Jukebox Heroes: Revelation Online’s soundtrack

Eastern MMORPGs have a great shared legacy of incredible soundtracks, ranging from Aion to Lineage II to Final Fantasy XIV. And while there are both standouts and generic-sounding OSTs, it’s very unusual for an eastern game to feature a western composer.

But I suppose if you’re going to do that, you would do yourself well by recruiting from the best. I’m guessing that’s what happened with Revelation Online, which hired World of Warcraft and Overwatch Composer Neal Acree to score this fantasy title. The west-meets-east design here sounds a little bit odd and a little bit off to my ears, especially considering how Acree attempts to create a very Chinese-sounding album for a very Chinese MMO.

Was he successful? More or less, yes. It’s a decent soundtrack, nothing that I’m going to praise to the high heavens, but one that I won’t drag through the mud, either. I think that the best thing I can say about it is that Revelation Online’s score is that it’s very pleasant. And sometimes that’s exactly what you need when you’re sitting down to relax and play a game for hours on end. Let’s take a listen.

1. The Chosen

The title theme is a slow burner that features a somewhat stereotypical Chinese opening. Fortunately, it really takes off at the 54-second mark with hard-hitting drums and a stirring melody that returns again and again in an increasingly forceful manner. The studio was obviously quite proud of this theme and submitted it for the consideration of the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. Didn’t win, but still, it’s not every day that you see an MMO try to step up and slug it out with other soundtracks on that stage. Gave me chills at the end, at least.

2. Climbing Up Mountains

This lively and spirited piece doesn’t so much suggest arduously climbing a mountain as skipping up it, billy goat-style. It’s light and springy, nearly tripping over itself in its boundless enthusiasm. And you know what? I can applaud that.

3. Emerald Falls

I think this is a starting zone track, and as such, it certainly nails that feeling of beginning a great adventure in a safe and welcoming area. It’s one of those themes that isn’t there to get your adrenaline flowing as to coax you out into the sunlight and gradually explore this world. Don’t be shy, it seems to say. No dragons are this way. Probably. Possibly.

4. Crossing the River

I delight in unexpected and fun transitions in MMO tracks, and Crossing the River has a great one around the 43-second point. It almost lulls you into a generic melody up to then before abruptly changing gears and delivering this mischievous tune that skips and dances about. There’s some nice interplay here, a moment of levity before the weight of the world crashes back down.

5. Millennium

One of my favorite video game soundtracks is Chrono Trigger, a game that taught me that soft and quiet tunes could hold immense meaning and power. Millennium reminds me in a small way of, say, Memories of Green. It attempts to capture the fragile beauty of a moment that’s about to pass by, and the female vocalist does her darndest to ride the wave. I’m not entirely convinced she nails it, but I’m certainly not annoyed at the attempt.

6. Mystic Forest

This eerie and enchanting piece begins with a soft rendition of the title theme. It’s almost childlike in simplicity from here on out, plenty of softly plucked strings and chimes creating a crystalline atmosphere. I would love to see the visuals that accompany this piece, because if done just right, this could be one of those music tracks that creates a strong memory imprint in the player.

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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