A video game is no longer a vain pastime where you sit in front of a screen killing green bugs. Today, video games provide an authentic experience that goes beyond what you can get from a good film and even get very, very close to the stimulation of reading a good, long novel.

The range of this new generation of video games is nothing short of boundless, but amongst them, one saga stands out from the pack: Assassin's Creed is an entrancing combination of plot, history, tourism and music.

Assassin's Creed fell into my hands by pure chance. I had just came back from a trip to Florence and after the resulting case of breathless Stendhal Syndrome, when I saw the game in the shop, I simply had to buy it. A video game which allows you to go all over Florence, Venice and even Rome in the Renaissance... What is this? When did the genius of the lamp grant my first desire? Suddenly, in front of me, I had a historic guide of these three cities, where each monument appeared in its correct location and, on top of it all, I could also visit them, enter the buildings and move around freely. Just two weeks after getting home from Florence, I was there again, strolling along the Ponte Vecchio, looking at the Palazzo della Signoria and staring at Brunelleschi's dome at Santa Maria dei Fiori from one of the many roofs of the city on the Arno.

After the first impact that left me open-mouthed at what I saw, I kept playing Assassin’s Creed and also became mesmerized by the experience: a plot led by the Borgias from which my family came off badly and called for revenge. I was also stunned at what I was hearing: this is the video game soundtrack that has thrilled me the most. What Danish composer Jesper Kyd achieves is to make the music into a central core that gives meaning to the whole experience. Kyd manages, through the soundtrack, to make it all feel true and in the end, the music is what takes you back in time to the Italian Renaissance. Where is the trap? It’s here: as a result of playing the game, you will feel the urge to travel to those cities that you played in and visited so often from your lounge, so you can relive the games in real life. And of course, you will want to stroll along the streets while you listen to each of those compositions that have so deeply penetrated your psyche. If you think I am exaggerating, you’re wrong: in the end, I’ve done it myself.

In the rest of the article, we’re going to discover the various pieces that make up the soundtrack of the game developed by Ubisoft, so that you can enjoy them while I explain what they inspired in me.

Florence tarantella is the welcome to the city. An original piece full of joy that invites to walk along the Vasarian Corridor, get lost among the Uffizi Gallery and – why not – keep walking towards the Basilica di Santa Croce to show respect to the magnificence bronze statue of Dante Alighieri.

Ezio' Family is the central theme of the saga, the leitmotif that contains the need for revenge against the Borgias by the main character. Its simplicity is shocking, like many timeless compositions, with only four notes and subsequent variations. Who needs more? The result is thousands of covers on YouTube and the presence of the same theme, in one way or another in the rest of the installments. It has become an anthem in the world of video games. An interesting thing: this theme is no more than a reworking of the very first work that Kyd presented to the creative team at Ubisoft in Montreal (the game’s authors), at the very beginning of the project. From the moment they hit the play button and Earth sounded, they were so convinced that they gave Kyd carte blanche for the rest of the composition.

Ezio & Caterina is a short piece that tells a love story that is equally brief. In this work, Kyd fully exploits the talented voice of soprano Melissa R. Kaplan. By the way, there’s an unusual story to the way artists were chosen, Madeline Bell, another soprano who takes part in the soundtrack, was discovered through an internet contest that was open to anyone: participants uploaded a video on YouTube to showcase their singing ability.

Dreams of Venice invites you to lose yourself among the streets of Venice at dawn. It is a very special moment as there is no other soul walking along the “city of water”. You can cross bridges, overcome canals, go along the Palazzo Ducale after roaming San Marco’s arcade or stare at the moon reflection on the lagoon, surrounded by that mist that usually covers the city in autumn.

City of Rome is so solemn and monumental that it could well have been used as funeral music for the Emperor Hadrian. The cello is the absolute star in this piece and is accompanied by synthesizers that act as a resonant chorus, producing a special sensation of greatness that becomes almost mystic if you visit the Pantheon while listening to it. Given such magnificence, it only remains to lose yourself in overwhelming admiration for the greatness of Rome or to lose your mind by counting the panels on the dome. One detail I’d like to highlight about this piece: the similarity of the sampler here to that in Clint Mansell’s Requiem for a Dream - Summer Overture.

Echoes of the Ancient Ruins is the most mystic of all: a simple piece sung in Latin. The ideal situation to enjoy it is a wander through the tiered seating of the Coliseum, being hit by the sun just when you are listening the climax of the composition, right in that moment in which you get to the arena and can imagine the shouting crowds looking at us from the stands. To reach nirvana, now just turn full circle on your feet, as you stand in the most imposing theatre ever built.

Welcome to Constantinople and Byzantium: There’s still one surprise left. The last expansion of Assassin’s Creed II takes us to sail around the Golden Horn and to cover the mystical city known today as Istanbul and, as the title reads, bids us welcome. Pay attention, on the second track, to the melodic and instrumental reminiscences of the previous City of Rome, a clear reference to Constantinople as heir of Rome’s legacy.

To finish, I would like to share with you a small treasure: a podcast in which YouTuber Looner talks to Jesper Kyd. It is a long and calm conversation in which Kyd speaks about his collaboration on the saga. It is a little known document which sheds light on Kyd’s working method and inspirations. It is very curious that the composer didn’t visit the cities in which Assassin’s Creed takes place at any point, in spite of the spectacular final outcome of the compositions.

Have a go and enter Assassin’s Creed universe, immerse yourself in this world of history, music and plot. We have talked about the part that takes place in the Italian Renaissance, but you can try other fascinating moments of history: the Crusades, the French Revolution, the Victorian London, the Caribbean pirates or the new instalment that will recreate the  Egypt of the Pharaohs.

Try it out. I am sure your perception of the video game world will change. Truly, I doubt that you usually converse with Da Vinci, hatch a plan with Macchiavelli or acquire a Botticelli for your Tuscany villa. Am I right?