entirely different approach to the IP, and even though it died a fairly early death, it’s important to be remembered. Frodo lives!
As an MMO fan, there are few things as sad as a promising game being killed in development without seeing the light of a full release. Those nagging “what if?” scenarios can drive a fan mad and keep one up through the wee hours of the night.
And while I don’t have the power to resurrect these MMOs through my sheer force of will and present them to you wrapped in a bow, I can perhaps deliver a consolation gift by pointing you in the direction of some of these games’ soundtracks.
Many MMOs that were nearing completion or in development for a long time already had work done on their in-game music. And some of that music has escaped the long, cold fingers of cancellation thanks to composers and fans who wanted to preserve the score. So while it may be bittersweet to listen to the following six games’ scores, it’s also a small triumph that we can do so at all.