Game Music, Reviews

Torchlight Soundtrack: A Shining Light in a Sea of Darkness (Review)

October 26, 2009 | | 4 Comments Share thison Facebook Torchlight Soundtrack: A Shining Light in a Sea of Darkness (Review)on Twitter

A fan of Diablo? Well, you should be. We’re huge fans of Matt Uelmen’s music here, which is why we’re a little more than ecstatic that he’s working on Torchlight from Runic Games which is out tomorrow. If you didn’t catch our lengthy interview with Matt Uelmen, I highly suggest you do, as he had a lot to say about the music for the game, his many instruments, and even about his time at Blizzard Entertainment.

The task at hand now, however, is the soundtrack for Torchlight. Is it any good? Does Uelmen live up to his work on Diablo and World of Warcraft? I think he most certainly does, and he miraculously does so without a big budget and a live orchestra. I guess if anything, as we all know was the case in the early days of game music, limitations drive people to do great things, and Matt Uelmen has certainly created something great with the Torchlight soundtrack.

Hit the jump for our review of Uelmen’s latest masterpeice.

“Title” seems like an appropriate place to start. It opens with the ominous sounds of distant percussion, arid wind, creepy bell progressions, and a killer crescendo that explodes into a flurry of sound. While classical at its roots, the track retains the dark atmosphere that Uelmen has come to be known for, providing a great introduction to the world of Torchlight.

This is immediately followed by the best track in the game, “Torchlight,” which is the town theme. For those who were wondering how Matt Uelmen would follow his iconic “Tristram” after departing from Blizzard Entertainment, “Torchlight” is your answer. It works in several guitars, including the familiar sound of a 12-string, and sounds strikingly similar in “sound” to what he created for the Diablo series, but differentiates itself with its more romantic approach and Spanish guitar stylings. I’m not going to say that this track will necessarily supplant “Tristram,” but it’s definitely an amazing piece of work.

Next up is the “first interior” that Uelmen kept referring to in our interview, simply titled “Mines.” It opens with foreboding bass notes on the piano and the faint twang of the pedal steel, which, while usually associated with country music, adds a unique element to this piece. This is one of the longest tracks in the game, and strolls through tense orchestral segments and that chug along, and darker, more minimalistic ambient sections. There are even some electronic elements added to the mix that fade in and out, really accenting the tension.

“Crypt” is next, sporting some driving tribal percussion and ambient screeches, creating a really creepy atmosphere. However, when the groovy bassline and brass are added to the mix, the piece takes on an almost “spy movie”-esque vibe, which was definitely interesting. “Lava,” on the other hand, sounds as blistering as one would expect, and I love the contemplative bass solo about midway through that is followed by a pounding electric guitar and percussion section that really brings home the heat.

“Ruins” is one of the most mysterious of the bunch with its seemingly random descending belltones, stray piano notes, and fuzzy hi-hat percussion. There’s a part about midway through where a punchy bassdrum comes in along with these twinkling belltones and a choir paid that reminds me a whole lot of Halo, which I really didn’t expect here. It’s definitely quite epic and it sounds great. Another later piece works in ethnic woodwinds and even a lovely reference to classical composer Scribian with some lovely piano work that will have you thinking Symphony of the Night. It’s really a nice touch.

Getting towards the end, there’s an area that features a defiant brass melody and not much else. It stands alone in a sea of ambiance, sounding triumphant and lonely all at once. The most interesting part comes towards the end where the piece bursts forth with what I’ll call “evil circus” music. I’m not even going to try to explain that, but use your imagination. The final area of the game is equally triumphant, but sounds much fuller with strings and brass that devolve into a chaotic layering of echoing percussion and some heavy guitar shredding that threatens to take over the track, but never does. I have to applaud Uelmen for his sense of balance, and this is a great accompaniment for the last push before the final showdown.

There are also a few other tracks included. “Boss Anticipation” is, as you’d expect, a tense track with some “buzzy” synth work and some heavy piano notes that foreshadow the battle to come, while “Boss Fight” itself features bone-crushing percussion and gritty and gurgling guitar work. Finally, “Boss Resolution” swells with accomplishment, creating beautiful harmonies the congratulate you on your victory.

While there’s only about 40 minutes of music here, it’s all great and worth your time to check out. Matt Uelmen has been gone for far too long, and it’s great to hear his music again. While his soundtrack for Torchlight is great, especially when it comes to tracks like “Torchlight” and “Mines,” both of which are some of his best work, I would love to hear this stuff redone with a live orchestra, but he certainly did the best with what he had. I can’t wait to hear what he does for the MMO that Runic Games will be working on after Torchlight is out there for fans to enjoy.

While there are no official plans on the books to distribute the game’s soundtrack, it’s entirely possible that the music files might be present in the install folder of the game. I highly recommend checking them out, especially if you’re a fan of Uelmen’s work on the Diablo series or World of Warcraft.

Are you happy to see Matt Uelmen back in action? When you hear the game’s town theme, feel free to come back and tell us how you think it stacks up to “Tristram!”

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