Game Music, Reviews

A Taste of China: Luvinia Online (Review)

January 11, 2010 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook A Taste of China: Luvinia Online (Review)on Twitter

We talk a lot about music from Japan, but it’s rare that we get to check out game music from China. I was fortunate to have met composer Roc Chen several years ago at the Composer Expo in Los Angeles, and I’ve stayed in touch with him and kept up with his music ever since. He’s very prolific, and writes for a variety of titles (he’s scored over 100 games to date), and I’m continually impressed with the progress he’s made.

One of the projects he worked on last year was a game called Luvinia Online, an MMORPG (Chen works on a lot of these) with a fantasy setting. The last project of Chen’s that I listened to was Secret Online, an MMO with a heavily Chinese influence, that utilized traditional Chinese instruments and was a lot of fun to listen to (it’s available on iTunes if you’re interested), but Luvinia Online is pure European fantasy, and it’s scored as such. It definitely contrasts with some of his past work, so I thought it’d be fun to review the soundtrack.

Hit the jump for our review of the Chinese MMORPG Luvinia Online soundtrack!

From the opening notes of “Luvinia Opening” I was hooked. Sweet, sweeping strings, woodwinds, and a female choir voice a majestic melody that sounds like it’s floating in the air. Orchestral percussion makes an entrance about midway through, making way for a fun Irish jig that was totally unexpected.

It’s then on to “Academy,” a whimsical piano and woodwind piece with some great ambient water sounds and a playful triangle that keeps the tempo. “New Player Village,” on the other hand, plods along slowly with pizzicato strings and a series of mischievous melodic bits on oboe, xylophone, piano, and other instruments. It successfully captures the essence of a carefree life spent simply learning the ropes.

Once the adventurer finally sets out, “Path to the City of Trees” is a lovely track that utilizes acoustic guitar and these back-and-forth woodwind and string melodies set against the backdrop of dreamy pads. Some bongos and a tambourine join the mix, but are entirely tasteful and make for a beautiful piece of music. Next up is “City of Trees,” a more soothing and upbeat track utilizing the same nature-infused new age sound as the previous track. The sound of running water and birds chirping in the background are a great addition, and about midway through, the piece melts into a flood of reverberating acoustic guitar notes and pads that are absolutely amazing.

The road to the other major city is much less welcoming. “Path to the City of Snow” features appropriately icy pads along with piano and belltone segments that are scattered as if buried in a snowstorm. About midway through, Chen gives the piece more structure, creating a sound that is more like a winter wonderland, but the mood quickly reverts back to the cold and desolate soundscape from which it began. “City of Snow” proceeds with the sounds of howling wind and a minimalistic acoustic guitar melody that is drowned out by swelling pads. It’s not the most interesting material for passive listening outside of the game, but if you listen carefully, there’s a lot to appreciate in terms of atmosphere.

Eventually players make their way into the game’s various dungeons. A track titled “Dungeon 1” is dark atmosphere to the core with musty ambient patches along with unsettling wind chimes, piano progressions, and ghostly choir pads calling from the distance. “Dungeon 3,” on the other hand, features thunderous bassdrums and rhythmic bongos and shaker percussion along with occasional brass swells to build tension. My favorite dungeon theme, however, is “Dungeon 4,” which sports groovin’ electronic bass and percussion along with chugging guitars and a driving piano melody. This is some great “game music” for sure, sounding like a modern version of something out of Sword of Vermilion. Rounding out the dungeon themes is “Dungeon 5,” a melancholy piece working in organ and descending guitar progressions along with ethereal pads and ambient sounds that are quite spooky.

I should also talk about some of the non-“dungeon” dungeon themes. “Cave” is another track with a great sense of space, opening with ominous pads, rattling shakers, and the sounds of water droplets hitting still pools of murky water. “Tower of Fantanasia,” on the other hand, takes a move right out Ragnarok Online’s playbook as a smoldering trance piece with lots of attitude. It’s a shame it’s only one-minute long! Finally, “Underwater” is pure new age ambiance. Phasing pads and trailing piano phrases are layered over sounds of gurgling bubbles and ocean currents. The sound here is so compressed and tight that it feels like you’re truly alone with nobody around to hear your cries (it doesn’t sound like a fun place to be in any sense of the word).

While I’ll likely never play Luvinia Online, I will surely remember Roc Chen’s soundtrack for the game not only because it’s one of the few scores I’ve heard from China, but also because it offers some amazingly well produced ambient music that really speaks to Chen’s versatility. While I doubt this soundtrack will see a wide release, I hope Chen works his magic and gets this one up on iTunes so fans around the world can see what game composers from China are up to. This is certainly the most impressive score I’ve heard from him to date, and I’m looking forward to hearing what he has in store for gamers in China in 2010.

Are you familiar with Roc Chen or any game music from China? Would you like to see more music from this massively growing game market hitting iTunes and other digital outlets?

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