Friday, January 25, 2013

Australia Day Sale on Origin

EA is finally giving some love to Australia by holding an Australia Day sale. Several titles have been discounted to $10. Some titles have been quite heavily discounted and it's also an opportunity for anyone who hasn't got into Mass Effect or Dragon Age to give it a go.

Games on sale are:

  • Alice: Madness Returns
  • Battlefield 2142 Deluxe Edition
  • Battlefield 2 Complete Collection
  • Battlefield Bad Company 2 Vietnam
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Deluxe Edition
  • Bejeweled 3
  • Bulletstorm
  • Burnout Paradise The Ultimate Box
  • Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars
  • Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath
  • Command & Conquer 4 Tiberian Twilight
  • Command & Conquer Red Alert 3: Uprising
  • Command & Conquer Red Alert 3
  • Crysis Warhead
  • Crysis
  • Crysis 2: Maximum Edition
  • Dead Space
  • Dead Space 2
  • Dragon Age: Origins
  • Dragon Age II
  • Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening
  • Dragon Age: Origins Digital Deluxe Edition
  • FIFA 11
  • FIFA 12
  • FIFA Manager 11
  • FIFA Manager 12
  • Mass Effect
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Mass Effect 2 Digital Deluxe Edition
  • Medal of Honor
  • Medal of Honor: Digital Deluxe Edition
  • Need for Speed Hot Pursuit
  • Need for Speed SHIFT
  • Need for Speed The Run
  • Need for Speed Undercover
  • SHIFT 2 Unleashed
  • SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition
  • SimCity Societies
  • SimCity Societies Destinations
  • Spore
  • Spore Galactic Adventures
  • The Saboteur
  • The Sims 3 Barnacle Bay
  • The Sims 3 Diesel Stuff
  • The Sims 3 Fast Lane Stuff
  • The Sims 3 Hidden Springs
  • The Sims 3 High-End Loft Stuff
  • The Sims 3 Master Suite Stuff
  • The Sims 3 Outdoor Living Stuff
  • The Sims 3 Town Life Stuff

All of the listed are on sale for $10

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ex-Sierra Composer Ken Allen commences Kickstarter

Ken Allen, a game music composer that used to work at good ol' Sierra On-Line has just commenced a Kickstarter project today that is looking to raise $10,000 to fund a new album. This album titled "Under the Half Dome" (referencing the mountain on Sierra's logo) is promised to be a high-definition remake featuring a variety of tracks sampled from Ken's work between 1989 - 1996. The late 80s and early 90s were to me Sierra's hey-day, the true golden age of adventure gaming. Through the music, Sierra's composers managed to imprint the fond memories of these games into our psyche.

I checked out on MobyGames which games Ken Allen were involved with between 1989 and 1996. While this is by no means a completely accurate method (as it doesn't state which individual tracks he worked on, or whether he even participated in the nitty-gritty of composing at all) it gives a rough idea of the variety of soundtracks he worked on:

  • The Colonel's Bequest (1989)
  • Roberta Williams' King's Quest I: Quest for the Crown (1990)
  • Oil's Well (1990)
  • King's Quest V (1990)
  • Fire Hawk: Thexder - The Second Contact (1990)
  • Space Quest IV (1991)
  • Space Quest I - VGA (1991)
  • Roberta Williams' Mixed-Up Mother Goose (1991)
  • Les Manley in: Lost in LA (1991)
  • Jones in the Fast Lane (1991)
  • Conquest of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood (1991)
  • Castle of Dr Brain (1991)
  • WarpSpeed (1992)
  • Wacky Funsters! The Geekwad's Guide to Gaming (1992)
  • Ringworld: Revenge of the Patriarch (1992)
  • Grand Prix Unlimited (1992)
  • Take a Break! Pinball (1993)
  • Star Trek: Judgment Rites (1993)
  • Protostar (1993)
  • The Geekwad: Games of the Galaxy (1993)
  • Blue Force (1993)
  • Return to Ringworld (1994)
  • Man Enough (1994)
  • Descent (1994)
  • Star Trek: Starfleet Academy - Starship Bridge Simulator (1995)
  • Frankenstein: Through the Eyes of the Monster (1995)
  • Mummy: Tomb of the Pharaoh (1996)

So that's a lot of music that could potentially go onto this album! I've made a wishlist below of the ones I would like to see on the album:

  • Oil's Well - Main Theme
  • King's Quest V - Town Music
  • King's Quest V - The Weeping Willow
  • King's Quest V - The Bandit Camp
  • King's Quest V - The Hermit
  • King's Quest V - Mordack's Castle
  • King's Quest V - Battle with Mordack
  • Jones in the Fast Lane - Main Theme
  • Jones in the Fast Lane - Oh What a Weekend!
  • Space Quest I - Main Theme
  • Space Quest I - Skimmer Theme
  • Space Quest I - The Rocket Bar

I particularly think the King's Quest V and Space Quest I soundtracks could benefit greatly with modern composition software and samples. While I find Oil's Well and the Jones in the Fast Lane music, funky, light-hearted and fun, they're probably not going to benefit as much (unless they're performed by a live band or something :) - perhaps a potential stretch goal?).

Oh and here are some of my favourites on YouTube:

At the time of this post, funding is already at the half-way mark and it's only the first day, so it's very likely this project will meet (if not exceed) its target. Still, an extra few backers couldn't hurt ;)

Oh best of all, the tracks are DRM-free.

Monday, January 21, 2013

FTL: Faster than Light Review

  • Developer: Subset Games
  • Publisher: Subset Games
  • Release Date:14 September 2012

I believe I heard about this game first on GOG and I was drawn to the screenshots from the game. "Is that the interior of a spaceship?" I asked myself. Not many games (at least nowadays) actually has you looking at the inside of a spaceship, unless you're Commander Shepard flirting with his/her crewmates on the Normandy. The fact the game looked like you actually got to order the crew of the ship around and the game's name is a core concept of science fiction was the clincher. I had to get this game. Fortunately I was able to get it for free, thanks to winning the GOGgame Story competition, otherwise I probably wouldn't have bought it. Sure it's cheap, but there are a lot of indie games out there – which ones are worthwhile to play? Well that's what you're here for right? To find out! :)

Plot (4/5)
The game doesn't have too much of a plot at the start and you learn more about the universe and its inhabitants as you play the game. All you're told in the beginning is that you're in charge of a Federation starship that contains vital information. You are being pursued by a Rebel force and you aim is to cross several sectors of space to the Federation fleet.

It's not a terribly original or fleshed-out plot and it sounds like the Maquis story arc from Star Trek to some degree, however it deserves extra points for using a sci-fi series as inspiration, particularly Star Trek.

Gameplay (3/5)
In FTL, you are responsible for managing a ship's systems and crew that is making its way across several sectors of space towards a Federation fleet. Along the way there will be random encounters such as pirates attacking a civilian ship, a starbase that is infected by a deadly virus or a spaceship emitting a distress signal. You can choose whether to aid people in these situations or keep moving which at first glance creates an interesting mechanic since you have to decide whether the primary objective of the mission is more important (i.e. transport the data as quickly as possible) or helping others. I say at "first glance" since you'll find that in order to survive the latter stages of the game you need to upgrade your ship and the only way to do that is to gather scrap which you are rewarded with during these encounters – however sometimes there will be setbacks as a result like your ship being damaged or even losing a crewmember! So there is an element of luck involved in the game which can result in you being helped or hindered.

Since a great deal of these encounters rely on luck this also means the game can be insanely difficult, especially if you have a bad start. In fact, you'll only be able to get some enjoyment out of this game if you realise from the start that more often than not, you're meant to lose. This hearkens back to the old-school style of gaming where it's only through unwavering persistence will you be able to win the game (I confess I still haven't, although I've got close, I swear)!

"In fact, you'll only be able to get some enjoyment out of this game if you realise from the start that more often than not, you're meant to lose."

However, there is some fun to be had in playing this game and that involves managing your very own starship. Anyone who is a fan of Star Trek will feel right at home with FTL as you have ship systems such as weapons control, shields, engines and the cockpit that can be manned by your crew. Having a crew member at these stations confers a small bonus to them. For example, someone assigned to the shield station will increase the recharge rate for them. Someone assigned to the cockpit will increase the evasion bonus of the ship and so on. You can even "divert power to shields" (if I had a dollar for every time that phrase was uttered in Star Trek…) or to other ship systems meaning you can make your ship adapt to the situation when under attack.

During combat, several bad things could happen including hull breaches, fires and systems being damaged. Crew members can be assigned to repair damage and extinguish fires but then you've got to worry about their own health. Indeed it becomes even more challenging when enemies teleport onto your ship and start wreaking havoc since not only do you have to worry about the ship being damaged but whether you have enough crew to fend off the intruders!

At the conclusion of battles or random encounters, you will often be rewarded with missiles, fuel, drone parts or scrap. Missiles are a more powerful alternative to beam weapons but obviously are in limited supply, fuel is required to perform "jumps" from one star system to the next and drone parts are consumed each time you activate a drone (drones can be used to repair your ship, defend your ship or attack enemies). Scrap is the de facto currency for the galaxy and can be used to either upgrade your ship's systems or used to repair your ship and purchase new items whenever you visit a store.

Final word on gameplay? Yeah it's fun especially those who like to micromanage or ever wanted to be a Starfleet captain. Yet it also can be incredibly difficult and annoying to gamers who dislike luck playing a role in determining the outcome of an encounter.

Sound (3/5)
The game contains basic sound effects but they suit the game.

Music (5/5)
The FTL soundtrack was created by Ben Prunty and is reminiscent of chiptune music so it gives off a very retro/nostalgic vibe. I personally think it's fantastic with some of the tracks being very catchy. Favourite tracks in particular are Space Cruise, Milky Way and Cosmos Battle (which sounds a bit like the Starbase Commander music from Star Control 2 at one stage). Check them out:

Graphics (3/5)
The game contains basic, low-res, retro-style graphics and you always view things from a top-down view. So it's not going to win any awards for most stunning graphics but they serve their purpose. Gameplay is always more important anyway.

Replay (4/5)
The fact that each game procedurally generates new sectors and new encounters along your trip to the Federation fleet, means there's quite a bit of replay here – especially considering it's probably expected since it's the only way to ensure you start unlocking new ships – ships that might help you in reaching the end!

Polish (4/5)
The game contains no serious bugs as far as I can tell. The basics of the game are quite easy to grasp although the game doesn't really go into all the nuances and there's not really anywhere that goes into detail (e.g. how exactly each weapon or device works). Consequently there'll be some trial and error as you learn the ropes and however you could argue that learning from your mistakes is an intentional design decision.

Score – 8/10

A game with a simple premise: survive long enough so you can get your little spaceship from one side of the galaxy to the other. Overcoming the many obstacles along the way is difficult and may be ultimately too frustrating for some gamers but if you acknowledge the fact you're meant to lose, it's easy to get yourself immersed in this retro-styled starship management game. To sweeten the pot, each time you play the map it's procedurally generated and the game is also super cheap.

If you want to get the game, you can get it DRM-free off GOG or Steam.

If you like this game, you might like...


Friday, January 18, 2013

Where to buy SimCity in Australia?

Okay it's a new year so it's time to start planning on where to buy those big name games from (I've already pre-ordered The Cave and Omerta: City of Gangsters since even if I wanted to buy physical copies of these in Australia, it's probably going to be awhile)! Coming out in March is the reboot to the SimCity series and the three ways of buying it I'm aware of is through Origin, EB Games and JB Hi-Fi. Note however, that no matter what you do, you'll have to setup an Origin account anyway in order to play SimCity.

SimCity Limited Edition
  • JB Hi-Fi = $79
  • EB Games = $88
  • Origin = $80

The Limited Edition is the standard pre-order edition. With it you get the following:

  • New characters (Superhero and Villain)
  • Crime Waves (Villain will cause crime waves)
  • Super Hero HQ (Hero's HQ used to combat crime)
  • Evil Villain Lair (Place the lair to create crime waves)
  • Plumbob Park (Origin Only)

As you can see, there's not much difference in price but if you wanted the cheapest option, go with JB.

EB Games is also offering a Collector's Edition (an EB Games Exclusive) for $89. Since it's only $1 extra to get the Collector's Edition, if you're buying from EB Games, it might be worth it. You get all the stuff from the Limited Edition along with the following extras:

  • Unique collectible Steelbook box
  • Unique London neighbourhood

Finally, Origin is offering a Digital Deluxe version for $99 which has the following extras over the Limited Edition:

  • British City Set
  • French City Set
  • German City Set

So if you want different architectural styles to use in SimCity, it might be worth paying the extra $20 for the Digital Deluxe version - hey you'll be forced to play on Origin anyway right? Alternatively you could just buy it from JB or Origin (depending if you want a physical or digital copy or not).

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Omerta: City of Gangsters gets release date

This game has come out of the blue for me since it's apparently going to be released in only a matter of days (1 February 2013) and I only noticed it being sold on Steam yesterday. Well that's the official digital release date (or 31 January 2013 if you want to go off GOG or the official website). Retail release in North America will be 12 February 2013. Neither EB or JB seem to be distributing it in Australia, at least not yet.

The game is available off Steam for USD $34 or USD $51 if you purchase a two-pack (apparently the game has multiplayer where another player can play a competing gang). GOG is also selling it for USD $34 but of course it will be DRM-free if you buy it from them.

I purchased the two-pack off Steam since I wanted to gift the other to my bro as a birthday present. However, if you want a DRM-free copy for yourself, I'd recommend's offer.

So why am I excited about this game that apparently came from nowhere? Most importantly, the game is made by Haemimont Games. These guys are one of my favourite newly discovered developers. They were responsible for resurrecting the Tropico series with the games Tropico 3 and 4, and they did a pretty good job of it too. I suspect they're using a modified engine from these games for Omerta: City of Gangsters (O:CoG) although considering you control gangsters in combat (judging by the trailer video) the game is most likely going to be a turn-based tactics strategy game.

On one hand, I'm excited by what looks like glimpses of a turn-based tactics strategy game since there needs to be more Jagged Alliance/X-COM clones out there (as an aside, I lol'ed when I read a gamer comment that O:CoG looked like "XCOM: Enemy Unknown but with gangsters!" – makes you feel old when the current generation never played a squad tactics game before 2012!). On the other hand though, I'm uncertain about Haemimont's experience in this area. They've apparently developed real-time strategy games in the past, so that's a good sign – but how well will that translate to the turn-based tactics strategy genre? Stay tuned to this blog for when I finally review the game ;).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Guild Wars 2 Review

  • Developer: ArenaNet
  • Publisher: NCSoft
  • Release Date: 28 August 2012

Back in 2005, ArenaNet, an upstart developer comprised of many ex-Blizzard developers, released an MMORPG known as Guild Wars. I was a big fan of the original Guild Wars. In fact I still am. Anyone who knows me will realise this seems a bit odd considering I don't actually like MMORPGs. However, Guild Wars is no ordinary MMORPG.

Firstly, it isn't really an MMORPG – in fact ArenaNet went so far as to define it as a "CORPG" or a Competitive Online Role-Playing Game. While I think this definition is somewhat limiting I do agree that you can't really consider Guild Wars an MMORPG. Most of the game is instanced unlike traditional MMORPGs – the only places where you can mingle with other players being towns which are pretty much glorified chat rooms. So it's actually more like Diablo except you had to be online all the time (so more like Diablo III in fact).

Secondly the game has a low maximum experience level of 20. MMORPGs are usually all about how uber your level is but not in Guild Wars. Guild Wars wants everyone to get to a level playing field quickly (instantly if you play PvP) and to reward players on defeating others based on skill and tactics, not because they simply have the best gear and highest level.

Finally, the game has no subscription fee meaning you don't feel guilty if you leave the game for awhile and come back to play again later. Definitely more economical too.

So come 2012 and after a long wait we have Guild Wars 2, its sequel. Once again, ArenaNet promised to break the mould with their most recent offering to try and attract those becoming bored of the traditional MMORPG formula and players who don't normally play MMORPGs. Is Guild Wars 2 that silver bullet?

Plot (4/5)
Guild Wars 2 is set 250 years after the original Guild Wars. Humans, once the dominant race in the land of Tyria are now on the verge of becoming extinct. Their old enemies, the cat-like Charr, have now occupied most of one of their previous kingdoms, and the diminutive Asura, Viking-like Norn and elf-like Sylvari have now become prominent races of the world. Elder Dragons have also been awakened and they are slowly threatening the very existence of all races in Tyria, however all races are involved in their own petty squabbles and in-fighting to notice how close they are to an apocalypse. This is where your character comes in.

What I like about Guild Wars 2 is that they have incorporated some single player RPG mechanics in terms of your character development. Similar to Dragon Age: Origins, each of your characters will have their first chain of personal storyline missions dedicated to your character's background. With each of the five races having three separate backgrounds that gives 15 unique ways the story unravels. Eventually you'll also have a choice to join one of three orders which also offer different quests.

Yes, yes. It's your typical fantasy plot where the dragons are trying to take over the world but overall, I think Guild Wars 2 has put a lot more effort than its competitors except for maybe Star Wars: The Old Republic (but I haven't actually played it so I'm basing this off what I've heard). Definitely more than a traditional MMORPG.

Gameplay (3/5)
First off, for those fans of Guild Wars expecting Guild Wars 2 to have pretty much the same gameplay as the original, you'd be wrong. The formula has been totally revamped and one of the biggest changes is that the game is no longer 90% instanced. Like before, storyline missions are instanced but just about everything else is now a persistent world. The only thing that has stayed the same is the fact you don't need to pay a subscription fee to pay (hooray!).

"The game seems a lot less strategic and you'll spend most of your time just spamming the number keys like there's no tomorrow."

Guild Wars 2 has decided to eschew the typical quest system that traditional MMORPGs have and have instead allowed several ways for you to gather experience points in PvE including but not limited to: renown quests, map exploration, crafting and dynamic events. I won't go into map exploration since that's pretty self-explanatory and neither will I go into crafting since a lot of games have crafting but dynamic events is a relatively new concept to the traditional MMORPG. Basically you can be wondering around in the wilderness when an event triggers that requires you to kill a certain foe or escort an NPC or help gather ingredients to make an apple pie. Successful completion of some dynamic events will even unlock meta-events, i.e. events within events – so you end up doing a chain of events. Success or failure with some events may also result to changes in the world, e.g. failure to defend a town from marauding baddies will result in the town being occupied by them. While there are plenty of haters for this concept, there's also plenty it appeals to – especially those who don't like the traditional quest system you find in RPGs. Although, for those that do prefer traditional quests, the renown quests are probably the closest you'll get to them. It doesn't take much to realise that the renown quests are not that much different from the "Go kill X rats" type of quests you would normally find in traditional MMORPGs (read "grind") but thankfully GW2 goes about them a different way and usually offers multiple ways to build renown with an NPC – some having pretty funny ones like being transformed into a pig to hunt for truffles!

Guild Wars 2 also has PvP and PvP/PvE hybrid known as World vs World (WvW). Currently, PvP consists of Capture the Flag arenas where you have one team pitted against the other. WvW on the other hand can have teams of hundreds of players fighting each other over territory where your guilds are even able to claim castles in your name (and is actually one of the more fun late-game options). You don't even need to be level 80 to either play PvP or WvW since the game upscales your stats to level 80 for you (although you may be at a disadvantage in terms of unlocked skills in the case of WvW).

So all of that sounds pretty good right? There seems to be a lot to do in this game! Well yes there is but is it any fun?

If you enjoy performing flavour-of-the-month dungeon runs, crafting, map exploration or PvP, the game will keep you entertained for a long time. However, my biggest beef with the game is the incorporating of the story with dungeons. Dungeons are usually things you do when you want to grab 1337 l3wt, usually requires a time investment of at least 3 hours and at least something resembling coordination from your party members. Guild Wars 2 has incorporated the main side story into the dungeons meaning you have to complete the dungeons on "Story Mode" in order to learn more. Unfortunately, they're considerably more difficult that your usual personal storyline missions which only require 1 or 2 extra party members, most even being solo-able. Worse, the final mission in the game requires you to complete the final dungeon in the game – so there's absolutely no avoiding it. Let me tell you that finding players who want to play the dungeons in Story Mode are almost non-existent. Most players are either playing flavour-of-the-month dungeons (that give better rewards) or are doing other PvE activities (that are less time consuming). Consequently, this is going to be another game I haven't actually finished. It's a pretty rare occurrence on Choicest Games but since nobody is interested in finishing the game in GW2 it's impossible for me to as well – which is very frustrating!

Finally, I preferred the way skills worked in the original Guild Wars better and the fact you had a wider range to pick from. In GW2 you are very limited since half of your skills are dictated by what your character is holding (e.g. weapons, shields, etc.) and the skills you can pick from tend to have multiple random effects instead of being dedicated to performing one thing. For example, in GW1 when you picked Cleave you knew that the skill would cause an opponent to bleed - and that's about it. In GW2 you have skills which have an X% chance to offer you 6 random boons! The game seems a lot less strategic and you'll spend most of your time just spamming the number keys like there's no tomorrow.

Sound (2/5)
While there are some great voice actors in this game (e.g. Steve Blum, Felicia Day and Kari Wahlgren), sadly there are some very bad ones too and you'll hear the latter more often. In fact sometimes it's so bad it makes me cringe. Honestly, who pronounces "quay" as "kway" (Unless this is an American pronunciation of the word)? Also the syncing of the sounds to the cut-scenes is also poor. Sometimes the voice is omitted from the cut-scenes altogether – just as well there are subtitles!

Music (5/5)
Music in Guild Wars 2 is one of its strong points and it's Jeremy Soule's best soundtrack yet. There are a lot of new tracks that are supplemented by tracks from the original Guild Wars so there's a lot of music here.

If you want to know more about the soundtrack, check out my review.

Graphics (4/5)
The graphics in Guild Wars 2 are quite spectacular. There's lots of beautiful scenery to behold and you're even able to view mini cut-scenes in the form of "vistas" if you can manage to get to them. I especially like the hand-painted look they've adopted to some of the cut-scenes, the GUI and even unexplored portions of the map.

The animations are also much better than the original; more fluid and dynamic. However, the graphics aren't perfect and you do see occasional glitches and clipping but that's about it.

Replay (4/5)
I was tempted to give a lower score for replay since what's the point of playing an RPG if you can't even complete the story? But I have to be honest and that there is actually a heap of replay value in this game, it's just not in the story department since I can't finish the friggin' game!

Polish (4/5)
Unlike the original Guild Wars, GW2 isn't as polished. Initially there were some issues in playing with friends and ensuring you were all on the same home server. Also many quests were bugged meaning completing map exploration was impossible (a prerequisite for one of the achievements you can earn).

Score – 8/10

While ArenaNet has definitely succeeded in making Guild Wars 2 different to anything else out there, it has taken away some of the endearing qualities of the original Guild Wars such as a greater variety of skills and placing a greater focus on storyline missions. For newcomers, the game will keep you entertained for awhile but long-term enjoyment boils down to PvP, WvW and popular dungeons.

If you want to get the game, you can get it off the Guild Wars 2 site.

If you like this game, you might like...


Friday, January 11, 2013

Choicest VGM - VGM #72 - Quest for Glory 2 - Aziza

This track plays when you visit the water mage Aziza's abode. She's a real stickler for manners so you'd better be on your best behaviour since if you insult her, you're promptly kicked out! The calmness and serenity of the harp and flute reflects (pun not intended) the nature of water - Aziza's magical element.

Thanks to Sierra On-Line and Quest Studios for providing these memorable tracks.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Choicest VGM - VGM #71 - Quest for Glory 2 - Keapon Laffin

This track plays whenever you visit the shop of Shapeir's expert in air magic, Keapon Laffin. With a name that is itself a pun, it's no surprise that Keapon throws a barrage of them at you whenever you decide to talk to him. The music is suitably light-hearted, comical and childish, which reflects Keapon Laffin's reputation as a prankster.

Thanks to Sierra On-Line and Quest Studios for providing these memorable tracks.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Guild Wars 2 Soundtrack Review

  • Name: Guild Wars 2 Original Soundtrack
  • Label: directsong
  • Composer(s): Jeremy and Julian Soule
  • Number of Tracks: 78

If you've been following this blog, you may remember the headaches I had in actually receiving this soundtrack in the first place. Like the Skyrim soundtrack, the Guild Wars 2 soundtrack was available from directsong but as a physical copy only. You're not able to buy a digital copy of the soundtrack as was the case with the previous Guild Wars - or Morrowind - or Oblivion - or (well you get the picture). This was directsong's first mistake.

Also, it took more than two months from the time I ordered the soundtrack for it to finally arrive at my doorstep. Disclaimers by directsong said to allow 4-6 weeks but it actually ended up taking longer. Only after persistent badgering of directsong customer support was I able to finally receive my copy. Yes sometimes inevitable delays occur but it would've been nice if they actually indicated from the start before you buy the soundtrack that there were manufacturing delays and that it would take maybe 2-3 months for it to arrive, not 4-6 weeks.

Anyway, enough about my gripes with how late the soundtrack arrived, how good is it? Well I like to think there are four types of tracks on the Guild Wars 2 soundtrack:

  1. Nostalgic tracks that borrows leitmotifs from the original Guild Wars
  2. Tracks that would fit quite nicely in an Elder Scrolls game
  3. Tracks with new styles and themes I've never heard from Jeremy Soule before
  4. Random, ambient fluff that you always find on these kind of soundtracks

So let us first start with Category 1 - the nostalgic tracks that sound a lot like Guild Wars 1. The original Guild Wars theme actually gets used quite a few times in this game - in fact the Guild Wars 2 login screen theme is a rehash of the original theme and doesn't vary much at all. Tyria Reborn and The Darkness will Fall are another two examples of music which incorporates the original Guild Wars 1 theme. Tyria Reborn is especially epic, sounding a bit like Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars at the same time.

My favourite of the tracks based off Guild Wars 1 though is Saga of the Norn which not only acts as a theme song for the mighty Norn in Guild Wars 2 but was in fact known as the Song of the Shiverpeaks in Guild Wars: Eye of the North. This is the fantastic track that was played when you finally completed the campaign and was my favourite track on the Eye of the North soundtrack.

Next we have the tracks that wouldn't sound out of place in an Elder Scrolls game. These are usually calm, serene and majestic themes that evoke the huge open world you can explore in these games. Tracks that remind me of the Elder Scrolls include Eir's Solitude, Mepi's Ranch and Melandru's Calm. Mepi's Ranch and Melandru's Calm sound like town music for Morrowind and Eir's Solitude would fit straight in the Skyrim soundtrack.

Then there are the tracks where Jeremy Soule has gone in new directions. These are tracks which aren't similar to music he's done in previous games. To me, most of Jeremy Soule's music is either very John Williams-like (heroic orchestral anthems with a heavy use of leitmotifs) or serene and slow like most Elder Scrolls music. Tracks that I believe fit in this category are the energetic, adventurous and optimistic Logan's Journey, the minimalist yet beautiful piano piece Lornar's Pass, the Enya-like A Land Restored, the happy Charr (happy Charr?!) theme Plains of Ashford, the magical and triumphant The Orders Unite and my favourite, the melancholic Ruins of an Empire. To be honest, Ruins of an Empire sounds the most similar to an Elder Scrolls track out of this lot but it's at 0:56 where it really shines.

The most impressive track of all though has to be Fear Not This Night which doubles as a theme for the new race in the Guild Wars universe, the Sylvari. This is the first track I've heard composed by Jeremy Soule that actually has lyrics and a top-class vocalist performing it! It sounds very similar to vocal tracks performed in the Dragon Age games and is definitely on par with their magnificence.

Score - 6/10

Overall the soundtrack is an improvement over the Skyrim soundtrack since while there's still the usual ambient fluff, there's a lot more choice and memorable tracks here. You have a track to set every mood and to evoke images of every race and land in Tyria.

If you wish to purchase the soundtrack you can do so via directsong.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Choicest VGM - VGM #70 - Quest for Glory 2 - Hero Selection/Katta's Tale Inn

Next we have the music for the Hero Selection screen for Quest for Glory 2. What I loved about this selection screen (and indeed the Quest for Glory IV selection screen) was that it visualised what kind of approach each class took. The fighter barges through the brick wall (ouch!) emphasising their brute force or direct approach to solving problems. The mage uses a magic spell to teleport into the alley instead, which is how mages solves most of their problems in the series. Finally we have the thief who jumps from above into the alley, showing off his acrobatics skill and agility.

The short segment that follows shortly after is a rehash of the Hero's Tale Inn from QFG1 which is no coincidence as Shema and Shameen have setup a new inn in Shapeir with the puntastic name of "Katta's Tale Inn" (Shema and Shameen are cat people you see).

Thanks to Sierra On-Line and Quest Studios for providing these memorable tracks.