I’ve always had mixed feelings about Western games putting out Asian-themed expansions and conjuring up a soundtrack to match. On one hand, we already have oh-so-many Asian MMOs (and scores) on the market that for another region to try to get in on that action feels a little forced and unnecessary. On the other hand, why not? It’s no big deal and can foster a multi-cultural atmosphere in the game.
Mists of Pandaria is World of Warcraft’s love song to Asia, which is probably more intentional than coincidental considering how many of the MMO’s players live there. The soundtrack, while a cut above a similar approach with Guild Wars Factions, is decent but hardly among the game’s all-time best scores. It infuses the fantasy world of Azeroth with exotic-sounding instruments such as the erhu, guzheng, and dizi, creating another take on this popular franchise.
So how does Mists of Pandaria’s score acquit itself? Let’s find out!
Heart of Pandaria
Like many of WoW’s themes, this starts out with the oh-so-familiar epic refrain. And like the other main themes, it soon spins off, blending the old and the new. While I liked the newer elements and appreciated the beauty of the classic World of Warcraft cues, I can’t say that the two blend well here. It’s almost as if the track ping-pongs back and forth between “traditional WoW” and “new Asian.” At least it isn’t boring!
Why Do We Fight?
Well, I can answer that question quite simply: We fight because it inspires the creation of epic fight music. I mean, people tried to create epic cooking music, epic tax form completion music, and epic waits in the DMV line music, but it just wasn’t the same. So let us give thanks to a panda attacking a human for our audio salvation.
I suppose this is as good as any of the Mists of Pandaria’s tracks to illustrate my ambivelence toward this score. I can recognize that Serpent Riders has all of the elements of a thrilling race tune, but said elements never gel to make it the really catchy track that it deserves to be. So I’m left with a track that I can neither condemn nor praise, which puts me in a weird spot. You know what I’m saying?
Way of the Monk
Now here’s something I can be less wishy-washy about! Way of the Monk is a hauntingly memorable tune that spends the first 45 seconds swaying before it lashes into rapid action. It also seems to be a favorite of fan covers, which is a good tell of a classic track.
An eastern hoe-down? That’s the only way I can describe Stormstout Brew, which embraces the silly, playful side of WoW with gusto. For those who like to ignore the cartoony aspect of the game (seriously, how?), this track must irritate with the force of a thousand tickling caterpillars. For the rest of us, it’s a catchy little ditty.
Temple of the Five Dawns
I never realized before now that I was living a dull life with just a single daily dawn when I could have been rocking five dawns at a go! Anyway, here’s a great entry for “relaxing spa music” if you were entering into a weirdly specific and imaginary contest, although you might find yourself disqualified when the judges hear the crescendo that wraps up the track.