Path of Exile has burst onto the scene recently as a solid, online action RPG in similar vein to the Diablo and Torchlight series. Independently developed by Grinding Gear Games, Adgio Hutchings, with some contributions from Gautier Serre, helms the extensive soundtrack list that is integral to the dark, brooding atmosphere of the island of Wraeclast. Does the music hold up on its own without the clash and boom of shiny abilities?
The disc starts off with the Main Menu track, which is full of uneven beats accompanied by a haunting string melody–a great prelude to the music that lies within. Embodying the struggles of the land’s inhabitants, the piece stirs up a thirst for adventure. Listening to it, I feel pumped to inflict slaughter on the enemies that wander the landscape.
Even the towns offer little respite, as Lioneye’s Watch, Forest Encampment, and City Encampment have heavy and unnerving notes permeating these tunes, representing an uncertainty that both the townspeople and players feel. The solo melodies are mild compared to the background accompaniment, which tends to dominate with offbeat rhythms and long suspenseful notes–the same is true for almost every piece on this disc.
Location songs vary slightly more, incorporating a wide range of percussion instruments that help evoke the changing scenes. The Cave, for example, relies heavily on the ebb and flow of extended notes to mimic the meandering waters and moaning winds, with a sprinkling of staccato tones that build tension and conflict. In contrast, The Warden’s Quarters incorporates quick, erratic beats, almost as if the player were running through the ominous, foreboding hallways in escape.
At times, such as with Vaal Ruins and Phrecian Forest, the music takes on an almost ritualistic and aboriginal quality, with just enough repetition and diversion to continuously engage the listener. Solaris Temple pushes into religiosity as the only track with a vocal melody that carries no meaning but the emotions evoked by its ethereal tune and simple piano notes.
While the music on this disc is clearly composed as background pieces with few refrains that stick, make no mistake in thinking it is dismissible. The quality of the sounds alone warrants repeated listening, and the complete lack of 1-minute loops so oft found in games makes it more than a keeper. It is the perfect foil on a cold, stormy night for engaging in horror- and Lovecraftian-related activities–when you’re not busy slaying hordes of enemies, of course.