game score

Soundtrack review: World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria (various artists – 2011)

wow_pandaria

“World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria” is the fourth expansion set for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft, following Cataclysm. With Deathwing’s menace ended, Warchief Garrosh Hellscream seized the opportunity to strike at the Alliance and expand the Horde’s territory on Kalimdor. His assault completely obliterated the human city of Theramore, causing world-wide violence between the factions to erupt anew. A destructive naval skirmish left Alliance and Horde forces washed ashore on the fog-shrouded island of Pandaria, which had appeared in the open sea, defying modern maps and charts. The score was written by Neal Acree, Russell Brower and Jeremy Soule.

Having heard a lot of “World of Warcraft” scores by now I shouldn’t be surprised by the warmth in the opening theme “Heart of Pandaria”; the elegant Oriental inserts and the beautiful flow of this cue just make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I am ready to take yet another journey in this complex world. Pandaria is an island inhabited mainly by a race of giant pandas (which were initially created for an April Fools’ joke) so the Chinese influences are woven in the fabric of the score. The optimistic and playful stride of a cue like “Why do we fight?” reminds me of Hans Zimmer’s scores for “Kung-Fu Panda”. I am quite the fan of Chinese influenced scores; I have an affinity for the Chinese instruments, the flutes and the strings and if they are used right like here I am a very happy game music fan. The beautiful and elegant cues make me want to visit that world while the candid emotion in the music makes me forget about the war at hand. “

The plucked strings and the water flowing in “Temple of the five dawns” reminds me of Tan Dun’s “Hero” score which I consider my favorite Chinese influenced composition. The flow of the score is so natural that I don’t mind a vocal theme like “The traveler’s path”; it fits right in there. I love the balance that the composers reached in the sound of this score: there are few variations but each cue is like a beautiful soaring poem that blends both action and emotion in a very rewarding way.

The journey of “Mists of Pandaria” is relaxing and reflective. There are enough moments when the music quiets down and makes me want to lay down and just enjoy the feelings it gives me. I feel a very intense presence of the nature in the music; there are no physical restraints while the spirit is fed with inspirational motifs that just fill me with positive energy.

“Mists of Pandaria” occupies a special place in “World of Warcraft”, just like the game. This was a beautiful score.

Cue rating: 92 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 55 / 82

Album excellence: 67%

Highlights:

Heart of Pandaria

Why Do We Fight?

The Wandering Isle

Temple of the Five Dawns

The Traveler’s Path

Way of the Monk

The August Celestials

The Path of the Huojin

Valley of the Four Winds

The Path of the Tushui

The Golden Lotus

Serpent Riders

 

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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