“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence” Albert Einstein
Released: June 2015
KHOLAT, by IMGN.PRO, is a survival-horror, walking simulator inspired by true events, the 1959 ‘Dyatlov Pass incident‘ in which a group of students died in unclear circumstances whilst trekking in the Ural mountains in the Soviet Union. It was released for PC and Mac on Steam and GOG in 2015 and later released for PS4 in 2016.
The game starts by providing the back story, this section has a minimalist, black and white sketched art style and is narrated by Sean Bean. It set the scene well and provided enough information without being too lengthy.
The style changes abruptly and the player is plummeted into a world of familiar Unreal Engine type realism. This section left me very confused as I was unable to interact with anything and although the area seemed relatively large, all paths led to one place. I eventually followed this final path to fall down a hole into a dense blizzard and stumble across a campsite, compass, map, and journal. This is where the gameplay starts which left me wondering the point of the unnecessary limbo in between intro and game, especially as it did not even provide any instruction or tutorial.
From this point, the player is in an open world environment and there continues to be very little direction. There are coordinates written on the map but nothing to mark the player location, they must use the compass and map whilst making note of their surroundings in order to navigate. Keeping track of location can be tricky when you are trying to flee enemies but fast travel to discovered campsites can act as a backup when totally lost!
The main objective of the game is to explore the area, collect information and avoid the ‘monsters’. It starts rather slowly and I was over an hour into the game before I encountered an enemy, at which point I died instantly simply because it was so unexpected. The enemies were fairly creepy and are for the most part easy enough to avoid, however, sprinting takes its toll very quickly and causes fatigue, hindering vision and movement speed. Nonetheless, the game saves at campsites and on discovering notes meaning that deaths are not too punishing. Unfortunately, I felt the notes were too sparse and vague and the amount of walking needed to discover or encounter anything was too high meaning the overall gameplay experience felt a bit unbalanced.
KHOLAT ‘s art style is nothing too spectacular but it’s grey palette and low lighting mean it suits the game well. The soundtrack was beautiful in places, especially during the ‘second intro section’ where we hear light piano music accompanied by a solo female voice, singing a wordless song, I found it eerie and melancholy and perfectly fitting. The sound effects were creepy at first and I originally thought they added to the atmosphere, however they were limited and got repetitive which detracted from their impact.
KHOLAT is based on some truly tragic but interesting events yet doesn’t utilise that and the narrative progresses very slowly. It’s art style and graphics are adequate and do help to build the atmosphere but were roughly implemented in places, not unlike the sound effects. The soundtrack is one of the game’s strongest features. The game is a turbulent ride with strong and weak aspects. The RRP is around £15.00 and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it at this price but if you can pick it up on sale it’s certainly worth a look!
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