Someday Soundtracks is a semi-regular feature where I post a great track (or whole score) from one of my favourite games.
If you’ve played a role-playing game over the last 20 years, chances are you’ve heard one Jeremy Soule‘s soundtracks. He’s an ubiquitous composer with over 80 video game soundtrack credits to his name. Being such a prolific composer, there’s no middle ground on Soule’s compositions: you either love them or despise them. A friend of mine recently described Soule’s music as sounding like “warmed over Tolkien.” However, I think Soule can be a beautiful composer, especially when it comes to setting a specific mood. Here are three tracks that show he’s made a lasting contribution to video game music.
Icewind Dale – Kuldahar Theme
This is from Black Isle’s 2000 role-playing game Icewind Dale. It’s quite incredible when you first experience Kuldahar, especially with this soundtrack playing it as you enter it. Most of the game up to the point takes place in snowy villages like Easthaven (which also boasts a great track from Soule) and cold, isolated mountaintops. Kuldahar is a lush jungle city. This track perfectly sums up its beauty — and the unexpectedness of stumbling on a tropical paradise in the middle of a desolate and brutal winter landscape.
Neverwinter Nights – Heart of the Forest
I think this highlights Soule’s skill as an ambient composer. While his more bombastic soundtracks come across as mechanistic and cold, Soule understands how to create a subtle track that conveys a particular mood. Soule’s ambient tracks always demonstrate subtlety and restraint and never fail to stir an emotion in the player. “Heart of the Forest” appears in Chapter 2 of Neverwinter Nights‘ main campaign as you go deeper into Charwood, capturing the wood’s beauty and omnipresent menace.
First Light – Guild Wars
I’ve cheated with this one since it doesn’t actually appear in Guild Wars — it appears as a bonus on the special edition of Guild Wars’ first soundtrack. I think this is one of his best compositions, communicating the beauty of Tyria, Guild Wars’ fantasy world. I’m still surprised it was never included in Guild Wars or even its sequel, Guild Wars 2. You can imagine it playing in Ascalon (which it’s often paired with in fan videos) or Kryta. It’s stirring piece, and I challenge anyone not to be taken in by the world it evokes.