When evaluating an eastern MMORPG that boasts a huge soundtrack, I am often filled with a mixture of dread and anticipation at the start of such projects. There’s always the possibility that the score might end up being the next Aion or Lineage II, with rich veins of incredible tracks running all through it. Then there’s the possibility that it’s 350 or so forgettable tracks that will take me weeks to slog through.
Unfortunately, Mabinogi skews more toward the latter than the former, although it isn’t without merit. It’s one of those eastern MMO soundtracks that I’d lump together with, say, MapleStory or Tree of Savior: very prolific, very scattered, and lacking any unified sound or real artistry. The tracks here are simply all over the place, representing pretty much every genre while pumping out scads of pleasant-sounding but not-too-memorable tunes.
Today, we’re going to take a listen through my expedition into this sandbox MMO’s score and see what gems I was able to find in its incredibly long runtime.
“Title Theme (Hero Version)”
There are, no lie, at least 15 different versions of the main title theme, presumably rolled out for different occasions over the years. While many are attractive, only the heroic variant felt suitably epic enough to warrant an increase in volume. It’s a very rich and full track that tweaks this upbeat tune to give it more weight and import. Some terrific piano work here.
“Wishes Travel (Theme of Taillteann)”
This mellow track delivers that comfortable JRPG musical staple, which is the peaceful village tune. It’s not as simple as it might first sound, gradually blossoming into a more complex piece with swirling instruments that weave in a wistful, slightly sad thread along with the tranquil atmosphere.
“The Final Dance”
If the previous track lulled you to sleep, then this one will wake you back the heck up. A heavy rock boss track, The Final Dance wails away on the electric guitars in a nonstop action riff. For the record, these kinds of tracks aren’t my thing, but plenty of people seem to like them in other MMOs, so I thought I’d throw it in here.
Sometimes a striking instrument — or two! — can transform a standard track into a breakout one. The breathy flute and echoey chimes move together to establish an otherworldly setting that may sound like something ripped from a New Age album, but still, I kind of like it. Never underestimate the value of an appealing low-key track for MMO adventuring!
“Field Alban Dungeon”
I love, love, love the buildup to the action during the first minute of this track. Right from the start, you know something awesome is going to come, and it really didn’t disappoint me. Then again, I loved the overt earnestness of 1980s movie soundtracks, of which this sounds like it could belong. Possibly the best action track that I was able to find for this game.
“Field Tutorial Zone”
What attracted me to this track is its sheer optimism that bursts out of every note. If it is a mere tutorial zone tune, it’s one where a lot of work and effort was poured into making it far better than it had a right to be. Seriously, this could be the main title theme to an MMO right here, not some track that’s buried in a tutorial area somewhere.