Jukebox Heroes: The best of SWTOR’s launch soundtrack


I got so excited when Star Wars: The Old Republic included its soundtrack in the collector’s edition back at launch. However, we all discovered that this really was only half the OST; the other half was given away for free by BioWare in the days leading up to the game’s release.

Making a Star Wars score on the scale of an MMO was a huge project, and BioWare enlisted a host of composers for it: Mark Griskey (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II) Gordy Haab (Kinect Star Wars), Wilbert Roget (Monkey Island 2), Lennie Moore (Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary), Jessie Harlin (Star Wars: Republic Commando), Jared Emerson-Johnson (The Walking Dead), Peter McConnell (Psychonauts), and Steve Kirk (Farmville). It’s a great soundtrack that fuses John Williams’ classic strains with each composer’s own take on the universe, so let’s take a listen from its highlights.

“Peace, the Jedi Consular”

When this song begins, you’ll think you’re listening to A New Hope. That’s OK with me because this wistful, hopeful track is my favorite music from the movies bar none. It’s around 0:45 when this track diverges from the movie score and becomes its own being. It’s still sweeping, it’s still incredibly emotional, it’s just… new.

I wanted to kick off this column with Peace because it’s a perfect example of that blend of new and old that SWTOR tries very hard to achieve. You can pick out the familiar music cues from the movie, but it’s all been rearranged and repurposed. Personally, I like it.

“Clash of Destiny”

If SWTOR has a theme, I guess this is it. This was the song you hear upon every login back during the early years. It might suffer from the “ugh, not this again” syndrome due to overuse, but if you listen to it fresh, I think there’s a good chance that you’ll appreciate it anew.

Clash of Destiny is highly reminiscent of the Jedi vs. Sith battles in the movies, what with the whole choir going ape-poopy in the background and the rolling of deep percussion. Yet it’s got its excitable moments (especially at the start) and even a peaceful interlude to even things out.

“Alderaan, the Throne”

You can easily divide up the SWTOR score into four sections: planet themes, class themes, event themes, and jukebox music. While the planet music tended to be overplayed in the games, at least the tracks are quite lengthy so that it’s not looping every two minutes.

The track begins with the strains of a foreign-sounding strings and some of that grand, bombastic Star Wars music that would sound downright old-timey if it weren’t the backdrop of an intergalactic war. At 1:09 it downshifts to a much quieter melody, which then transitions to a completely different quiet melody at 2:19. It’s just a solid track overall, perhaps my favorite planetary theme.

“Bravado, the Smuggler”

C’mon, you know that if it’s for a Smuggler, then it’s got to be a theme during which you can stand up and salute. The track swirls with very Star Warsian music, not to mention a few brooding moments. I wish that there were a few playful movements to represent the Smuggler’s humor, but overall I can’t complain.

“Justice, the Jedi Knight”

As the Jedi Knight represents the Luke Skywalker archetype, it stands to reason that the class’ theme would be quite evocative of Luke’s journey in the films. There’s nothing surprising here, just more classic movie score dipping in and out of original motifs.

I suppose your enjoyment of the soundtrack as a whole will largely depend on whether you like the full orchestra sound of Star Wars. While there are softer moments, they never linger long before every musician shows up for work. As much as I liked and appreciated the score, sometimes I’d just have to turn it off in-game because it was too much noise for an extended gaming session.

“Yesterday’s Jawa”

Now how could we end this column without mentioning at least one of the infamous cantina songs? These tunes, most of which can be found on the in-game jukeboxes, didn’t prove to be as popular as A New Hope’s cantina theme. I’ve seen quite a few people ridicule how weird and bizarre these songs are, and I can’t entirely blame them for doing so. However, I’m kind of partial to Yesterday’s Jawa, and not just because it has my favorite race in the title.

It’s a funky space ditty that uses every bizarre instrument setting on the composer’s Casio keyboard. I think it works because it goes over the top in providing an alien dance tune. Too bad this isn’t what players heard during boss fights, eh?

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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