[Disclosure: A digital soundtrack for the game was provided for the contents of this interview]
The soundtrack for a game can sometimes define its historical value; games with awesome soundtracks stand in the arcades of legendary titles where you could listen to the music all day long, falling in love with every note and instrument. It's not easy finding your way into the hall of fame of video game music; but we've seen a strong trend lately from composers constantly pushing the barrier in quality and creativity when it comes to game soundtracks, and Sarah Schachner's score for Assassin's Creed Unity is right up there with the best of them.
Assassin's Creed Unity is set during the period of the French Revolution in the 18th century. For the score, Schachner – who previously worked with Brian Tyler on projects such as Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Far Cry 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (to name a few) – managed to tap into a unique mixture of Baroque-classical, synth and electronic themes to bring Unity to life. Gaming Blend had the opportunity to toss a few questions Schachner's way, and here's what she had to say about the creative process for one of the biggest multiplatform games of the year.
Gaming Blend: I was informed that Assassin's Creed Unity's score would be Baroque themed. My interest was instantly piqued because we don't often get to hear the harpsichord used in games. It's a rare treat. I was curious if you had originally planned to base the soundtrack around the Baroque-classical themes during that period or if it was something that was suggested by the creative design team?
Schachner: As soon as I found out it was the French Revolution, I knew it would musically fall within the early Classical period, but they wanted something more distinctive and French than just “classical.” Incorporating some of the Baroque flavors from the previous era worked well for parts of the game taking place at Versailles etc. I wrote a Baroque-inspired combat piece in my initial demo so it was something I was thinking about just by nature of the time period.
Gaming Blend: Were you a fan of the Baroque-classical genre before signing on to score Unity, and were there any specific Baroque artists that you used as inspiration or reference to help fill out the tone or musical style for the game?
Schachner: I grew up playing classical music as well as jazz and rock, so I've been a lifelong appreciator. I've always enjoyed counterpoint composition as well. Bach's Invention #15 in B Minor is one of my favorite pieces to play on the piano. In terms of instrumentation, Jordi Savall's works for viola da gamba inspired me to use a bowed dulcimer, which has a similar sound.
Gaming Blend: The tracks Dark Slayer (track 4) and A Seditious Act (track 9) feel as if there's some similitude to Batman in there. Dark Slayer also really reminded me a lot of Tron and Assassin's Creed II. Were you going for a mixture of those kind of sounds – based on the elements represented in those properties – or was that something that just kind of naturally happened given Assassin's Creed's tendency to fuse sci-fi and vigilantism?
Schachner: Yeah, actually for “Dark Slayer,” they wanted a little bit of that Batman vibe. It's a core fight suite for a certain part of the story that has darker undertones. You're also right about the overall sci-fi/vigilantism theme that carries across the whole series, although the assassins are generally a bit more subdued than super-heroes.