Jukebox Heroes: Great tunes from Destiny’s first soundtrack

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Is there any MMO soundtrack that arrived with such incredible expectations and baggage as Destiny? If so, I can’t recall it. We have not only the legacy of Halo’s scores (which are for some gamers the only soundtrack they know and revere) but also the saga of Composer Martin O’Donnell’s firing and the boon of picking up (of all people) Paul McCartney — because when you think “space epic video game,” you of course think “former Beatles septuagenarian.”

However, here on Jukebox Heroes, we do not give preference to a soundtrack’s pedigree, the game’s popularity, or how many members of the Beatles it boasts. We listen to the music for what it is. And what Destiny’s score is… above-average. It’s a good, but not great, orchestral album that’s heavy on action and Star Wars influences.

Today, let’s return to the first Destiny and hear what it has to offer!

“Hope for the Future”

So what can be said about Paul McCartney’s much-ballyhooed title track? The MMO industry doesn’t have an abundance of singles with which to compare, but I’ll at least put it at a cut above “Fear Not This Night.” It’s more of a James Bond theme than an overture to an infinite wave of frags and headshots.

The lyrics are the real drag of this song; they’re trite and banal (“hope shines brightest in the dark where nothing’s ever seen”… ugh), and as a songwriter, McCartney should have done better. But getting past the words, I am really digging the music. It makes good use of the entire orchestra, knows when to get quiet so that it can blast the volume once more, and is dang uplifting. I still can’t mentally pair it with its subject, but they could have done far worse for a theme.

“Sepiks Prime”

I really couldn’t get Star Wars out of my head for the entirety of this soundtrack, and pieces like Sepiks Prime are why. It’s a terrific action piece that starts with a quiet intensity and continues to build, but it employs the horns and strings in much the same way that John Williams did. I will say that Destiny’s OST is leaner than Star Wars’ sometimes-bombastic score, which is a plus.

This is good gaming music, especially if you’re in the middle of an intense battle, and I can appreciate it for the job it intends to complete. Crafting to Sepiks Prime wouldn’t be quite the same experience…

“The Last Array”

The Last Array is most certainly a story track, even though it does lay on the action. You can hear it go through several movements and transitions, all but screaming at you that everything hangs by a thread and all might be lost if certain heroes don’t come through. I really like the bit at 4:26 when the track drops everything to get down and focused; you know that either victory or defeat will come at the end of this sort of musical cue.

“The Warmind”

Is it me or do these action tracks all start to sound similar after a while? I mean, they’re good, but I guess that’s why there are a lot of quieter, largely forgettable pieces with which to space them out. The Warmind takes a simple, straight-forward approach with a slow melody that’s played against a faster percussion/horn duo. The final climax gets a nod for being strong, concise, and refusing to overstay its welcome.

“Untold Legends”

This one mixes up the typical rising action by adding in a touch of vocals, although the horns are still very much the star of the show. Even if the vocals are without words, I always feel like they add that human connection.

One other bright spot of this piece is the transition to a warm victory theme at 2:46. It’s almost patriotic, although of which country or planet, I can’t say. It’s a welcome coda in any case.

“Excerpt from the Union”

While short, this track packs in as much epic as you could ask for. Some parts of scores beg to be turned up to full volume, and I have done so with this one. The vocals return, stronger than ever, and everything builds and builds and builds until I can’t stands it no more. But of course I can stands it because I love it. Recruiting stations should play this kind of music to lure impressionable young adults.

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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