Assassin's Creed Symphonic Adventure 29th May 2024

The Assassins Creed Immersive Adventure was 3 hours of the most breath-taking cinematic and musical journey imaginable.

Assassin's Creed Symphonic Adventure 29th May 2024

Assassins Creed is a historical action-adventure video game series by Ubisoft that is inspired by history and a cult novel. Since its inception in 2007, the game has expanded to become a really successful, high-grossing media and games industry. The success of this industry doesn't come as a surprise, given the game's perfect balance between compelling storytelling and gripping adventure. As I sat back and enjoyed the show, I noticed how much I became immersed in what was happening on screen. One minute I was holding my breath, willing the protagonist to stay alive, and the next I was sighing as he 'kissed the girl' in her billowing historically accurate period dress on top of the deck of a 'pirates-of-the-Caribbean-esqe' ship.

Assassin's Creed started in 2007 and was set in 2012. The main character has to go back in time through the Animus device, which is a virtual reality machine that allows users to communicate and interact with their ancestors' memories via their genetic code. Their bodies lie in a capsule while their minds travel to the past. In the game, you find out about the lives of your ancestors by travelling back in time through the Animus, and you learn that their purpose was to overthrow the monarchy. Each franchise is like a new incarnation of the same character, just in a different country at a different time. For instance, Black Flag is about pirates on the high seas in the seventeenth century, whereas Valhalla is about the Vikings who hit Wessex about 700 AD and fought the Celts; Odyssey is set in the Sahara Desert in the middle ages when crusaders were around; Syndicate is set in Victorian England; Unity is about the French Revolution; and Rogue is set in the time of the massacre of the native American people.

The Southbank Centre's Royal Festival Hall was the perfect setting to get lost in; the choir up high to the left of the stage with its own dedicated conductor was fascinating. The big screen was above the orchestra and showed HD images from the video game, to which the orchestra played accompanying music. I found myself completely immersed in the synchronised audio-visual experience. It was not hard to suspend my disbelief, despite the sometimes slightly pixelated imagery. The franchise has been going since 2007, so there have been some advancements in media resolution since the story's inception.

In the game, you travel to different times and places, but the unifying factor is the main character, who is an assassin. Just as the assassin is always present, so is the bouzouki, a Greek form of guitar that has since been adopted in Ireland, making it apt to act as a unifying thread to tie together the plot, which, like the bouzouki, has roots that span across different countries across the ages. I would even go so far as to say that the bouzouki was the lead voice in the orchestra and was given important riffs and leitmotifs, which gave it a role that's similar to that of the that of the guitar, which gets to play the riffs that stick in our heads and touch our souls in rock music.

The orchestra boasted a large percussive section, which was all isolated behind a plastic screen along the far wall of the stage, which probably prevented the loud drum noise from bleed into the mics of other instruments, providing the backbone of many of the fast-paced and action-oriented scenes. At one point, I noticed that the timpani man switched to a Moroccan drum or small djembe for part of the piece, and there was someone on an Irish drum as well. There was also someone playing a cymbal. Each percussionist was clearly very versatile and didn't just have one instrument or role, like playing timpani or hitting a triangle on bar 8. Shakers were very useful for giving a sensation of forward momentum, and the drums were very good in any of the militant army scenes. 

During the interval, I had a quick chat with one of the producers, who said that the hardest part of making this production happen was recomposing it for the orchestra and making it fully synchronised to the footage. He said it differed from other projects he'd worked on in that it was narrative and fully synchronized. He said that the hours of footage took time and energy to edit to make them tell the story in a very precise manner. He said his favourite section of music was the Odyssey music, which had a great bouzouki section.

The instruments chosen in each different game really helped to inform how I felt about what I was seeing on the screen. The brass and woodwind sections were the perfect accompaniment for the scenes on the high seas in Black Flag, while the harp set the tone of pathos for the part when Mary, the love interest of the main character, died. In Assassins Creed II, the score sounded influenced by traditional Irish music, which somehow worked well with the scenes in London after a public execution. In Brotherhood, the harrowing sound of a tolling bell helped to immerse us in the onscreen scenes of a city under siege. This was a good choice because it could be seen as a diegetic or non-diegetic sound, depending on how you look at it. You might hear a bell as a tempo feature, or it could be a bell in a tower to alert the citizens of the citadel that they are under attack. The music from Odyssey, set in ancient Greece, had some wave noises and started off quite tranquil before taking a dark military turn later on when the timpani kicked in with war-like flourishes of brass. Valhalla opened with water slopping around the Viking boat. Later in the montage, the male vocals coupled with the drums and created a scene that sounded like a Viking rowing boat with a drum to keep the oars in time. In Revelations, which was about the plight of Mohicans in America, the Indian flutes really helped to set the scene and immerse you in that precise historical period because the flute is a key instrument for native American peoples. In Origins, the shakers sounded almost like an angry rattlesnake, which perfectly suited the setting of the Egyptian desert, and the horns were deployed to denote dramatic action. I noticed that the game footage took me to that particular time in history and made me feel as though I was really there in the same way that I might feel when watching a period drama or a western movie. Despite never having played it myself, I could see how it could serve a dual purpose of making you think about historical events and get lost as you would when watching a period drama while also giving you that action-packed adventure buzz that I assume playing an action RPG game would give players. At the end of the night, two of the composers took to the stage to say a few words. They gave their compliments to the bouzouki player and then told a brief anecdote about the story behind one of the tracks from the soundtrack called ''Pirates, Thugs, and Bandits'. They said that it just came from them jamming over some beats with bouzouki bass and some other Greek instruments. One line that really stood out from the Revelations was ''we must live with our consequences, whether glorious or tragic.'' This is clearly a game that has a lot of spirit and significance, which has given it enduring, timeless appeal. The soundtrack is nothing short of a masterpiece. 

Header Image Credit: youtube

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