From left to right: Aldo Sampaio, Einar Selvik, Emi Horikawa and Simon Landry. Picture taken in February 2019 (pre-covid).
It’s hard to find a video game franchise where the music is more iconic than in Assassin’s Creed. In the 12 titles of this epic series, music is omnipresent and accompanies the player through their adventure. These soundtracks live even outside the narrative universe of the franchise and are more than frequently present in our players’ playlists. A series of concerts is also underway (although on pause since the pandemic) to revive the emotion of the game while combining it with the grandiose effect of a symphonic orchestra.
Behind this beautiful story of musical success are many talented actors who work tirelessly to push the limits of the saga’s musical environment. We met with Aldo Sampaio, music director, and Simon Landry, music supervisor, to discuss the process behind the monumental soundtrack of Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.
A collaborative effort
Creating music for video games is very different from creating music for series or movies. It is about conveying the right set of emotions in a range of possible and dynamic situations in the game. This exercise is quite different from composing music for films, where the process is more linear and chronological. It is important to ensure that the player feels that their experience has been reinforced by these music systems. According to Simon, one of the main challenges is to create epic music that will enhance the thrill of the game experience, but without overdoing it so that the player can still lose themselves in the universe. It should be noted that emotional attachment to music grows with use, as fans have time to enjoy the music through the many hours of play, hence its critical importance in enhancing the overall experience.
Aldo and Simon’s work begins at the game design stage. As soon as they receive the mandate, they discuss together to establish the purpose of the project and what the music should convey to the player. Once these discussions are complete, they work together to establish a list of potential composers who fit the established vision. At this stage, the music department reconnects with the brand team and the producers to ensure that the vision corresponds to the mandate and that the budget is sufficient to achieve it.
Two visions, one musical framework
The music for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla has been entrusted to two composers adored by fans: Jesper Kyd and Sarah Schachner. This experience is a first for the brand and has proved a success, as this collaboration has immediately produced an incredible result.
“Sarah and Jesper are distinctly different but have a natural and organic synergy that is key to the overall musical aesthetic of the game. Jesper brings out strong emotions and airy musicality. Sarah has a gift for orchestration. She has combined Nordic and Anglo-Saxon elements while blending the analog synthesizer elements that are so representative of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. ” – Aldo Sampaio
Authenticity is key
It is thanks to the partnership between BMG and Ubisoft Music and Aldo Sampaio’s interest in the group that Wardruna entered the production’s musical radar. Einar Selvik’s band really had that much sought-after Norse sound. After a few email exchanges, it was obvious that Einar was deeply rooted in the traditional Nordic music community and was one of the leading experts in the field. Aldo and Simon immediately accepted the invitation to attend a private concert of the band in Bergen, Norway. It was on this occasion that the collaboration on Assassin’s Creed’s project became official.
“At that point, I realized that having Sarah, Jesper and Einar on this game would be a powerful and special statement for the fans and would really mark Valhalla as one of the great soundtracks of the year. ” – Aldo Sampaio.
What can players expect on the musical side?
The few pieces that were made available in advance of the game’s release set the canvas on fire. This new soundtrack is eagerly awaited and won’t leave fans of the series indifferent. Simon comments with great enthusiasm that this is the soundtrack he is most proud of. “The level of creativity is amazing. Our themes are strong, to go with an extraordinary game. We took a risk and gave the work to two composers, but we were really a dream team. I think that this soundtrack will be a great talking point, and that it will find a certain continuity in the story of the series. »
For his part, Aldo says he is deeply proud of what has been achieved on Valhalla and looks forward to sharing all the breathtaking music with the world.
It’s an enormous amount of talents that are needed for the creation of a game of such an exceptional quality as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. When you will plunge into this ultimate Viking fantasy, give a thought to all the work behind the musical ambiance.
To listen to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s soundtrack, click here.