Lately, a friend was asking me where he should start with collecting MMO soundtracks. “Pretty much anywhere and everywhere” was my initial reaction, although that was not quite as helpful as he needed. So we started talking about grabbing all of the free soundtracks out there as well as snapping up particular albums as a backbone of a good collection.
Frankly, if it’s an online game and it’s released a soundtrack, I will buy it. I don’t care what kind of MMO it was or how popular it might have been; often the quality of the music is divorced from whether or not I would play that particular game. So while my collection is pretty expansive, I understand that a beginner collector can’t just buy all the things right away.
So that created an interesting thought exercise for me. If I was starting out and had the funds and desire to purchase, say, six albums off the bat, which ones would I pick? It was tough, but I came up with the following list to recommend to any MMO OST fan as “must haves” for a good collection.
An advance warning with this soundtrack: You can go very broke trying to buy the full Final Fantasy XIV score, particularly if you are seeking both the old (1.0) soundtrack and the Realm Reborn stuff. This is because Square Enix doesn’t exactly make it easy to buy digital albums, preferring to sell expensive import CDs and hacked-up albums elsewhere.
That said, picking up one or more of the city soundtracks for FFXIV is a good starting point. There are four of them out right now — Gridania, Ul’dah, Ishgard, and Limsa Lominsa — and all offer around 10 great tracks by Nobuo Uematsu and others for $4.
2. Lineage II
No, I don’t care how fast you might dismiss Lineage II from your interest as a playable game; I care that you acknowledge that this is one astounding (and expansive) soundtrack that is among the best that MMOs have put out. You need at least one of them in your collection, and if you’re starting out then I’d recommend the Interlude album. It’s got pieces by Inon Zur and Bill Brown, among others, and does a good job representing Lineage II’s wide range of musical excellence.
I call Aion, Lineage II, and Final Fantasy XIV my eastern trifecta — all three have simply astounding scores and are among my personal favorites. Like the others, Aion has multiple soundtrack releases and keeps pumping out great new music all of the time. Any of the game’s albums would be great to include (as a bonus, they all give you a lot of tracks for your money), but I say go right back to the start with its original soundtrack release. Lots of good stuff there!
The earlier LOTRO albums are a little hard to come by these days but are definitely worth the trouble of tracking down. But even if they were available digitally, I would still tell you to get the Riders of Rohan soundtrack. It’s such a terrific score from start to end that builds on the game’s past and embraces the theme of this horse-riding nation. Chance Thomas really outdid himself on this one and I have a feeling that it’s probably the last full album we’ll ever see sold from this game.
5. Guild Wars 2
Really, Guild Wars anything is usually a welcome addition to a game soundtrack collection. The first Guild Wars has soundtracks still available (and are all great), although Jeremy Soule for some reason pulled the released Guild Wars 2 soundtrack from his store, makingit unavailable to purchase anywhere. I am not a fan of this move.
So instead, I say give some props to the recent musical additions to the game and pick up the rather good Heart of Thorns score and let yourself be swept away into this fantasy world. You won’t be disappointed!
Over the years, Blizzard’s built up an impressive library of music for World of Warcraft. While it’s not consistently excellent (very few soundtracks are), there are a lot of terrific pieces that make purchasing any if not all of the released albums worthwhile. However, I will say that some of the expansions are better than others, and all of the albums leave out a lot of music that was put into the game.
But if I had to pick just one soundtrack to buy, I’d throw down a wild card and suggest the Taverns of Azeroth album. It’s a 19-track collection and rearrangement of many of the tavern themes in the game, offering a high ratio of quality to quantity. You won’t get a lot of action pieces here, but you will be treated to lovely atmospheric tracks that put you right into the middle of a fantasy world. It’s probably one of my favorite albums to listen from start to end.