Game Music, Reviews

Inon Zur’s RIFT Original Soundtrack (Review)

September 6, 2011 | | Comment? Share thison Facebook Inon Zur’s RIFT Original Soundtrack (Review)on Twitter

Like open-world games, scoring an MMORPG is tricky business. The player is often in the same areas for several hours at a time, essentially forcing the composer to neuter his score of being too melodic – as an overly melodic score can grow tiring to the ear after many hours of gameplay. Inon Zur is a composer who is no stranger to fantasy RPG’s tackles RIFT with a slightly different plan of attack than either of his Dragon Age scores. In this score, Zur chooses not just to rely on typical fantasy tropes, but to give it a distinctly modern feel, as well. This is no easy feat within the confines of the already-boxed-in criteria of an MMO score. What is especially refreshing about Zur’s score in that it is all new music whose only similarity to other fantasy scores is some orchestration and voices.

But did it work out as well as advertised? Does the score of RIFT grow tiring? Does it create the proper feeling for the world? Most importantly, does it adequately silence the voices of newbs who are constantly asking where to turn in quests? Read on to find out!

The main theme for RIFT starts very rhythmic and percussive with the lead voice in the brass. It is – at first – not too dissimilar for a score one might hear out of Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions. Shortly after, the leading female voice accompanied by modulating piano ostenatos takes hold and creates a distinctly fantasy feel while not losing a sense of modernity. Interestingly enough, though there is a main theme, it is a very unobtrusive one and serves more as a setting than a more typical and prevalent main theme one might expect to hear in an action game (like Crysis 2).

“The Guardian Theme (Sanctum)” also has a very big and percussive production sound to it before giving way to a beautiful hymn-like choir, sung over by a female voice. This is a fine piece of music that is slightly reminiscent of Dragon Age for a second, but veers off into very different territory with nefarious brass re-introducing the theme. It is a shame that I have to wonder if this is piece is too busy and triumphant for a non-scripted scene in any game. It is the type of theme one would expect to accompany a major moment of battle.

“The Defiant Theme” plays upon some of the musical ideas in the previous pieces but joyously skirts away from their high points to keep the violent and scowling theme pushing onward. Finally, there is a respite, but not before a syncopated fragment that bears a striking resemblance to Ennio Morricone’s theme from The Untouchables.

I was definitely surprised at how active and eruptive this soundtrack is. My experience with recent MMOs’ music has been quite different. In particular, World of Warcraft has very little in the way of action music (though that changed somewhat with the expansions). Nonetheless, Inon Zur’s score to RIFT is a refreshing kick in the pants to the logic that MMO music must be predominantly ambient. Zur takes the player by his chain-mail armor and dares him to experience a solid and exciting score as opposed to simply “background music.” Zur’s effort is not for naught and the results bear themselves out with winning in-game moments and a fine listening experience outside of the confines of Telara.

Inon Zur also manages to succeed by making the game more dramatic and enjoyable. Whereas killing ten boars would normally be a chore accompanied by unobtrusive sounds, Zur makes sure the player feels as though all that stands between the player’s life and eternal glory is simply going to the weapons vendor and repairing a sword. It was a nice feeling cranking up the music and enjoying the ambience it created. Although, at times, the score outdoes the action it accompanies, it is a welcome change from the often dreary and unremarkable genre of the MMO score.

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