Taking place in the Ural Mountains, Kholat sets the tone for an incredibly horrific situation of life, death, and the in-between. Developed and published by IMGN.PRO, you'll traverse the very real Dyatlov Pass and uncover the secret hidden within. The title's backstory is based on true events that occurred in 1959 involving a group of 9 skilled hikers. During the stormy and cold winter, the hikers would ultimately have a tragic and short-lived journey on the slope of Kholat Syakhl. Their bodies were discovered scattered among the woods, each bearing injuries so odd and unexplainable that investigators could only come to one conclusion… the hikers were killed by "a compelling unknown force." The case was closed but the stories have yet to conclude.
Similar to a walking simulator styled adventure or horror game, you'll progress throughout the snowy mountain side with little in the way of controls. You won't be partaking in combat scenarios and you won't be parkouring your way over environments. You walk, sprint, and investigate. The real problem though is the smoky demonic figure who gives chance and stalks you throughout the game. This is where it branches away from being just a typical walking simulator (besides the deep horror aspects); you will die if you are caught by the evil force, and you will also die if you take fall damage or fall into the various and randomly placed traps. Navigating through the blizzard and darkness is helped with the use of compass which will point in the direction you need to go, and a map that will show the greater area of the game. You'll also be able to pull out a flashlight for obvious purposes, but extremely helpful at times.
For the most part, you'll be able to freely explore the mountain-side, meaning you could be extremely successful in how quickly you find what you need to find, while alternatively, you could be back-tracking a few times. Later you'll unlock fast travel points to ease the discomfort of walking everywhere. The goal is to find the landmarks scattered around (each one holding a page to the overall story) until you have found them all and can complete its narration. There's required pages to find, as well as bonus ones that will tell more depth of events and mystery of the mountain. Locating them is helped by finding coordinates on the ground that will tell you exactly where landmarks are on the map. The meat of the game's action will take place at the landmarks, showing off the abstract presentations and wild ideas for the paranormal occurrences.
You'll find mostly changes to the structures or environments rather than things interacting with you as the character.The game is broken up into three different segments with little importance to break anything up since it all flows together and the majority of the gameplay is found in the middle chapter. You'll travel mostly in the outdoors but will occasionally come across wood cabins and cave systems. The beginning of the game takes place at a train station in a small town, where you then travel outward to the actual mountainside. While you'll see a few different parts of the map that stand out from one another, much of the core mechanics and appearances will remain the same throughout. The game as a whole was meant more to be exploration and adventure than it was meant to be horror, but the mixture of the two works pretty well here, offering a balanced and interesting setting, granted a few points of blandness.
Sound and Graphics
The game sells you the horror with its atmospheric sound effects and great musical soundtrack. The sound effects themselves sound good, but in the big scheme of things they lack immediate presence. You'll hear distant noises that at first creep you out and make you feel helpless, but in time you begin to learn that they won't be coming anywhere near you. I would have liked to hear more cracks and pops of the environment right next to me or behind me; things that would make you feel something is within attacking distance. The music provided most of the unsettling tones while playing with orchestra instruments and eerie pitches. A nice touch to all the audio is that the narration is performed by British actor Sean Bean, who does the job perfectly.
The graphics were more than acceptable for immersion but did have faults in regards to general performance. The environments are well built with a ton of attention to detail. The tree branches are beautifully covered in snow and the cabins you'll come across carry a strong presence to them as they display some form of safety and security (or even more to fear). The most standout thing to see, and perhaps the simplest, is the random tent and campfire setups near the paths. The shadowing of the fire set right in front of what you know is an abandoned tent is extremely chilling. Due to the abstract effects of the game, as you play, you'll see strange vision-like occurrences or drastic changes to the weather, all looking as you would expect but nothing that I felt grabbed me and made me feel overly supernatural about. All in total, though, the game delivers on true quality of sound and graphics with a few issues here and there.
My experience in Kholat was terrifying at times, and a little boring during others. The game delivers on a genuine and scary backstory but fails to make the gameplay anything impressionable. It is unique in its snowy mountain environments and has top quality attention to detail regarding graphics. There are occasional texture popping and small bugs through the gameplay that led to slight immersion breaks (nothing too dramatic). If you're looking for a horror game, this may fly under expectations, but if you are interested in an exploration adventure game with horror qualities on occasions, you'll find this to be an exceptional experience. A single playthrough can last roughly 4 hours, depending on thoroughness and luck finding everything. For the initial price, it may feel underwhelming, but on sale, it could make for a good time of adventuring and scares.
|+ Scary and real backstory||– Slow paced and slightly repetitive|
|+ Quality sound and graphics||– Technical issues|
|+ Interesting environment||– Priced a little high|