Author: Chris Wickham
The Barrens need little introduction for veteran Horde players. They span a large portion of central Kalimdor and the once vast savanna was populated by centaur clans, pockets of pesky quillboars, banal chat-chit, and somewhere, Mankirk's wife. Following the return of Deathwing and the destruction he wrought upon Azeroth, the Barrens were dissected by a searing river of lava known as The Great Divide, and the two halves have been named Northern and Southern Barrens respectively. The Northern Barrens has retained its infamous savanna habitat, with vast plains as far as the eye can see which are racked with treacherous windstorms. Water is scarce, shared between three small oases, and travellers face constant aggravation from the centaur and quillboar populations. The Crossroads remains one of the major Horde transport hubs of Kalimdor, while the Alliance continues to relentlessly assault the outpost.
The Barrens were once one vast region, one of the largest in Azeroth. After the Great Divide, it’s not unreasonable to assume that the two lands may have developed new musical identities. However, the music of both the north and southern regions after the cataclysm is still deeply embedded in its humble roots. The landscape is bleak, and this perfectly captured through solemn woodwind phrases, underpinned by suspenseful string pedals and foreboding brass pedals. Occasional interjections from insidious percussive rattles creates not only a sense of a primitive atmosphere but also danger.
The storied history of this great region is briefly explored by the use of beautiful pan flute phrases - this instrument is often associated with the representation of ancient civilisations and more basic ways of life. However, shades of the soundtrack from swampy locations such as Dustwallow Marsh are soon introduced. This is only fitting, since the gloomy marsh is one of the Barrens’ closest neighbours. Murky brass crescendos, sinister percussion and the cries of Orcish warriors quickly dominate the soundscape.
Later cues feature a lone trumpet occasionally rearing its head, distanced expertly from the rest of the ensemble to create the impression of a vast, desolate landscape. The menacing low brass and string combination that follows spirals downwards, creating an overwhelming sense of lost hope. The lone trumpet remerges, and the woodwind phrases that respond meander with little purpose, similar to how even the most experienced players can wander the empty landscape aimlessly for hours seeking their next quest.