Game Music, Reviews

Hide It Under A Bushel? TERA OST Part 1 (Review)

May 16, 2012 | | 1 Comment Share thison Facebook Hide It Under A Bushel? TERA OST Part 1 (Review)on Twitter

Trying to make a profit off an MMORPG is risky business in today’s saturated market. Hence, I can’t help but find it a little pretentious that the US version of the game’s soundtrack includes “Part 1” in the title. Unless “Part 2” has already been written, they’re just assuming this MMORPG has a long life.

And, as I am currently playing TERA: The Exiled Realm of Arborea, I certainly hope the game has a long life. It certainly looks beautiful and plays nicely. Furthermore, I hope it has a long life because I appreciate the work of the composers (Inon Zur and Rod Abernethy). However, it is worth noting that all other versions of the soundtrack were simply entitled “Original Soundtrack” without the “Part 1.” Those 3 versions (the Japanese, EU physical, and EU digital) were all the same album, with exactly 26 tracks.

The US CD version is a fair bit different. For starters, while the soundtrack appears on a CD, it’s not an audio CD. Instead, it’s a data disc with some images and 50 total songs in high-quality mp3 format (320k). So, after the jump, we’re going to talk about this huge collection of music, all 90 minutes of it, and ponder whether or not Atari / En Masse should release this as a digital release to the public.

The first thing I have to note: I’m frustrated that there’s no track-for-track composer breakdown. The mp3s are all tagged with “Inon Zur/Rod Abernethy” as the artist. Inon Zur is something of a household name for those of us at OSV (in case you’re not familiar, his credits include Dragon Age, Fallout 3, The Lord of the Rings: War in the North, and many others. Rod, on the other hand, doesn’t carry as much clout, though he has been in the game music business for at least a decade. He even has his own bandcamp page, where he sells the soundtracks for The Hobbit and Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon. One thing we can say: both of these men are poised to write Howard Shore-esque high fantasy music for full symphony orchestra and choir.

But that’s not all it is. Sure, the opening theme and all the character themes (heard in the character creation screens and important character events) are over-the-top and amazing, which can paradoxically drain the listener of any connection or emotion. But then there are the songs with a low instrument count, the “chamber” music or the “ethnic” music. Short tracks like “Tulufan Nights,” “Woodland Trails,” “Shadow and Blue,” “Sailor’s Horn,” or “Watchtower Panorama” stick with me in ways that the big, booming orchestral stuff just can’t. A lot of VGM fans have this large, looming general complaint about VGM that feels too much like film score. If you’re one of those people, you’ll likely feel that way about the first half of this soundtrack, no matter how good the composition is. But the latter half? It’s really good stuff, and it’s the stuff that (I think) is unique to the US release.

Which leads me to a very important question…

Why keep the music-love limited to the premium buyers? Honestly, this is a very good soundtrack, and if the second half of this soundtrack got the proper treatment (1x loop, mix some of it with the “front-end” in terms of track ordering), it would absolutely be worth selling on iTunes etc. It’s a shame I don’t know whom to credit for the softer, subtle, nuanced music that I love. It’s the stuff I enjoy most in-game, and it’s the stuff I enjoy most listening to the soundtrack in my free time.

So here’s my assessment: people playing the game who want to “upgrade” to an LE, this sort of makes it worth it. But not by a lot. If I were you, I’d hold out for a retail release of the soundtrack. Don’t let me down, publishers! Stop hiding this sweet light under a bushel.

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