Jukebox Heroes: Mists of Pandaria’s soundtrack

    
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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.

Serpent Riders

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.

Stormstout Brew

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.

MMOs are meant to be heard as well as seen, and chances are that music ties your memories to these games more than you might realize. Every two weeks Jukebox Heroes listens through a game soundtrack and picks out the highlights to share and discuss. And if you like this column, then don’t miss the author’s MMO music podcast, Battle Bards!
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DPandaren
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DPandaren

I’ve always been a sucker for the kind of Asian style influence in themes. And I blame The Last Airbender and Korra for that, though that EQ2 adventure pack strucked me pretty well with it.

Dope_Danny
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Dope_Danny

So much better than warlords’ soundtrack. It reminded me of avatar, wind waker, shenmue, hero. It was an amazing soundtrack that saw a return to blizzard quality after the really lacklustre soundtrack of cataclysm that really only had the gilnean music stick in a sea of generic noise to fill the silence.

Celestia
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Celestia

Blizzard’;s sound and music are always amazing.

exeeter
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exeeter

in my opinion MOP absolutely smashes WOD on the audio and atmospheric front hands down.

Its important to not forget that the highlights to MOPs ost is none other then Jeremy Soule (shout outs to secret of evermore:P)

I was actually offended that my most beloved songs from the game were only applied in portions and not full playthrough glory, still little in WOD ever grasped me the way these did………..

cromahr
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cromahr

and some general thoughts – I mentioned several times before, in other comments, that I really wasn’t into the MOP-theme, setting or the story at all. However, I respect how well they did the expansion… some of the scenery and atmosphere was nice, and the soundtrack-theme really did an awesome job. They, IMO, always deliver, so even when I don’t enjoy a certain xpac, I can at least appreciate the music.
After all the medieval/fantasy-type theme and music WOW had, to delve into an Asian-type theme and actually do some interesting music (even though there were clichés, of course) is quite a tough thing to do.
However, just like Vanilla and WOTLK were my favorite phases of WOW, their soundtracks are my favorites as well. ICC had such great atmospheric music, and so did most of the other Northrend-zones, whether we’re talking Dal, SP, HF or whatever.
I at some point extracted the complete music from the game-files and saved them to a harddrive. I think altogether it was like 3 GB, including very ambient and atmospheric tracks with just some drone notes, pads and no real melody. Enjoyed listening to that a lot. However, it seems they did remove quite a few music tracks in MoP… during that xpac, I tried to extract the music once again (kinda like an updated version of my “WOW music archive”, and noticed that some of my favorite tracks, like some from the ICC raid, were not in there anymore). Not sure whether you can still extract the music with the current version of the game, but I recommend it, as it’s quite impressive how much cool music the team put together over the years

cromahr
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cromahr

Nice choices indeed. My own favorite MOP-track is this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGrFzAlsg5U
The intro with the vocals and those strings is just so cool, and the whole new part that starts at about 1:22 gives me goosebumps every single time. Totally epic. I never was a fan of that xpac, but this track I really really enjoy

Jack Pipsam
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Jack Pipsam

WhyteTyger Yeah there’s the first volume which I got with the collector’s edition which is all the base game content.
Then there’s the second volume you can get from the Blizz store with all the music which came out in the patches.

pml60aus
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pml60aus

I’m with you. I love the Pandaria soundtrack. It’s by far my favourite of all WoW themes.
And the “Why do we fight?” cutscene never ceases to amuse me. The look on the orc’s face as the human hands him a weapon is priceless.
:)

WhyteTyger
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WhyteTyger

Wait, there are two volumes?
I also quite enjoyed this soundtrack, with the only other track left out that I am especially fond of being “Shado-pan”.

Jack Pipsam
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Jack Pipsam

I adore the Mists of Pandaria soundtrack, I have both volumes on my iPod playing all the time.