Overview and Basic Game Play
You are plucked down in the middle of a deserted town center. The snow is whipping you in the face. A train track on your left, you are confused and wonder where to go. There are no signs of life and you are feeling the cold quickly remove signs of life out of you. You venture forth to the houses, there is no doors unlocked. You walk into the woods to find shelter and find a path instead. You follow the path to a tunnel of trees that then lead to a rock tunnel. You see weird glowing tracks on the ground but you still continue forward. Suddenly the ground breaks beneath you and you’re on the ground lying prone. You crawl until you black out. You wake up next to a tent. This, is where you adventure beings.
This is… KHOLAT.
KHOLAT is an adventure-survivor- horror game that plays off the real life mystery of the Dyatlov Pass incident where 9 skiers were found dead with some of them dying in mysterious ways. Some had simply died of hypothermia but there was one hiker who had her tongue ripped out and another who had internal injuries that were so severe they looked like they were in a high-speed automobile accident yet lacked any outsidward signs of physical trauma. Many people have tried to explain their deaths with hypothermia, infrasound-induced panic, military testing and even other worldly causes. This game focuses on this tragedy and puts You in charge of finding out what happened to these hikers.
The game starts with placing you down in a deserted town. One of the things I liked about the game is that you are given no clues, no instructions, no “invisible hand of God” to point you in the right direction, no map, no compass, not even a remote idea on where you should go. You just arrive and have to figure it out yourself. As you adventure forth you find that though you can explore a pretty open area, there is only but one place you can actually go towards. Any other directions funnel you into the right direction. This is nice because getting lost in a game like this could be annoying however it is a game play mechanic later on in the game. You do eventually come across the pathway you should take and you find a map and a compass. However, just like the start of the game, they don’t make it easy for you. There are no markers on the map to show were you are. There are no directions on where to go except a compass that is in Russian so, unless you speak Russian, Удача к вам, моему другу! As you go around you find log books that tell a bit of the story and to try to solve the mystery of the skiers deaths. There is minimal fighting in the game as this is more of an adventure/story telling kind of game over an action game but there are some and when you die, you start in a mysterious place and you have to figure out where you are.
KHOLAT does a fantastic job at setting the mood and the music in the game is some of the best ever produced and it will probably give you chills. This is appropriate as you will be trudging through snow for a few hours while you play. One of the problems is that the game is just that, only a few hours long. This seems like a game that could have used a little more fleshing out. You are led down a single story’s path and you’re not really allowed to explore the numerous other hypothesizes that others have put forth. The most disappointing part, is the ending. Like I said this is a story that is told and you are following the path to the story as sort of an interactive movie but then you get to the conclusion and… nothing. What I consider to be one of the most disappointing endings since Mass Effect 3. There is hours of build up but then just, flatness.
This is something that, for me, makes or breaks a game sometimes and in this instance, it completely broke the game. The build up of the tension, the atmosphere, the music are all fantastic and fitting and even the story, though a bit weakish and narrow in the course of it, still holds up. All of that is lost on the disappointment you feel when you realize you get about a 3 second ending and then, Main Menu. For that reason, I have to say give this game a pass. The ending, is reflected in the story score.