World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Soundtrack


Review by · December 31, 2010

The World of Warcraft: Cataclysm OST perfectly melds high production values with cliché to create music that players won’t mind hearing for a thousand hours, if they hear it at all. The soundtrack features 17 tracks, each of which is well orchestrated and recorded, yet totally forgettable. This is the sort of music one might put on in the background while doing something else. Like level grinding. Or spamming the public message box with Harry Potter spoilers. Thus, in a way, Blizzard’s music men succeeded. At best, they created something functional and practical in its MMORPG setting, something that won’t detract from the action, something that won’t get noisome to hear after hours of playing, and something ignorable. Conversely, however, one might say they created something easy, hackneyed, and heartless.

There are several “event” type tracks on the OST, some of them quite long and involved. Tracks like the opening one, “The Shattering,” probably work better with some context. Like the rest of the music, the opening track uses a wide variety of instruments (including the token mysterious vocal arias), but fails to establish much atmosphere. No images come to my mind, except maybe the Cataclysm game box I’ve seen in display cases and on friends’ computer desks.

The second track, “Xaxas,” shows that Blizzard’s composers aren’t afraid to implement both types of fantasy vocals used the world over after Howard Shore’s The Lord of the Rings film soundtrack. In addition to the mysterious female variety found in the first track, this one adds the threatening, ominous male type. The woodwinds and vocals in “Tempest’s Wake” and “Guardians of Nordrassil” are tranquil and relaxing, and “Call of the Elements” has more atmosphere than any other track in the collection. The OST is at its worst when the annoying whistles of “Castaways” start up, even though they are subdued. Unfortunately, even the best tracks in the collection are hackneyed and unmemorable. The vocals become boring and melodramatic and eventually all the tracks run together. There are moments of melody and atmosphere, but they are fleeting.

Ultimately, the Cataclysm OST has high production values and a full, orchestral sound that would not be out of place in a film. Unfortunately, it could be from any film or video game; there is little to distinguish the soundtrack from other contemporary fantasy music. At times it fits the at-once epic yet light-hearted World of Warcraft setting, but this same music could fit in dozens of other settings. Only ardent WoW fans would enjoy hearing this by itself, and even then, I’m sure those fans would rather just play the damn game.

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Kyle E. Miller

Kyle E. Miller

Over his eight years with the site, Kyle would review more games than we could count. As a site with a definite JRPG slant, his take on WRPGs was invaluable. During his last years here, he rose as high as Managing Editor, before leaving to pursue his dreams.