Desolation Plains is the latest project of Nikolas Wolf, who is also the one who brought us the sci-fi horror synthwave project Farcaster. With his latest project, Wolf has set his sights higher than just making a dungeon synth album. In fact, he has brought us an entirely interactive experience complete with a companion app for iPhone and Android.
Since this release is something of a two-fold experience, let's talk about the music first. Throughout the album, Sword of Hailstone, we get a beautiful menagerie of colder textures set in the perfect amount of reverb. Though this is a dungeon synth album, the opening track "A journey long, a path untrodden" suggests a dark ambient vibe that persists throughout. This is especially true with tracks such as "Traverse thick fog of the golden prairie" and "A solemn prayer as the ascent is made," both of which contain some thick pads accompanied by haunting melodies. The album does pick up a bit with "Pierce the flesh of my oppressor" which gives a definite build-up before the boss fight feeling. Overall, the album is a magnificent soundtrack to an old-school RPG.
Speaking of which, Wolf has been kind enough to provide us with the RPG that this album is the soundtrack for. As far as gameplay, it really reminds me of a cross between those DOS dungeon crawlers and Shadowgate for the original Nintendo. The artwork for the game is simply amazing and it is easy to see the profound amount of work that went into creating it. The level of difficulty also makes the game easy to pick up and play while being fairly forgiving. Yes, I died on my first run with it. But it was only because I hadn't figured out the trick to defeating Azemar the Unkind (I still haven't figured it out, but I'm determined). There are plenty of encounters and the battle system is strictly turn-based with what appears to be randomized item drops after each battle. Navigating is simple and consists of north, south, and intermediate directions among them (NE, SE, SW, NW).
In addition to a great album and highly entertaining mobile game, there is also the ability to get every track for the next album, Sword of Hailstone: False Prophecies, by unlocking them inside the game itself. It appears to work through the in-game pickups where the player picks up a certain item, then is able to redeem it for a Bandcamp code that gives you one of the tracks on the upcoming album. Wolf has stated that he will be giving out more information on this feature as well as other in-game unlockables. At any rate, if you decide you don't want to go through the trouble of unlocking each track in the game, then the next album is available for pre-order for... $666 USD.
Well played, sir. Well played.