The Elder Scrolls soundtrack is pretty well-known and highly regarded, even outside of our tiny field of video game music enthusiasts. That’s what you get when you have smash hit games and a conductor who knows what he’s doing. Jeremy Soule helmed the musical side of the franchise from Morrowind throughSkyrim, but with the MMO, that streak is broken. Soule returned only for the main theme and then headed off for more SOEish pastures, leaving Brad Derrick (Warhammer Online) and Malukah to carry on the legacy with Elder Scrolls Online.
I think that they did a fine job. It took me a while to listen through the 47-track album (and how awesome is it that it got released?), and afterward I let it stew in my brain for a bit. During a discussion with friends, I realized that while it’s beautiful, there’s little here that really pops out the way that past Elder Scrolls scores did. I think the music here would do a great job to enhance the gameplay experience, but on its own, it is pleasant and often lukewarm.
It’s also a soundtrack that I could play from beginning to end without it grating on my nerves, which is another testament to how it goes down the ear canals smoothly. There’s a good sense of cohesiveness and atmosphere, even if it lacks the rabble-rousing tracks that I was hoping to hear. Let’s dig in!
1. For Blood, For Glory, For Honor
Is Jeremy Soule phoning it in with this title track? I have a suspicion that he sort of is, as there was a definite increase of quality and epicness in the previous three Elder Scrolls themes. This is a servicable track, but it feels a shade more generic and toned down than it should be. I mean, c’mon, that Skyrimtheme is so dang well-known that this sounds like a high school band rendition.
I do like the vocals, however, because they go a long way to establishing a heightened sense of tension and anticipation, which is certainly something you want from your title theme. But that familiar cue? It should explode out of my speakers, not limp out and wave a familiar hello. I like it, but it could have been so much more.
2. Weapons Drawn
This right here is the track that plays when dark anchors open up, and it’s one of the most energetic and action-packed on the entire album. It’s bursting with energy that’s easy to siphon off of if you’re playing, I’d imagine. My only complaint is that it’s really too short; I wanted more!
3. Auridon Sunrise
Auridon Sunrise is a good representation of a bulk of this OST: It’s pretty, it’s light on the ears, and it has this dreamlike quality to it even if you forget how it goes a minute after you hear it. This track could make an Atari 2600 screenshot convince someone he was beholding a work of art. I like how different instruments take turns playing off of each other in this slow, lazy wakeup call.
4. Moons of Evening Star
Even if I haven’t played the game, I always take the title of the track into account when I listen to it. Moons of Evening Star is most certainly a nocturnal tune (and I didn’t need the title to tell me that, either!) that exudes the beauty of nighttime instead of its fears. The piano is a welcome addition that doesn’t overstay its welcome, and the whole production makes me feel swaddled in good feelings and contentment.
5. The Three Banners Fanfare
There’s a bit of aural filler for the first half-minute or so, but when you hit 0:39, this song comes into full bloom. It’s a short, gorgeous piece that teeters on the edge of despair and victory, and it’s become probably my favorite out of the entire album. Again, it’s a shame that there’s so little of it, but I’d always rather have a little of something incredible than a lot of mediocrity.
6. Three Hearts as One
I’m not incredibly familiar with Malukah, but I understand that she has a strong following that led into a gig doing bardic songs for ESO. Good for her, and good for us since this track and the other one on the official OST (“Beauty of Dawn”) are wonderful. She’s got the pipes and talent for this, and it makes me sad that so many MMOs lack good sung bard tunes.