Think of Kholat as Dear Esther on acid, but it smells of sweet delight. You walk, you explore, and you hear a few people talking about the story that they have throughout your journey. The difference is that the story is more straight forward and you’re part of it. The simple scary bits that are in DE is knocked up a few notches higher, making the environments and atmospheres rightly horrific, and to add to that the enemies becomes more visible as they get closer to you.
Kholat is a game inspired by a “true” event known as the Dyatlov Pass Incident. It’s narrated by Sean Bean and it was a pleasant hearing it, playing as the voice that guides you on the journey.
What struck me first upon launching the game to absorb the experience it had to offer is the soundtrack. The first track I listened to is one with the beautiful singing voice of Mary Elizabeth, and while it was an amazing track to have while figuring out what to do and where to explore in the level I was in, her voice isn’t found again after a second time throughout the game. Nonetheless, it did make the experience that much soothing when it appeared.
Alongside the soundtrack, the visuals of the game is beautifully white as the whole world you play in is in a snowy setting/theme. Moonlight covering the landscape and lighting your path, campfires and fire-sticks illuminating the area round them and highlighting points of interest. Even enemies, which glow of fire and blood to implement fear to the gamer can be even looked upon as a beautiful art-piece.
It took me about almost half way through the game to figure out the open world it threw me into. Before that I was mindlessly going through that world not knowing what to do aside from trying to find notes, leaving me lost and running around like a blind person trying to find a wall to hold on to. It was a worrisome experience and a little bit frustrating, but once I figured out how to explore and progress through the this snowy map, through this game, it was a joy.
Not knowing if it was intended or not, but the helpful notes that the game is trying to tell the player to help him/her know how to navigate through its world wasn’t good enough. So much so that it might get the player to leave the game momentary to see someone else playing through it in order to know what to do. But once known, the game makes you feel like you are an explorer, an adventurer who knows knowledge of navigation.
While progressing through the game, the scenery is at he same time both horrifyingly chilling and beautiful, and while venturing and progressing through the game you’ll encounter enemies that are invisible to you aside from their fiery footsteps, and slowly become visible as they fire-up the more they get close to you. They don’t see you, they just by chance get close to you, and once close enough, they’ll start chasing and attacking you.
It is scary, and it does send chills down my spine, but not to the extent of the horror-focused games as it did not ruin my experience to the extent of me quitting the game. They’re easily avoidable too, as you see them a few times and maybe dying once or twice from them, you’d just understand how they work and can easily pass them, but not easy enough that you’d ignore them.
Lastly, maybe I was in the wrong here for not reading every bit of the story that they had thrown into this world, but the ending of the game is unsatisfying for some reason. While I did understand with the twist that was presented, It wasn’t that clear to me enough or told correctly that it left me with no thought to it.
Kholat is a well-crafted game that sends an experience that has a soothing soundtrack mixed with a beautiful graphical art style, and a story that holds interest alongside good and engaging storytelling with an awe-inspiring moments. Although it is a shame that those moments are few and far between, wishing that the game creators would have had more of these crazy amazing moments.
It goes without saying, but if you like story focused games that gives you a beautiful, engaging experience, in a world that’s provided by the story with a hint of horror, and that focus is prioritized above gameplay, then this is one of those games that I’d recommend. Maybe a little bit lower than its default full price.
For more information about the game, check out its store page here.