Now I knew absolutely nothing about this game before I received a copy of it for review purposes, so I went into this completely unaware of what genre the game was. After playing the game for a number of hours and completing it…………… I’m still not totally sure of how to define it.
At the very beginning of Kholat, we are given the backstory via some images and narration by none other than Mr. Sean Bean. I should point out at this point that Kholat is based on the still unexplained Dyatlov Pass incident that happened in 1959. More can be read about it here…https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyatlov_Pass_incident
After the explanation you start at a train station that I suspect is at the bottom of the mountain, there are buildings and things that you can walk around but here is where I will give you a tip…….don’t bother trying to jump fences or enter the buildings, the station, and surrounding buildings are just eye candy, you can’t get in them and they serve no purpose. I spent a good 20 minutes discovering this and now if you play after reading this you won’t have to.
What you should do is follow the road that leads into the forest, eventually, you will fall through a hole and drop into whiteness, complete and utter whiteness. At this point, I thought the game had crashed or that I’d died and it was a really long reload sequence, but no…..after falling you have to walk for what seemed like an absolute age in the blinding whiteness. After a while you stumble upon a small tent and this is where the actual game begins.
Sean Bean pops up again and, as he does throughout the game, delivers his sometimes confusing dialogue. Then you can look around from your base camp and see the stunningly bleak landscape that makes up most of what you will experience. Kholat looks amazing, and along with the sound effects of driving wind and snow, and the quite beautiful and at times atmospheric soundtrack, you really get the feeling of being alone (mostly) and lost in the mountains.
In the tent where you begin, you are presented with the only things that the game give you to aid in your exploration. A map, a journal and a compass…that’s all you get. No weapons of any kind, no health packs or food, just a map and a compass. If (unlike me) you are familiar with how to use a compass, I imagine that it will be a useful tool in navigating your way through the cold, barren wilderness that is before you.
At this point in the game, you would think that you had some sort of idea what to do right ?? Nope, not a clue. The aforementioned map has coordinates listed down the left-hand side of it and if you move the compass across the map it gives you an idea of where to head for (sort of). Sean Bean pipes up again and through the flap of the tent, you can see an orange figure and rather creepily some orange footsteps that lead off into the snow. So, off I trotted into the snowy wilderness with only the sound of a gale force wind, the occasional mournful howl of a wolf and the always welcome orchestral soundtrack to keep me company in my solitude.
The first thing you really see that looks interesting is a circle of huge monolithic stones with a glowing orange crater in the centre……..let’s go take a look, what can possibly go wrong? As you approach the crater you hear the sound of paper flapping in the wind, in the middle is a rock and on that rock is a piece of paper ( now all we need are scissors and it’s a whole new ballgame). The sound of the flapping paper incidentally is a thing to listen out for at all times when you are exploring. It indicates the location of one of the many journal pages, articles or reports that are scattered around the mountain and they, in turn, tell you a little bit about the story. I don’t think that there is a set order to collect them and I haven’t found all of them yet but I’m hoping that when I have them all and I read them in order that I’ll have a clearer idea about what I’ve just experienced.
Anyway, I went off on a tangent there……crater, note, oh yeah….after you read the note all sorts of weird shenanigans occur. The small rocks start to defy gravity and then their bigger brothers the monoliths start to make a break for the sky before they all come crashing back down and an orange gassy cloud is revealed (you’ll grow to hate the orange cloud) . If, like me, you are stood in the crater then you will die. So it’s probably a good idea to move out of it when the rocks start their launch sequence, quite a way out of it in fact. If you are near to the crater when the orange cloud appears then you will meet the thing that caused many many heart rate rises, girly screams, and general pants poopiness throughout my experience. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you ‘The Anomaly’… I hate this thing.
Anywho, after you successfully avoid being killed by the falling orange cloud or the Anomaly you can then set off on the exploration of the mountain and try to work your way to the co-ordinates on the map. As I said earlier, there doesn’t seem to be a set order so you are pretty much left to stumble around wherever you feel like. Another thing to note is that although you have a map, there is no indication as to where you are on it visually when you look at it. No big ‘You are here’ indicator, no line to mark the passage of where you have been. Also, there is no ability to set a waypoint as there is in other games with maps. It’s just you and your trusty compass.
There is, however, a way to fast travel between the various camp fires that you discover and this did save time later on when I was trying to mop up the last few co-ordinates.
That’s the game really, explore…..run away from orange things……..walk around in the snow ALOT !!! Get hopelessly lost…..find the many pages and eventually visit all of the co-ordinates on the map. Scattered around the landscape you may come across co-ordinates written onto rocks (see below) and these indicate a place of interest where you can find one of the notes. Also, there are some weird sort of hieroglyphs here and there and they add to the confusion about what actually may have happened. Rocks shaped like skulls pop up in places and this also adds spookiness.
To wrap things up I will say that whilst Kholat may not appeal to a wide audience I believe that there is enough here to warrant a look. I really enjoyed playing it and the fact that there was no hand holding only made the experience better. The only thing I found sort of annoying was the loading screens everytime I died but there is a solution to that…….don’t die, also one of the achievements I believe.
So, a beautiful looking game that has an amazing soundtrack and is based on a still unexplained real life event. I will now do quite a bit of reading about The Dyatlov Pass Incident and try to see how good the game related to it.
8/10 from me.
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