Lion’s Arch Lament

by Maclaine Diemer on 23rd June, 2014

Lion’s Arch is not an easy place to capture from a musical standpoint. Just when the city seems to have formed a clear identity, something comes along and messes things up. Fans of the original Guild Wars campaigns will know that Lion’s Arch was originally the capital of human kingdom of Kryta. The Elder Dragon Zhaitan changed all that when it awoke, raising Orr along with it and washing away the old city in a massive flood.

Lion’s Arch rose again, however, as a free city. As a trade hub open to all races of Tyria, Lion’s Arch took on a more cavalier spirit as a bustling port filled with pirates, smugglers, and other independent folks that had fallen through the cracks.

All seemed to be well until the arrival of Scarlet and her minions. The battle for Lion’s Arch destroyed the city yet again. She and her ship, the Breachmaker, descended upon the new Lion’s Arch, drilling deep into the ground in an attempt to disturb the ley line running beneath the city.

Can Lion’s Arch survive yet another cataclysm? It remains to be seen, but there’s hope.

Lion's Arch Lament - Ruins

As Season 1 of the Living World was coming to a close and I became aware of the fate of Lion’s Arch, I knew that there would need to be some new music to reflect what the city had been through. The music that has been playing there since the launch of Guild Wars 2 was a mix of the lively and melancholy. It made sense for the city at the time, but I felt it would be out of place if you were standing in the middle of smoldering ruins. After some reflection, I decided to write something that would tell the entire story of Lion’s Arch, uniting the old city with the new.

The piece starts off with a kind of fanfare, slow and mournful, setting the tone for the sad tale that’s about to be told. From there, an oboe gently plays out the melody from “Sands of Kryta,” a piece from Guild Wars Prophecies that is strongly associated with the original Lion’s Arch. In fact, savvy players may have noticed that if you explore under water in Lion’s Arch in Guild Wars 2, you will find the sunken ruins of the original city and “Sands of Kryta” will begin to play.

Old Lion's Arch Ruins

As the melody reaches its conclusion, the woodwinds settle on a dissonant chord, signifying the end of the old Lion’s Arch. The tempo slows, and a solo clarinet hints at the melody from “The Sea of Sorrows,” the theme of the rebuilt Lion’s Arch of Guild Wars 2. Before it completes the full melodic phrase, however, it changes abruptly to the first few notes of “Scarlet’s Theme,” heralding her arrival. The drums continue to pound, and the low brass drones away, representing the city being laid to waste in Scarlet’s wake. As the music swells up and down, a solo trumpet rings out over the top with a fragment of the primary Guild Wars theme, reminiscent of the traditional U.S. Military funeral piece “Taps.”

The music continues to pulse and build, repeating the new Lion’s Arch theme, stronger each time. Soon it reaches a triumphant swell as the full orchestra comes in. The low brass plays powerful chords, no longer so dark and ominous. The strings, woodwinds, and trumpets soar over the top with the main melody one last time. The sadness and doom left in Scarlet’s wake is no match for the will of the people of Lion’s Arch. The city has returned from the abyss once before, and we now know it has the strength to do so again.

The same fanfare that opened the piece comes back to close it, and yet now it is filled with a quiet strength. No matter the threat, what once was a great city will be so again.