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STORMBLOOD: FINAL FANTASY XIV Original Soundtrack (Review)

STORMBLOOD: FINAL FANTASY XIV Original Soundtrack (Review)

July 8, 2018 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook STORMBLOOD: FINAL FANTASY XIV Original Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

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Finally, it’s here! The FFXIV Stormblood soundtrack is in my hands. What took them so long? Back in the PlayStation era, I guess it wasn’t exactly rare that a soundtrack release wouldn’t come until a full year after – but now, it usually takes a month.

Regardless, a year has passed since the expansion released – and much and more music has been amassed since then. I’m pleased to announce that the soundtrack contains all tracks added from Patch 4.0 – 4.3; a whopping 105 tracks in total! Does Stormblood really compare to the extremely fitting music of Heavensward?

Introduction and What to Expect

Like the previous “Before the Fall”, and “Far Edge of Fate” releases – not every single track on here is original material written by Soken. In “Before The Fall”, we saw more of Uematsu’s 1.0 tracks returning, this is also the case for the “Far Edge of Fate”, and there was Basiscape’s Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together work contained on that album – that was added for the Palace of the Dead.

So, for Stormblood, Sakimoto’s and Iwata’s Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII work makes it’s return as part of the new 24-man raid series. The Tactics work is unchanged from it’s original, similar to how the XII work is not from the Zodiac Age re-recording. Most of these tracks are nestled right at the end of the album, as to not break the continuity of the original music that was created for Stormblood.

Now all that is out of the way, I’ll start by talking about the sound quality of the music. Since Stormblood had a much bigger budget than Heavensward, it’s obvious that some of this creeped into the music. There’s far more noticeable live instruments, a thicker sound, and a really grandiose feel.

Stormblood takes place in the Gyr Abania, eastern Aldenard and Othard (both eastern Eorzean) regions. There is a wide variety of instruments used here to accommodate for these foreign regions of Eorzea. Expect brass, horns and march-like melodies for Gyr Abania’s themes – but still, the music of Stormblood pulls upon a mostly Asian-influenced theme; many traditional Japanese instruments are also used here.

Review

Stormblood comes equipped with a very strong main theme, as evidenced by the latter half of “Storm of Blood”, the background music to the opening movie for the expansion. The lyrics are as follows:

Storm of blood
Born from blood
Of our fallen brothers

Borne upon our hands
Cradled in our arms
Swelling in our hearts

Raise your weary head
Heed the call to arms
Ringing in your heart

Loyalty!
Unity!
Liberty!

The Stormblood boss theme, “Triumph”, shares the same lyrics as this – minus the final verse. The boss theme is hot-blooded. Did you see what I did there? No, but, really. As an avid player of the game myself, the greatest memory I have of this song is it being used in the Azim Steppe duty fight. It gets you pumped up, and it’s far less abrasive than Heavensward‘s boss theme – “Ominous Prognisticks”.

Thanks for the lyrics, Bayohne!

Equally impressive and also showing the main theme for the Resistance, “The Measure of Our Reach” is the Garlemald version of the anthem they stole from the Resistance – and it’s very striking which really makes you think about how powerful and dominating Garlemand really are in the game. The original Resistance version, titled “The Measure of His Reach” (“his” probably referencing to Rhalgr if you’re familiar with XIV lore), has different vocals from the Garlemand version. The reasoning behind this is simple: the voices represent the many people of the Resistance. Because it plays right after an important scene in the ending of the main scenario of Stormblood, the vocals are not supposed to be coherent and, instead, sound very tired – but, nonetheless, proud.
While our sights are on Gyr Abania, let’s take a look at “Impact” and “Afterglow” – being Rhalgr’s Reach daytime and night-time theme respectively. Whereas “Impact” is just a generic rearrangement of the Resistance anthem, it is rather suitable – since Rhyalgr’s Reach is the headquarters of the Resistance. “Afterglow” amazed me the first time I heard it in game, utilizing some drawn out chords and a clever use of spacing.

It’s a shame that the day-time theme of the place doesn’t hold up a candle to “Afterglow”. If you want to hear it for yourself:

Video Credit: Mekkah Dee

“Crimson Sunrise”, is the main theme for Kugane – the main city of the eastern reaches of Eorzea, which shares the main theme of Stormblood. Japanese instruments are used here and seem to be live. It’s very heroic and gives a good scope to how big and grand the city is with it’s clever use of spacing out instruments and solos across the constant main theme. Apart from that, it doesn’t go much beyond the main theme of the game itself. I feel that it’s a shame it’s not as developed as much as “Solid” was from Heavensward.

“Crimson Sunset” – the night-time theme for Kugane – fares much better and is more well-developed for the longevity of time you’ll spend in the city.

“Crimson Sunset”:

For this portion of the review, I will talk about the area themes of Stormblood. A minor gripe of mine is that they’re not as developed and as long as the area themes in Heavensward, but they’re more melodically impressive. “Beyond the Wall” is one of the few well-developed area themes of Stormblood, being the day-time theme for The Fringes. It’s also used times in the Raubahn Extreme trial. It’s since been nerfed though…

The plucking effect is clever, and it tells a story of a land torn in two: Resistance side on half, Garlemand overtaking the other. At this point of the story, when the player first arrives, it’s obvious that the Resistance is losing hope. “Hope Forgotten” is the night-time theme of The Fringes, and the theme for the second phase of the Raubahn Extreme fight. It’s a piano rendition, as most area night-time themes are; what else can I say?

In what is possibly the best primal theme of FFXIV, “Beauty’s Wicked Wiles”, is the music used in the Lakshmi primal fight. I have a small hint on what the lyrics are like, but I can make out “We/You are the dreamers”. I love that part. Listen, if you so desire:

The main battle theme of Stormblood, “Looping in the Deepest Fringes”, effortlessly meshes the sound of Gyr Abania and Othard together as it continues it’s endless march. Well, I won’t be hearing this anymore since I turned off battle music in the game. Sorry Soken, as great as they are, I do get sick of them!

Continuing on, “Their Deadly Mission”, is the Temple of the Fist theme – that dungeon isn’t actually unlocked until the end of the game, which is why it shouldn’t really be this far up on the tracklist. But I believe Soken wanted to fit in all the motifs together on the disc, so that’s why he’s doing this – to creating a smoother listening experience! The track itself is an amazing re-arrangement “Beyond the Wall”, shifting tone completely.

Since I want this review to make as much sense as possible, I won’t be reviewing tracks as they appear – since we’ll be switching between the Eastern and Western theme far too often.
In accordance to this, “On High” is the day-time theme for The Peaks – a rather mountainous region of Gyr Abania, and the use of exotic instrumentation portrays this. “The Stone Remembers” is the night-time version and, you guessed it, it’s a piano solo piece again. “Alienus” is a military-march rendition of The Peaks theme, being the area theme for Castrum Abania. While the string part may remind some listeners of “Searching for Friends” from Final Fantasy VI, it is in-fact The Peaks theme.

“Songs of Salt and Suffering” and “Old Wounds” is the day-time and night-time theme for The Lochs respectively. The former being a very rousing march, at times reprising “With Giants Watching” (Gyr Abania town theme) and it’s very, very good. “Old Wounds” is another piano solo piece for the area’s night-time theme, and it’s exhaustively developed. Seeing as how huge this area is, I would say the music is a success.

I’ve had quite enough of talking about Gyr Abania’s tracks, and seeing as I’ve barely scratched the surface of Stormblood‘s huge music collection, I better get on to Othard’s themes!

We’ll start with Susano’s themes, “Revelation”, “Riot” and “At Both Ends”. When I first played through his fight, I wasn’t very impressed by the music. But now, whenever I enter the trial, I’m like…

Memes aside, it is relieving to me that Soken can create a good primal theme even without lyrics. But who needs lyrics when Susano’s booming voice is always piercing your eardrums anyway?

“Far East of Eorzea” and “Parting Ways” are both small event themes used in the expansion and they’re nice and sweet. Continuing this trend, “A Father’s Pride” is the day-time theme of Yanxia. This is one of my favorite themes in the expansion, and it’s later reprised in “Lunacy” and “Wayward Daughter”. I won’t spoil who it’s referring too, but the story behind this really surprised me with how dark it got. (As of Patch 4.3.) “A Mother’s Pride” is the night-time rendition, and it progresses a little differently than it’s original, and is one of my favorite night-time themes in the expansion.

“Deception” and “Gates of the Moon” are both themes used in the job trailer respectively. The latter I can’t say where it comes from because of spoilers but I can say it’s super funky and pumps you up! Deception is the same in this regard.
It’s clear that Eastern themed dungeons have the best music to go with them, as evidenced by the watery “The Open Box”.

It wouldn’t surprise me to know that most of the music budget went into the performers and recording team, it’s very good and a step above Heavensward!

“Drowning in the Horizon” is the Azzim’s Steppe’s day-time theme and honestly it’s a crime that it isn’t developed further. I love the Mongolian singing, and since the area is so big – you’ll be hearing silence more than the theme itself! Oh well. “He Rises Above” is the night-time theme, and it’s a little bit different this time, more in-line with “A Mother’s Pride”.

“Cyan’s Theme” is actually Hien’s Theme in Stormblood and the area theme for the Doman Enclave. But since this is a remix of Final Fantasy VI music, Soken opted to leave it with the original track title. As he always said, “Final Fantasy music is Nobuo Uematsu’s music” and as such – doesn’t deviate much from the original, just coating it with a fresh orchestral paint.

The same can be said for “Deltascape”, “Omega2”, “Decisions”, “Final, Not Final” which are all re-arrangements of Uematsu’s music in Final Fantasy V. These are used in the first tier of the Omega raid – titled “Deltascape”. They’re good arrangements, just… I wish there was original music for the Omega 8-man raid.

The same can be said for “A Battle Decisively” and “Dancing Mad Movement I-IV”, the music for the Omega raid (second tier) – titled “Sigmascape”. It’s all well and good having a plot that makes sense with these throwbacks, though, I just wish FFXIV would shift it’s focus to more original content rather than focusing on the past most of the time. Because of this, I will not be making any comments to the music used in the Ivalice raid – since it’s all original Final Fantasy XII and Tactics music. All I will say is this: bring more composers to Final Fantasy XIV!

Now that most of the meat is covered (sadly, not all – I almost regret taking on this mammoth of a review I was so keen about), “The Worm’s Tail” is the final boss theme to Stormblood, and it mostly takes parts from the “Storm of Blood” theme, but more epic.

This leads us onto the most famous piece of music from Stormblood, “Revolutions”! Imagine my surprise when the soundtrack version is 7 minutes long and the official version is only 5mins. You can listen to it here:

Performed once again by Susan Calloway, and composed by Nobuo Uematsu, what we get is a march-orchestral piece that fits in line with Stormblood‘s overarching tone. There are moments of brief sweet string melodies (reminding my of his Lost Odyssey work at times), but it does get stuck into your head after a while. It’s fierce, sombre and bitter-sweet all at the same time – and I like it!

I will wrap up this review by talking about “Nightbloom”, one of the most recently added pieces of music to Final Fantasy XIV – added as of Patch 4.3 – Under the Moonlight. It blends elements of Yanxia’s theme, Stormblood‘s theme and “Revolutions” together very well and is, personally, the best orchestral piece Soken has created yet. Bravo, good sir! Bravo.

Summary
Stormblood‘s music collection is huge. This is only evidenced further by having Final Fantasy XIV obtain a Guinness World Record for having the most music in a video game.

In one of my opening statements, I mentioned whether Stormblood‘s music was better than Heavensward‘s. Before the expansion I was worried that Soken couldn’t catch up with the busy schedule and create music quality enough for the game – but again, my fears have been alleviated by sheer brilliance. Soken has improved drastically with Stormblood, showing us the scope of instruments he can compose for, impressive melodies, all wrapped up into one epic album of 6 hours worth of music.

So, to answer my question, Stormblood‘s music is a drastic improvement over Heavensward’s. Each have their positives though, and I can definitely see why one would prefer Heavensward’s music over Stormblood. However, it is clear that Soken was always the best fit from the beginning, aside from being an all-around entertaining and respectable guy. He is a public figure for the game, after all. I would wager his Japan fanbase reveres him even more. Goodness, I am sucking up to him – aren’t I?

Soken has been traveling around Japan in order to promote the soundtrack, and there’s a sale going on at Tower Records. He even signed select copies of the soundtrack! (Poor guy…)

But where can you get this album, you ask? Square Enix’s store! If you’re a minion collector in the game, you better hurry, since the first-run of the print includes the Tsukuyomi minion!

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