Want to immerse yourself in a glacial and mysterious survival game in the heart of the Urals? Well you better be ready for Kholat, a simple, beautiful, immersive, but frustrating adventure and repetitive game.
Based on the 1959 Dyatlov Pass incident, it tells the story of 9 hikers that were found dead in the Kholat Syakhl (meaning dead mountain in Russian), the rugged climate of the northern Ural, where investigation concluded that an “unknown compelling force” had brought their demise. And so you play the role of a a simple man that wants to investigate the story in the late 1950s, by climbing to those mountains, where rescuers found the last encampment of the deceased 9 hikers, an era when obviously no GPS or mobile phones excited and could guide you in this adventure… It’s a game where your only weapon will be your guts, wits, a torch, compass and a map.
Within the first hours of the game, there’s a sense that Kholat’s developers were influenced by Dear Esther with a dose of gameplay close to Slender. Apart from the First-Person Adventure aspect of the game, Kholat puts you in a constant feel of escaping from this “unknown compelling force”, which will not cease to seek you to after each of your major investigation clues.
In Kholat everything is cold, mountainous, ruined, and hostile. So yes, there are a few atypical places on the map, but it’s all bathed in this homogeneous aura and a little tiresome on the long run. The change of scenery takes place only once, when you leave the civilization to enter the mountains, at the very beginning of the game which is the only real graphical slap. After that, everything looks very similar, as we are alone in the Urals, helpless and threatened by an unknown force. All this is is ultimately the aim of the game: Get lost in a hostile environment to make our investigation even harder to gulp.
The tunes and sound effects also help set the mood in Kholat, but apart from a feeling of “factitious” freedom that works well in the first segments of the game, you quickly get used to the routine of the game: get lost, find pages of a newspapers, find your way with coordinates, check your map and compass, observing the playground, die couple of time and reload after each segment of the story. You will though for the occasion supported by Sean Bean (the actor that plays Ned Stark in Game of Thrones), who acts here as a narrator, and will help you realize that the whole story is open to interpretations.
Cut into zones connected with a fast travel system via camp fires (reminds me of the new Tomb Raider games), each section of the game is riddled with pages to be recovered as a sort of indirect requirement to continue on. You will be able to find these thanks to your own natural sense of direction and observation. The frustrating side of the adventure is that alternately within these phases of exploration, we sometimes encounter deadly traps and evil spirits whose sole purpose is to kill you quickly, by tracking you in a crazy manhunt.
Each of your death will be an instant game over, which is especially painful as you start again from your last discovery, and end up living in a trial by errors system. In my opinion, many of you players will leave the adventure at that time, as there’s no real explanation most of the time why you died, which can be really annoying.
Kholat was reviewed using an Xbox One downloadable code of the game provided by IMGN.PRO. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC via online stores. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• A game full of suspense
• Excellent level designs early in the game
• Sean Bean as a narrator
• Sound design
• Great mood
• The game can be frustrating at time
• A bit more of freedom would've been nice
• Why can't I jump?