And so our next soundtrack for examination is the rather excellent Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind OST by Brad Derrick. I haven’t hidden my disappointment in the base game’s soundtrack, as it didn’t quite live up to the expectations established by previous Elder Scrolls titles. Therefore, I’m happy to say that Morrowind really stepped up to deliver a much more memorable and moving soundtrack with plenty of nostalgic elements.
For more on the making of this score, read Derrick’s interview on the main site: “For The Elder Scrolls Online, the music has to bridge the gap between the familiar and the new, satisfying player expectations while still having a unique identity. This means making sure the music is ‘Elder Scrolls-y’ enough to sound like it’s from the same universe as the other games, but at the same time different enough so that it’s clearly ESO music, belonging to the time and spaces of our game.”
“A Land of War and Beauty”
Let’s blast through the main theme, because it’s hard to be objective when you bring back Jeremy Soule’s familiar theme for another interpretation. Here, it’s more… elvish, to coin a phrase. A violin handles the theme, which drifts in and out before leaving us with a mish-mash of choir, foreboding conflict, and serene peace.
You can’t escape the connections from this soundtrack to the classic Morrowind themes, and this piece blends together Jeremy Soule’s work and Derrick’s newer direction. It’s still as hauntingly beautiful and captivating as ever, taking something as simple as a plain landscape score and turning it into a wonderful romp. There are so many cues that leap out and arrest the attention, and it’s obvious to hear the iteration upon the expansion’s ancestor.
“Magnus Smiles on Suran”
Stepping out from the shadow of Soule’s legacy, Derrick did a phenomenal job with this track. It’s got this light and magical touch that coalesces into a soulfully beautiful melody that is lifted up by strings and a background choir. Almost single-handedly, this track elevates the ESO score to a classic.
A lot of the praise I have for the Morrowind soundtrack is that it’s this relaxing, emotional ride that delivers the kind of music that’s perfect for exploring and world building. While a short track, clocking in at just over a minute, Telvanni Towers transports the listener to a realm that is at once traditional fantasy and magical mystery. It builds to this triumphant crescendo that then drifts back down into a lazy coda, leaving us wanting more.
Despite the name, this track is underscored by tension and a hint of tragedy. It’s one of those tunes that obviously is telling a story, and even if you don’t know what that is, it evokes the imagination to fill in the gaps and create a tale to fit this journey.
While this piece wasn’t bowling me over, I did find myself enjoying it and thinking of the music as almost cinematic in its purpose. You can easily imagine action taking place alongside of this, and when it finally returns to those simple Morrowind harp notes, all of the feels come along with them. A bit of the old, a bit of the new, and there you have what this expansion’s score is all about.