From birth until its ignoble death, EverQuest Online Adventures always lived in the shadow of the EverQuest franchise’s wing. As a chunky-looking subscription game on a console that was ill-suited to handling it, the game presented obstacles that only a fringe community would overcome. And yet EQOA is very much beloved in some small circles for helping to pioneer console MMOs and for the fun it generated.
I was doubly surprised by EQOA this past week, which I did not think was possible now that the game’s been out of commission for a couple of years. My first surprise was that when I started listening to the soundtrack, it wasn’t early EverQuest’s MIDI bloops but a rich, sweeping score that ranks right up there with the other titles in the series. My second surprise was seeing Jeremy Soule as one of the MMO’s composers (along with Jeremy Bell, Rob King, and Paul Romero). I did not know he was attached to this project, but it does explain that touch of mastery it has.
So humor me today as we go back to a game hardly anyone played but everyone should hear.
1. Main Theme (Forever)
While this is a reprise of the classic EverQuest theme, to my ears it is different enough to include on this list. It’s a step up from MIDI, with a full orchestra, but isn’t as bombastic as EverQuest II’s theme (as enjoyable as that was). I love the swirling instrumentals in the background that add a layer of magic to the proceedings.
It sounds more playful and nostalgic, and no matter what, it has that familiar, catchy tune backing it, telling you that this indeed is an EverQuest game.
Dramatic and almost old-school classical, Blackwater is seeping with emotion. It isn’t a terribly happy track but one more suited to playing against an unfolding tragedy and redemption. Maybe that’s my poetic interpretation, but the piece goes from being melancholy to hopeful. While it’s a little heavy for my tastes, I cannot deny that it’s well-done and deserves a spot on this list.
Hands-down, this is my favorite piece of the bunch. Endure through the drawn-out first 35 seconds or so because you’re going to be treated to an epic tune that I’ve listened to on repeat ever since finding it. It’s just so… majestic, martial, and moving. The drums weren’t necessary, but they are certainly nice and go hand-in-hand with those horns, wouldn’t you say?
4. Highpass Hold
What’s up with the opening part of this track? It sounds as if the orchestra was warming up and got taken unawares, so it just decided to wing it from there on out. Fortunately, it gets better, taking another pathos-driven turn through this fantasy world. What I liked here is that if you listen closely, you can hear hints and foreshadowing to Soule’s later Guild Wars score.
Start out with an exotic-sounding cue, then take a rather simple melody and put it against the rolling thunder of a drumline. What you end up with is this proficient if somewhat clumsy piece. For what it’s worth, I could have enjoyed the tune without all of the embellishments, but hey, what do I know.
Can’t do an EverQuest soundtrack without a Qeynos track, right? Or should we be calling it Kaerbyad now? Sorry, bad studio joke.
While I usually associate EverQuest with high fantasy and lighthearted music, I have to say that this is not what I found in EQOA at all. It’s a much more serious and full score, although that’s not to say it’s terrible. But Qeynos is really the closest I found to a whimsical fantasy piece, and only in sections. It’s pretty and develops nicely throughout, almost as if it were telling a story of some kind. It’s a good note (pardon the pun) to end on.