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Battle to the OST Death: Morrowind vs. Oblivion

posted on July 6th, 2007 by matt

I’m not gonna lie. I love listening to video game music. It’s my favorite genre of music, and it takes a long time for me to switch off and listen to anything else. I have amassed a huge collection of video game OST’s over the years, which I may or may not be proud of. It’s hard to tell.

For this week, I’ve put a lot of time into the Elder Scrolls series, most notably Morrowind and Oblivion, and I thought it would be nice to give my impressions on the two OST’s.

I first started with Morrowind, as it is the third installment of the Elder Scrolls series, first released on the original Xbox. Both soundtracks are based in the classical genre, much like what you would hear from the Lord of the Rings movies. But Morrowind is much softer with its notes. There aren’t many times in the OST where it makes your heart start to race, like what the Halo theme or the Pirates of the Caribbean theme does to you. The only song to really do that was the opening theme, which is never really heard when actually playing the game.

Everything is so soft with Morrowind, especially with its Explore themes. Every note that proceeds the last is only slightly higher or louder. It never catches you off guard, but it varies enough where it’s not just nature sounds or something. It’s definitely an album where you can put the whole CD on repeat and fall asleep to.

Another aspect of it is that it tends to stress the fact that you’re alone in the world of Tamriel, which is in contrast to what Oblivion’s OST portrays (which I’ll get to in a sec). With many of the songs I imagined my virtual avatar traversing a snow-covered mountain range by himself, only to be caught off guard by the land’s beauty. And then, when one of the battle themes kicks in (with Battle theme 4 as my favorite), I see my plucky young hero doing battle with a ferocious bear, ready to eat my innards.

The soundtrack seemed to be generally liked within the gaming community, but wasn’t appreciated within Bethesda itself, as it didn’t connect with the gameplay too well. Which I can see, but listening and playing are two different things, and I enjoy listening to Morrowind’s OST so much that it’s one of my favorites.

As for Oblivion, it’s a mixed bag with me. The music you get is really good, but it’s not that unique. It feels like I’ve come across this kind of music in the theaters already, with movies like Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings. It’s damn good, and worthy of a listen, but there’s nothing defining it as Oblivion’s OST.

There are some good songs, like “Reign of the Septims”, and “Auriel’s Ascension”, but for the most part, I found myself going back to Morrowind. If I was playing Oblivion, which I’m sad to say I never have, I would absolutely love the game. It sounds epic, and there were many moments where I started to care about the world, especially in “Auriel’s Ascension”. While Morrowind made me feel alone, Oblivion conveys to me that you are but one man in a much larger world, where it lives and breathes by itself.

If I had to say which one is better, I’d probably tell you to go listen to them both first. They’re both amazing OST’s, and it’s gonna come down to personal preference. I like Morrowind a little more than Oblivion, but it’s not like I’m gonna turn into a raving fanboy and flip out about it.


  1. TrueTallus said on July 6, 2007:

    Did the same composer create both soundtracks? And why haven’t you tried Oblivion yet?!

  2. Matt said on July 6, 2007:

    Both OST’s were done by Jeremy Soule, interestingly. I guess they liked him enough to do Oblivion, even after Bethesda didn’t like Morrowind’s style. And yeah, I’m dying to play Oblivion. It’s definitely on my list of games that I need to get. It’s just that $60 price tag is a semi-high entry fee. I would like it to go down a little. I mean, it’s been out for over a year now. It’s gotta drop at some point.

  3. TrueTallus said on July 6, 2007:

    Fair enough. Does Microsoft have anything like a greatest hits series set up for the 360?

  4. Matt said on July 6, 2007:

    Yes they do, actually. Off the top of my head I know of Call of Duty 2, NFS Most Wanted, Kameo, and Fight Night are on it. I think Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter is on it, but that I’m not sure of. I guess Oblivion is selling healthy enough not to get a drop in price. Damn these good games for being so popular!

  5. TrueTallus said on July 6, 2007:

    I guess you can expect a “game of the year edition” right around the time fallout 3 comes out:P

  6. chris said on July 6, 2007:

    That’s where I recognized his name! Jeremy Soule did the music for Secret of Evermore. He does good stuff. I have a copy of Morrowind lying around, but a year after buying it I have still not played it. I’m very much afraid it will feel like a more bland Mount & Blade with magic. But if Soule did the music I just may give it another chance.

  7. Dave said on July 8, 2007:

    My only problem with Morrowind’s music was how little there was of it! For a game world like this, a twenty minute loop just wasn’t enough. Maybe Mr Soule was going for quality over quantity?

  8. alien said on March 20, 2008:

    I’ve played both and don’t think the Oblivion music is grabbing me as much while I play.. have not listened to the OST though.

    I loved the music in Morrowind long before getting OST. They *do* play the opening theme during exploration. Damn stirring.. While listening to OST, i realize how evocative it gets on its own (this might explain the strange sense of peril I might feel while crossing an otherwise non-nondescript ridge on the Bitter Coast, for instance).. Maybe this is the kind of thing Bethesda didn’t like?


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