Assassin’s Creed Soundtracks Are Missing Something

I think a musical theme is necessary for a great game soundtrack – a single tune that, when asked, any fan of the series can hum from memory. A theme that recurs throughout different scenes in one game, and even throughout different games. I’m playing through Assassin’s Creed 3 right now, and I’m still heartbroken that the series doesn’t have one of these themes.

To get an idea of what I’m talking about, take a look at the Halo series (1, 2, and 3; the core games that feature Master Chief). The recurring theme is clear:

Starting at 1:50:

(having not played Halo 4, I don’t know if the theme recurs – but I hope it does)

Usually the theme is hinted at in the beginning (for example, the loading/menu music in the first Halo game). Then the theme kicks in when it really wants to bring you back into the game. Halo puts it into epic scenes where there’s an intense moment of determination – moments where the fate of the world rests on your shoulders, and now you need to get it done. Again, I think the Halo series does it perfectly.

By contrast, Assassin’s Creed doesn’t seem to have a recurring theme; the closest I can get is this song, and it’s really just for the Italian Assassin’s Creeds (2 and Brotherhood).

In an interview at IGN about the first Assassin’s Creed, the albums’ composer Jesper Kyd explains that the themes he created focused more on location and actions; important locations have their own themes, and simple actions like approaching a target, running away from a target, and “investigating” by pickpocketing, eavesdropping, or interrogating targets. Each of these had unique themes and tons of effort put in, and I do appreciate that end result – I love having audio cues to let me know what the game thinks is going on. However, I still think the games are losing out.

To some extent, I understand why there isn’t really a main theme – something the above Halo games have that the Assassin’s Creed games don’t is a constant protagonist. They’re all Master Chief. You spend little enough time as Desmond for him to have his own theme, and the ancestor changes from Altair to Ezio to Hatham to Connor. Based on this, it would make sense that my idea of a recurring theme is in fact a character theme, and that’s why the Assassin’s Creed games can’t have just one. But still, having some strain of music or string of notes that can be changed for each ancestor, time period, and location but remain the same would be great. You could make it the Bloodline theme, or the Animus theme, or simply the Assassin theme, but I think not having one is a huge mistake. You’re missing out on one of the simplest ways to easily connect the games to each other, while at the same time acknowledging the games’ history and including the player.

  • Mitchings

    Assassin’s Creed II’s OST as well as its many sound cues for eg. are extremely atmospheric and make up a considerable part of the games identity. The AC series and particularly ACII are very much about atmosphere and the music creates much of it.

    Imo, it is one of the greatest videogame soundtracks there is.

    And I’d say the most recognisable cue in the music is an extremely simplistic progression in the D minor pentatonic scale which is the basis for much of the AC music: D – F – G – A

    • DireMuffin

      Don’t get me wrong – I still love the soundtracks. I just think that they are more a byproduct of the game than a thing on their own – that without the game, the soundtrack doesn’t have a lot.
      This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s pretty much the purpose of a soundtrack. I guess I just really like a soundtrack to have a bit of identity of its own that’s more identifiable than a scale.

  • Patrick Lindsey

    I’ll say they’re missing something – a half decent game to go along with.