WoW! Thoughts! — On Mists of Pandaria’s Amazing Soundtrack
One of the best features of Mists of Pandaria has been its astounding soundtrack. I’d say that anyone who has bothered to listen to the in-game music would be delighted, yet there remain people who prefer their own playlists and are missing out. I enjoyed the soundtrack while playing the game, but after a morning spent paying bills while sitting at the login screen, just listening to Heart of Pandaria on loop, I realized just how epic it was. Since then, rather than use Pandora to ignore WoW’s music, I’ve used Pandora to delight in WoW’s music. A recent contest over at readycheck.co.uk asked users to describe their favorite music from the Mists of Pandaria soundtrack, and that got me thinking about what I enjoyed most. With my newfound, deeper knowledge of the soundtracks, I have picked out my personal top three.
Heart of Pandaria – As mentioned, this is the title music for Mists of Pandaria, which effectively makes it the theme for the expansion (Although most players probably don’t make it past the first few bars, and even less than that if they use the battle.net launcher). The song itself imparts all the awesomeness Mists of Pandaria has to offer. The chimes at the beginning are like a butterfly floating through the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, after which the peace of the opening bars is interrupted by the drums and horns of war – just as we intruded upon Pandaria’s pristine shores only to desecrate much of its natural beauty. As the horns crescendo, we return to a peaceful serenade.
With Mists at an end, it’s easy to imagine each part of Heart of Pandaria serving as a brief vignette of what we come to see in the expansion, like a melodic tour of the continent. The drumbeat of war inevitably returns, as the conflict we bring continues to impose upon the wonders and beauty of the pristine continent. Hints of the new Horde theme are introduced, a sign of Garrosh’s impending reveal as the villain of the expansion. The piece is tinged with melancholy, as the bombastic beats remind us of marching armies heading towards conflict, those same beats contrasting with the woodwind and string melodies. The trumpets call us to arms, as there is evil to fight. Garrosh’s theme returns at the end as the song builds to its conclusion around him, just as the expansion does, with chanting to echo themes of expansions past, reminding us what we are here to do. When the staccato beats crescendo to the climactic drumroll, one can imagine quick shots of each of Azeroth’s leaders – Varian, Vol’jin, Lorewalker Cho, Jaina, and ultimately Garrosh – before the title card is revealed. After the climax, the chimes return, again reminiscent of the butterfly, but this time, it is like the butterfly Taran Zhu witnesses in the Siege of Orgrimmar trailer – singed with Sha energy and disintegrating. This expansion will take its toll on Pandaria, and we can hear that before we even set foot on the continent.
Why We Fight – This is the soundtrack to the trailer, which I analyzed in detail when it was released. The problem is that since the cinematics are so good, one fails to appreciate the soundtrack until deliberately exposed to it in isolation. We know that the drumbeat early on is the march of war, and as we encounter the mists, we get woodwinds to represent the mystery. As the orc and human re-engage in battle, we get the combat theme with more drums, and it builds to a crescendo when Chen intervenes. The combat drumbeat is repeated, but in a slightly more whimsical manner. The whimsy makes sense, as it is after the Pandaren introduction that we get the comedic moments of Chen nudging the lantern back into place, and the human handing the spear to the orc. The Pandaren have always been a lighthearted race, especially given their original status as an April fools’ joke, and this music weaves that aspect of their nature into a very serious battle theme.
Horns flare to give the sense that the combat is encircling the listener, rapidly approaching and then drawing away. As Chen subdues the invaders, his theme builds until we get the climactic reveal of majestic Pandaria (and the expansion title, as the theme repeats itself one more time). The result is that the music continues the concept that the Pandaren are not inclined to war (like the orcs and the humans seem to be), but rather they choose to fight to protect what they hold dear. Why We Fight is an amazing piece of music because it asks and answers that question without having to say a word.
Way of the Monk – I may be biased. I was listening to this repeatedly while reading Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde, so this theme is eternally entwined with the Shado-Pan and their battle against the Zandalari. It starts with the Pandaren theme, and then introduces a swelling violin until the beat rushes with a sense of urgency, culminating in those compelling drums and then stepping back with woodblocks sounding like a galloping horse. After that, we get the splendor of Pandaria and more combative drumbeat. The chanting sounds like monks doing their coordinated practices before the song breaks, and then we get determined action, followed by a moment to pause and appreciate the beauty of the land again – serenity against the chaos, which indeed signifies the way of the monk.
The entire soundtrack for Mists of Pandaria is worth listening to, especially out of game, where mogu and the horde or alliance cannot distract you from enjoying it. While it was written to complement the visuals we see and the world we experience, the Mists of Pandaria soundtrack stands on its own as both a beautiful orchestral score and as a reminder of how amazing Pandaria truly is.
Realm first leveling achievements are gone in Warlords of Draenor. Thanks, Blizz! If I can’t be first to 100, what’s the point??? https://twitter.com/olandgren/statuses/439118021328506880
Warlords will also bring a streamlined currency structure. I did the same thing for my finances – they are so much easier to track when you are just chronically in debt. https://twitter.com/WatcherDev/statuses/438409604834160640
Ion Hazzikostas claims the level 90 boot price is to ensure that levelling up naturally is still valued, or something. I’d read the full interview but I’d rather pay someone $60 to do it for me. http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-02-25-blizzard-explains-USD60-cost-of-world-of-warcraft-level-90-character-boost
Dev Watercooler on the changes to skills and abilities relating to the item squish. My favorite part is the chart that shows insane growth for levels 90-100, seeing as we’ve struggled so much with that power already. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/13107743/dev-watercooler-pruning-the-garden-of-war-2-27-2014
That Watercooler was so much fun Chadd ‘Celestalon’ Nervigg and Brian Holinka couldn’t stop tweeting about it. #justpostaselfieandcallitaday http://wow.joystiq.com/2014/02/28/celestalon-and-holinka-on-warlords-of-draenor-changes/
And that Watercooler even got Bashiok to post about the coming racial changes. Nothing he says matters since Warlords is just going to continue the orc-on-orc violence that’s been going on since patch 5.3. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/11913971864#1
The Mists of Pandaria Digital Deluxe edition will be retired soon. After that it will only be available in Florida. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/13120780/mists-of-pandaria%C2%AE-digital-deluxe-edition-heading-into-the-blizzard-archive-3-3-2014
The Honor earned in certain battlegrounds has changed. Now you only get points for killing people when they are awake, facing you, and armed. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/11914141511#1
The cover for the upcoming novel War Crimes was released. (There’s no joke here – the cover itself is the punchline.) http://warcraft.blizzplanet.com/blog/comments/world-of-warcraft-war-crimes-front-cover
And finally, Best Wishes to all of the WoW Insider columnists affected by the recent layoffs. Especially Matt Rossi. http://wow.joystiq.com/2014/02/27/letter-from-the-editor-budgets-are-no-fun/