It may be hard to believe, but it has already been about four years since SOE decided to close down the troubled yet cult favorite Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. On July 31, 2014, the game world went dark, and many players found themselves saying farewell to Telon for good.
While I was not a regular player of Vanguard, I did admire the game for its interesting concepts (like its diplomacy system), its gorgeous visuals, and — pertinent to this column — its soundtrack. There was a lot of artistry involved in this title, and while it was hampered in many ways for many reasons, Vanguard left a legacy that is still fondly remembered by some.
Part of that legacy is its music, and other than screenshots and recollections, it is the only part of Vanguard that we can still experience today. The soundtrack was composed by Todd Masten, who has worked on many other video games such as the Age of Empires series. So let us take a trip back to this fantasy MMO and hear the music of a dead world brought back to life.
I’ve noticed that I warm up to MMO soundtracks that take the time to craft evocative and atmospheric scenes, rather than just being a collection of ear-blasting epic music (or, barring that, just loud for loud’s sake). Vanguard is chock-full of quieter pieces that stir my imagination, such as Brightwood Dells. I’ve loved this track for a long, long time now, finding it absolutely magical in its composition. It makes me want to go to wherever this is and explore it. How about you?
Vanguard’s soundtrack obviously makes more use of a synthesizer than some other MMO scores, and your enjoyment of it will vary based on how you feel about synth music. I’m more than fine with it, even when the instrument is substituting for true vocals, as in this piece. The plucking of the harp makes me think of someone tip-toeing through an ancient dungeon that’s full of history and wonder.
Grotto of the Sea Hags
What a great title! Love that. We need more titles with the word “hags” casually slung into them. Anyway, this is another quiet track that is just a shade too fast to be considered true spa music, although it’s pretty close to it. I really enjoyed the rainstick-like percussion that underscores this lonely melody.
Yes, I am a total sucker for good forest music, and this one has always struck me as somewhat unique-sounding. It has elements of a sacred chant as well as a relaxing JRPG village tune where you are exploring a peaceful place that’s probably going to get destroyed by an evil wizard in the next half-hour. There are some slightly abrupt transitions here and a touch of eastern instruments, which is probably befitting the nature of these woods.
Kaon Mage School
Chimes, harps, and strings come together for this tinkly track. It’s another subtle piece that conjures (sorry) a soundscape of mystery and wonder. Listening to it, I feel kind of small and unsure in this environment, although it is not filling me with any sort of foreboding or dread.
And yet another forest! Sorry, but I had to include this one, as it’s a track that I’ve recently warmed up to after listening to it several times. It’s even more atmospheric than some of the previous tracks, content to slowly introduce elements and let its melody finally stroll in at the one-minute mark. Pieces like this are fine out of context, but I can only imagine how powerful they were while actually experiencing them in the game world, coupled with the sights of these places. I would have liked to have visited Youngtree Forest, I think.