Jukebox Heroes: RuneScape’s orchestral album

SO many things.

I have been saying for years that RuneScape has a truly impressive yet overlooked body of video game music. To my knowledge, it’s the largest MMORPG soundtrack in existence, with well over 2,000 tracks created to date. With the ability to collect these tracks in-game and add them to a music player, RuneScape has created an interesting activity for the soundtrack fan.

While the original soundtrack was in MIDI, with the advent of RuneScape 3, much of the score was redone with an actual orchestra. Jagex recently took the best of these remastered tunes and compiled a 33-track orchestral album that was released this fall on digital, CD, and vinyl.

I had a great journey going through this album and didn’t want to wait too long before sharing a half-dozen of my favorite tracks from it. Let’s see if I can convince you that RuneScape is a major leagues musical powerhouse!

1. A Hero’s Return

With a softly humming choir and brazen trumpets, this track’s beginning lays the foundation for what eventually becomes a “crank that up to maximum volume” epic piece. The crash at 1:33 issues in a cue that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it, but it’s not a one-note (sorry) track. Transitions take us through a journey that summons to mind a struggle for supremacy and survival. Just amazing stuff.

2. The Winding Meadow

For those that love the warm, welcoming tracks that often go with newbie villages, I’ll present to you The Winding Meadow. It’s a sunshiny piece that gives a dancing flute the spotlight along with chimes and other delightful instruments. There’s some quick-footed pacing going on here, so I can’t quite see this as a completely laid-back track, but I do love it all the same.

3. Sunrise

When the sun peeks over the horizon, you can imagine this song rolling down off the hills as the world wakes up. It’s a very relaxed and peaceful track that is mostly about laying down an atmosphere without really doing much with it. The piano, when it arrives, sounds a little like a lullaby, strange as that may be.

4. The Village

A shade darker and more tribal at the start, The Village soon weaves a tapestry of life, history, and community. It’s a rich track with a lot going on, and most all of it is quite good indeed. I do feel that it’s a shade on the short side, but perhaps that’s my wishful thinking that this could go on for longer.

5. Gnomeball

RuneScape has plenty of goofy and experimental tracks, and Gnomeball is a decent example of these. It’s a playful piece that skips all over the place and conveys manic energy and a tongue-in-cheek attitude. I love it.

6. Aurora

This track makes me feel at once sad and hopeful without giving me any specifics as to why. It’s simply a more reflective piece that continually sounds about two notes away from being the Lord of the Rings movie music. The vocals and violins melt together for this high-pitched crooning, and I find it quite captivating.

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!