Thursday, 24 October 2013

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Video Game Score Review

Hello again! Bryan Tyler has returned, once again, to the video game realm to bring us the score to one of the most anticipated games of the year, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. The game has you taking on the role of a pirate, Edward Kenway, and this gives a Tyler a huge amount of material to use to create something wonderful in the music sense! As someone who doesn't listen to many video game scores, I'm looking forward to listening to one of the best in the business.  I did manage to listen to his wonderful Far Cry 3 score, and this has me really excited! Let's jump in to this 1 hour and 43 minute long score!

We begin with Main Theme, which sounds very pirate like, as I much expected. Violins and percussion work very well with each other. It's a lot more calming yet treacherous sounding to begin with than I expected though. Tyler picks up the pace halfway through, and we get some wonderful percussion and strings! Main Theme has to be said to be one of my favourite cues of the year, in all honesty! It's intensity and adventurous feel really make it memorable! Pyrates Beware begins with a heavy reliance on the strings once again, to set a wonderful rhythm, which doesn't go down any paths you would instantaneously expect it to. The speed and beat is quite catchy and really envelops you quickly. Tyler makes every second of the 3:20 running time count, with some beautiful moments, and some hard hitting volume jumps! It's hard not to smile and tap your foot, everything sounding so infectious. The piece ends with a much slower pace, and an almost haunting feel, which sends us off well!

On The Horizon is much slower, and it's percussion is once again a pivotal part of the whole piece. It's not Zimmer intensity and power, but it comes at you with heaps of speed and purpose. Some of the sets that lie in this piece are absolutely brilliant, with an incredible amount of speed and furiousity. Controlled furiousity that is. Piano can be heard quite clearly towards the end, but we finish with some smooth violin, which sounds wonderful! The High Seas starts with speed and power, and a theme, something like out of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, hits us. It's a really fun piece, and it has you humming along a minute in. It reminds me of Italy, or some European country, before the percussion solo hits, and you have pure intensity and aggression for half a minute! The build up begins for a climax we never really get to witness, which is a disappointing way to end. Despite this, the piece as a whole is quite wonderful to listen to!

The Fortune Of Edward Kenway is a slower, haunting piece, to begin with at least. The feeling of anger is prominent throughout the piece, thanks to the heavy percussion, and low strings. The piece doesn't feel like it's going anywhere unfortunately, until the last 20 seconds or so. The ending leaves you wanting more, which must be a good sign. In This World Or The One Below starts, once again, slower and haunting. The rhythm to begin with is absolutely beautiful, and luckily continues playing for another minute or so. We return to an action kind of pace, and we again start a build up to a climax which finally delivers, with one of the most memorable sets of the past few months! And we fall back down and end the piece on a lower volume. Under The Black Flag starts with a synth-sounding note, which builds up for a short period, before erupting into a carefully composed percussion set, which forms the background riff for the next few sets after. The timing sounds so unpredictable, which is an obvious positive! The final minute alone seals the deal, and sounds so intense and chirpy, I can't help but bump my head along!

The Ends Of The Earth starts with some guitar and delivers a wonderful build up kind of rhythm and beat, and feels almost like a heavy metal song when the whole piece comes together at the half minute mark. It's slightly emotional, if I might add. But the final minute... Oh my god! It's possibly the best final minute of any piece all year! It's so beautiful, whilst delivering a little grunt and power. One word, wow! Stealing A Brig has an almost plotting sound to it. It's slow, for a while, before picking up and delivering some fast paced beats which take you by surprise! It's a little short, in my opinion, but it does suit this kind of piece.  Fare Thee Well has a raspy edge to begin with, and has a wonderful string riff in the background. I'd say it is a cello, but I wouldn't have much idea, to be honest! Fare Thee Well is the longest piece so far, sitting at 5:18, which is long enough for this kind of fast paced and intense score. It's very slow, and has a powerful piano playing away. It loses it's almost emotional tone, and replaces it for an angry and calculating themed set. Tyler takes this on for a couple of minutes before taking on a quicker pace. He drops down once again, and a variety of foreign noises can be heard. This variety in pace and aggression suits this piece well, and it makes every second of the 5:18 running time interesting. It's never dull or repetitive, which makes for a good time!

The Buccaneers sounds like something from another score to begin with. Not necessarily one that follows pirates. Something like Game of Thrones. It has a really cutting sound to it, one that stays dangerous-sounding even whilst losing volume or speed. The piece has a stop and start feeling to it, which is slightly disappointing. It takes you out of each set and riff so easily. The piece has a delicate sound to it, like we're listening to or looking at treasure. Valuable treasure. The theme to this piece isn't nearly as memorable as others before itself, which disappoints me. Marked For Death returns to the quick and angry feel that previous pieces have had placed about. It's a little shorter than it's predecessor, and this works in it's favour. Tyler has always been better at creating short pieces that get straight to the point. The pieces sounds a little raw by the end, which is a good way to end. Last Goodbyes has a mysterious sound to it, and it takes on a soothing rhythm. The timing sounds a little off to myself, which takes me out of it all. The theme of the piece lasts about 10 seconds, and it's a little exciting and leaves more to be wanted. It ends a little too quickly for my liking, but it doesn't ruin the piece at all. Take What Is Ours! is a scheming piece, and it incorporates a lot of low tone to begin with to make this clear. The violins steal the show, once again, in a show of speed and skill. The piece's main rhythm sounds very adventurous and fun, and it really lightens your spirit! I'm actually reminded of the Lord Of The Rings for some odd reason. It's funny how a simple note or two can make you think about something which has no relevance to what I'm currently listening to. The piece ends with some ship docking noises, and they really do set the scene for the next piece. It was a nice touch from Tyler's part.

I'll Be With You takes the cake for the longest piece of the score so far, at 6:07. It sounds very European, once again, and I appreciate this. The piece stays slow and mischievous for a further 2 and a half minutes. An almost classical rhythm and beat emerge, and it sounds so smooth yet jarring. For the first time in a good while, the percussion pick up again, to great effect! The strings, once again start running the show, and move from a background riff to the center piece. The treacherous feel returns as the piece carries on. Tropical sounds can be heard all throughout the piece, which really transports me to this world the game takes place in. Lay Aboard Lads doesn't really reach the heights it sets you up for, at least for the first minute or so. Tyler doesn't try to push power and volume here, and it leaves you expecting and wanting more. The piece never goes above and beyond and sticks to it's basic rhythm the whole way through. It's basically the break piece, and it doesn't do much for me. A Pirates Life sounds a little more intense than our previous piece, and it's rhythm and beat are much more entertaining. It tries to reestablish the feeling of jeopardy that we had earlier in the score. It's 2:06 running time may not be the right length for this, unfortunately. It ends a little too slow and underwhelming, but it's not bad in any sense of the word.

Men Of War has a much more unpredictable and engrossing beat to it, and the strings do well to counter the raw strength the percussion contains. The piece then lifts and increases its speed, and brings back the great power we experienced earlier in the score. It's 3:01 is a fitting run time, and it allows the piece the reach the heights I think it requires. Order Of The Assassin starts with a jagged rhythm before the violins go into full blast mode and start doing some crazy shit! There is no other way to describe it, to be honest. Tyler knows how to use strings, and make them work. The piece has some really beautiful moments and fills it's 3:14 running time with some of the best riffs of the score so far. The ending is quite like a build up that falls a little flat, but sounds awesome! In The Midst starts with a soft and compelling rhythm, and it has a very smooth and soft feeling to begin with. It picks up the tempo and volume and guitars and strings start working their magic! The piece work up and down multiple times, before finishing with a raw and powerful set.

The British Empire starts with a variety of sounds, before settling down and delivering a really beautiful melody. It breaks it up with some wonderful sets. They're not exactly memorable, but they sound nice and calming. There isn't much to be said about this piece, unfortunately. Batten Down The Hatches starts us up with some power and danger, and it's well received by myself. Some fast paced strings really set the stage, and the final 25 seconds are all filled with some intense build up, before falling flat. Modernity sounds much more modern than a lot of the rest of the score, and reminds me of The Ends Of The Earth again, with it's simple but incredibly powerful melody. The percussion in this piece sounds more like a simple drum kit, and it has a very dangerous feel to it. A Merry Life And A Short One doesn't have much time to do much, yet still Tyler includes some nice and smooth sounds. There isn't much to comment on though here, which is disappointing. Queen Anne's Revenge has some noticeable brass here, something that I've felt has been missing the entire score! It really adds a lot to the piece, thankfully. The pace doesn't settle for a good 1:40 minutes, although I would've loved a little more speed, for another half a minute at least. The soft and... I'd say silky rhythms that follow are interesting enough to keep me involved. Some piano in the background keeps the feeling cautious in a sense. The tropical sounds return to great effect, before being completely drowned out by drums. The last 40 seconds of the piece don't really offer much, and my focus leaves the piece for a small period. Disappointing way to end the piece.

Confrontation starts and doesn't really offer us anything for a good half a minute. After this little area of disinterest, we get some simple yet effective riffs. At this point in the score, I'm finding it harder and harder to go from piece to piece, and this isn't helping, unfortunately. The final set stays strong, luckily. Prizes, Plunder And Adventure starts with an infectious beat, that grows quickly. It gives the feel of something like chase, and we don't get a time to calm down until around 50 seconds in. The piece then grows once again, with less grunt. It's got a good amount of variety, something that is incredibly vital in a very long score like this. Tyler doesn't overstay his welcome with this piece, keeping it to 2:15. Meet The Sage starts with a soft strum of a stringed instrument, before adding in vocals and some nice and soft drums. None of the instruments are trying to overpower each other. They're all working in good harmony. The piece loses the rhythm, settles down, before establishing itself again. It grows again, and our theme we are presented, 2:20 minutes in is very infectious and adventurous. The piece leaves us with a strong beat. The piece is well done, but lacks a little bit of heart or proper theme. It never sticks with a kind of feeling for a good while, and it feels slightly unsure of itself. It is well composed though, I'll give Tyler that.

Sticks on steel can be heard towards the beginning of Into The Jungle, a short and subtle piece. It hasn't much variety, and the instruments are starting to feel overused, at this stage. Onto our final 5 pieces, beginning with The Spanish Empire. It has a certain Spanish swing to it, and it's very well composed. Guitars are a vital part of this piece, and Tyler makes great use of them. Soft percussion plays in the background, and it really adds to the whole piece, which despite it's fair pace, is considerably effective and strong. This is the kind of piece Tyler was certainly looking forward to, as I think he was running out of original ideas for the basic pirate themes. The whole melody that he sets around 3/4 of the way through sound of danger, which is something he's been missing for a few pieces. The whole piece loses the Spanish feel for a small while in and around the 3:00 minute mark, but picks it up as it nears the end. The Islands Of The West Indies has a very threatening sound to it. The deep and heavy drums reinforce this ten fold. This piece doesn't offer much we haven't heard, except for a very haunting piano solo around 1:45 minutes in. A small amount of unwanted synth manages to creep it's way into the piece, which confuses and annoys me, all at the same time. This isn't the right score for synth, Tyler! The piece ends shortly after this. Quite an underwhelming piece, after all that we've gone through so far.

We're done to our final 3 pieces, with Ships Of Legends starting up. It's a little lazy to begin with, not offering much. But it picks up, and the beat hits quicker. Some of the notes feel like they're held a little too long, as we near the end. It sounds a little clumsy, to myself. The piece ends, and we move onto Secrets Of The Maya, which starts with nothing on offer. The first 1:00 of the piece is fairly dull and uninteresting. It picks up eventually, with heavier notes, and a proper melody. The piece loses most of it's small impact towards then end, and finishes with little notice. Life At Sea is our final piece, and at 3:14, Tyler has certainly not wanted to overindulge. The melody here is interesting, and fun to listen to, which is a big positive. Tyler has tried to make this piece stand with the rest of the score, and not sound like an ending, to my ears at least. It's not nearly as clumsy or dull as the previous few pieces, but it's certainly not a stand out. It's well composed, and for an ending, it's not bad, but I think I wanted a little more. I'll go back and listen to the Main Theme then!

Conclusion:
Brian Tyler has created something that is quite close to a masterpiece. If it wasn't for the final few pieces on the track list, I think I would have called this close to my favourite score of the year. It's energetic, fun and it fills you with a sense of adventure and danger that I don't think we've really heard from a score this year. This score is filled with what could be some of my favourite cues of the year, The Ends Of The Earth being a clear stand out. The score is a little drawn out, the 1 hour and 43 minutes being a little too much, and the pieces turns a little dull towards the end, but that doesn't mean this score should be discarded. It's well produced, composed and I'd find it unfair to compare it to any other pirate score that we've seen in recent years. This is a must listen to.

Highlights:
Main Theme*
Pyrates Beware*
In This World Or The One Below
The Ends Of The Earth*
Fare Thee Well
The Spanish Empire

Individual Score Pieces:
Main Theme-100*
Pyrates Beware-100*
On The Horizon-97
The High Seas-96
The Fortune Of Edward Kenway-90
In This World Or The One Below-99
Under The Black Flag-96
The Ends Of The Earth-100*
Stealing A Brig-89
Fare Thee Well-98
The Buccaneers-80
Marked For Death-84
Last Goodbyes-88
Take What Is Ours!-91
I'll Be With You-87
Lay Aboard Lads-76
A Pirates Life-79
Men Of War-94
Order Of The Assassin-97
In The Midst-92
The British Empire-86
Batten Down The Hatches-91
Modernity-96
A Merry Life And A Short One-71
Queen Anne's Revenge-90
Confrontation-83
Prizes, Plunder And Adventure-95
Meet The Sage-91
Into The Jungle-78
The Spanish Empire-98
The Islands Of The West Indies-72
Ships Of Legends-64
Secrets Of The Maya-67
Life At Sea-86

Junkie Score: 88.26

Want to see what I'm listening to? Follow me on Spotify at Callum Hofler!