Last winter, someone was nice enough to send me to Dragon’s Dogma soundtrack for review. I had every intention of doing the review, but I got a little caught up with work. I had a trip to Italy coming up in December, though, so I figured I’d listen to it on the plane and review it when I arrived (I was not touring, just visiting in-laws). I ripped the CD to my MP3 library and put it on my phone. Much to my surprise, when I tried to listen to the album on the plane, I was unimpressed. What I heard initially felt like a generic fantasy album with the drama dial set up way high in some spots. And at 34 tracks running over an hour, it felt a little taxing.
Luckily, the story doesn’t end there. Since I left the MP3s on my phone, whenever I had my player set to shuffle all my songs, which is often, one of the Dragon’s Dogma songs would play. And almost every time, I’d have the same internal conversation:
“What is this?”
“This isn’t Assassin’s Creed: Revelation.“
“Final Fantasy? No.”
“Some small song from The Longest Journey? Nuh-uh.”
Then, even though I was driving, I’d risk life and limb to glance at my phone to learn I’m listening to the soundtrack I thought I didn’t like. Every time, I was startled to see Dragon’s Dogma on the display. What I did learn from this experience is that some video game soundtracks, unlike Journey or World of Goo, maybe weren’t meant to be listened to straight through or with a lot of focus. This is one of those albums without a doubt. I can’t explain it, but most of the tracks are exceptional just standing on their own. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover some mastery behind Tadayoshi Makino’s music, which I initially chalked up to being generic fantasy. It is anything but.
My favorite tracks are some of the most simple with mostly piano-driven melodies. Take “Cassardis,” for example. This stunning track has a simple piano melody initially backed by a rather tribal sounding male vocalist, oddly reminiscent of some of Jack Wall‘s work on the Myst IV: Revelations soundtrack. The genius of it for me, are the small drumbeats that slowly populate the background. They sound like beads being dropped on hollow logs but with clear purpose and care.
Take “Beyond the Rift” next. Backed by piano, the main melodies are played by a somber clarinet with a simple bass undertone. Throw in some aquatic sounds and the sounds of chimes in the background, and you have a song that effectively immerses you in water. Actually, Inon Zur, not Tadayoshi Makino, composed this gorgeous track.
Moving on, my next favorite tracks feature effective marching drums. My tastes seem silly, I know, but I love a good marching drum. ”Verity,” which is the simplified set-up for the grandiose “Fateful Decision,” has a running marching beat rhythm behind intermittent strings, flittery piano melodies, and hushed vocals popping discreetly into the aural experience.
On the bright side of the spectrum, “Gran Soren,” features very Celtic instruments and rhythms with those lovely marching drums driving the experience. The whole of the song’s composition inspires visions of lush, green landscapes, and knights surmounting hills to view a kingdom before them. It’s a happy and adventurous tune that separates itself from the rest of the album.
Those are just some songs, but really, when you pick any random song out of the bunch, it sounds pretty remarkable. Maybe I’m kooky or just plain wrong, but I definitely suggest picking up the Dragon’s Dogma soundtrack and just listening to it in bursts. I will lodge one criticism in that I was, and still am, underwhelmed by the Rei Kondoh tracks. He composed my favorite songs from the Okami and Bayonetta soundtracks, but something fell flat here. Still, none of them are bad, and the whole of the album is just beaming with quality.
Gil is a video game enthusiast and professional meanderer. When he’s not giving people his unsolicited grammar corrections, he is out and about seeking exciting food and even more exciting single-player experiences. He’s got one of them Twitters (@gilmeansjoy) and a blog or something (fromthebacklog.blogspot.com).