So good, and at the same time, so unsatisfying. Truth.
If you’ve followed BioWare’s other soundtrack releases, you’ll notice a trend: they release one “OST” followed by a number of add-on soundtracks, mostly for DLC and to release some b-side music that didn’t fit on their official soundtrack. Take note: I hate this method of distribution. Could you just please, please put together some semblance of a complete soundtrack? And if you’re going to have DLC, maybe just wait til it’s all out and then release one –and only one– follow-up album for all the new music?
You see, I’ve invested a good chunk of time into The Old Republic. Being an MMORPG, that’s sort of what you have to do if you really want to “complete” it. At this point, I’ve reached endgame with one character on the Republic side, and am near the end with one character on the Imperial side. I’ve heard at least 50 original melodies, many of them making absolutely zero references to John Williams’ motifs from the six films. That’s totally awesome. Sadly, those songs don’t get any love on the soundtrack, a CD-only bonus that came with the $150 Collector’s Edition package. Note that some additional music is actually available, for free, on the SWTOR official site: however, it’s not labeled, organized, or cataloged in any kind of way. Just no-space, ProperCase song titles in mp3 format. I am unsatisfied!
But back to the CD. The 17 songs found on here are as follows: 3 super-important over-arching themes, the 8 character/class themes, and then 6 bonus tracks (used primarily in the Cantina / social area jukeboxes, mostly alien-language vocal tracks). The music is fantastic, and though Williams himself didn’t work on the soundtrack, his music is referenced more than once. The notable composers here (in my mind) are Mark Griskey and Peter McConnell. Both are LucasArts veterans, with Griskey having scored the two “Force Unleashed” titles (both very good soundtrack, in my opinion).
The opening track, “Clash of Destiny,” serves as the game’s title screen music. It is used elsewhere. But, in fact, all of these 11 opening tracks can be heard while rolling your first character. But, every time you boot up the game, you’ll hear Clash of Destiny. It’s a great theme.
“Glory, The Galactic Republic” and “Domination, The Sith Empire” are songs you can here in the two opening cut scenes for the two opposing sides. I personally find a lot more to enjoy in the Galactic Republic theme than the Sith Empire theme. The bobbing/floating flutes, and the high-octave trumpet fanfares, these sound totally awesome. And, even in the songs more melancholy/moody moments, this music just draws you in. It’s the best of film score technique put into a videogame. Fans of the Skyrim soundtrack will enjoy this piece, I suspect.
The eight character themes are fantastic. For all the complaining I did earlier in the review, these songs do deserve their own showcase, in the same way Romancing SaGa 3 had that promotional “character theme” single released with an artbook (though those were also found in the full 3 disc OSV, so… yeah…). Among the 8 themes, the one that most impressed me was “Villainy, The Imperial Agent.” You might not expect those snivelling, not-Force-sensitive douche bags to have much going for them. But rest assured, in The Old Republic, they are quite … villainous. For this piece, the music starts soft and eerie and continues to build. Swift and steady percussion is added, and a minor key motif begins to appear in the orchestra. Then, totally unused for the first three minutes, a full choir bursts out of nowhere chanting all sorts of maddening Latin stuff. And let me tell you, the delivery is PERFECT. It just blows my mind how good it is.
Another favorite of mine is the Jedi Consular theme. It references the classic Rebel theme from the films (you know, F minor with the Bb major lift?). It’s good stuff.
I was surprised by the lack of “Duel of the Fates” motifs on this album, because you’ll find that little hook all over the place when you’re actually playing the game.
As for the bonus tracks … well, I could have lived without them. I suppose the people who worked on them were proud of their work, and they certainly fit the Star Wars Cantina vibe. But if I were the one working on this bonus disc, I would’ve dropped these themes for the scenic, atmospheric planetary themes for planets such as Alderaan, Hoth, Tatooine, Voss, and Ilum. Each of these planets have at least one original piece of music written for them when you’re exploring and not in combat, and let me tell you, they are beautiful in a way that only minimalist orchestral work can be.
Frankly, as much as I enjoy this game, I’m not the kind of guy that can shell out $150 for Collector’s Editions willy-nilly. And I wouldn’t recommend it to you either. My personal advice to BioWare, EA, and LucasArts is to assemble a single “Star Wars: The Old Republic Complete Soundtrack” and sell it digital-only on iTunes, Amazon MP3, or even EA’s own digital distribution label EAR. Get all the music you can in one spot, organize it in a way that makes sense, and sell it for a price befitting a solid 3 hours of music (say, $19.99 for the full mp3 set). You’ll make bank, and fans like me will be a lot happier. You’re welcome, publishers everywhere. Looks like I’m in the wrong job as a reviewer…