Composed by
Jeremy Soule

 

Published by
DirectSong (2005)

 

Tracklistings
1) Guild Wars Factions Theme
2) Age of the Dragon
3) Shing Jea Monastery
4) Luxon Theme
5) Kurzick Theme
6) Kaineng City
7) Harvest Festival
8) Coastline
9) Jade Sea
10) Echovald Forest
11) Assassin's Theme
12) Ritualist's Theme
13) Arborstone
14) Tanglewood Copse
15) The Eternal Grove
16) Minister Cho's Estate
17) Zen Daijun
18) Unwaking Waters
19) Rasu Palace
20) Day of the Jade Wind
21) Factions Trailer Music
22-24) Bonus Tracks

 

Extras
- Game website
- Composer website

 

Availability
DirectSong

 

Review by
Oliver Ittensohn

Guild Wars: Factions

Guild Wars: Factions is the stand-alone expansion pack to publisher NCSoft’s highly popular and very successful Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing game (MMORPG) Guild Wars. It builds upon the same gameplay formula but adds a new continent to explore and conquer: the Asian-inspired land of Cantha. The game was appreciated for its improvements upon the original and its carefully chosen additions of new features.

Composer Jeremy Soule has firmly established himself in the world of Guild Wars with his score for the original game and his musical additions in the forms of a soundtrack expansion pack (Battle Pak One) and a free mini-addon pack (Sorrow’s Furnace mini-pak) released over DirectSong, which were worked dynamically into the game. The setting of this expansion would give him a chance to expand his sound for the titles by enriching them with ethnic writing. The game’s artwork and graphics must have been rather inspiring given the fact that he composed a stunningly beautiful new main theme carried by solo cello (“Guild Wars Factions Theme”). The cue is amazing in its sweeping quality and is based on the original Guild Wars main theme. As such, it builds up a thematic bridge to the game’s predecessor.

Due to the prominent role of cellos as well as snippets of the main theme (“Age of the Dragon”, “Shing Jea Monastery” or “Harvest Festival”), the first couple of tracks prove to be the most enjoyable on the album. They offer a sophisticated combination of a wide assortment of Asian drums and solo instruments. Other highlights include the “Assassin’s Theme”, which utilizes woodwinds on top of background strings and the “Ritualist’s Theme”, which makes use of droning percussions. The two track titles are a bit deceiving though, since both cues do not actually feature themes, but appear to be re-named ambient cues. Indeed, it’s startling to see that Soule seems to have run out of ideas after the first 10 minutes of music. The rest of the score is best described as unobtrusive, almost understated. Many tracks rely heavily on haunting background droning, in rare cases combined with solo cello or horn. Ethnic elements are not as present as you might think having heard the main title theme. Rather, Soule went for a writing that is meant to linger in the background while playing the game: the tempo of the cues is consistently slow, thematic development is kept to a minimum and orchestral energy is almost never present. Sometimes, Soule even drifts into a kind of esoteric, New Age sound that utterly negates dramatic or cinematic feeling. This heavily ambient approach is something Soule has come to utilize often and even more so in this score. It was written as an unobtrusive and fitting background piece to the gameplay of Guild Wars Factions and as such, it does a decent job. Nevertheless, the music fails to expand the game on any emotional level and falls short of providing a memorable listening experience.

In the end it must be said that some of the more string lead melodies are certainly pleasing, especially when enriched with an ethnic flute like in “Arborstone”. These cues are enjoyable outside of context. The release as a whole, however, turns out to be a very tough stand-alone listen. The score is simply too haunting and mystic to be truly entertaining. As a subdued background score with an ethnic touch, this soundtrack fits a calm and quiet gameplay. However, for all casual video game music listeners who are looking for a thematically rich and entertaining role-playing game score, Soule’s effort will turn out to be a disappointment.