Kholat is a survival horror game developed and published by Russian developer IMGN.PRO. The game is based off the Dyatlov Pass incident, a true event that involved nine student hikers that went missing in the Ural Mountains of Russia. During a hiking trip, the group set-up camp on the slopes of the mountain Kholat Syakhl and during the night something caused the group to rush out of their tents and into the bitter cold temperatures on the mountain. The group was said to be in a panic judging from their inadequate clothing for the conditions. All of them were killed by either the extreme temperature or physical trauma. The true story behind the mysterious events on the mountain still remain a mystery to this day.
In Kholat you play as a person that is retracing the steps of the nine hikers in order to solve the mystery of what happened to them. You literally don't know anything more than this and the game remains cryptic throughout the whole story as to what is going on. In Act I of the story, you start out as the protagonist ventures into the mountains then Act II begins and that is the majority of the rest of the game. Act III is basically just the ending.
Kholat is presented with some fantastic atmosphere. You really feel like you're up on a distant cold mountain with the blizzard and snow effects in place. The sound of distant wolves and wind blowing make the atmosphere even thicker as your venture throughout the mountain area. The only type of enemy that you will encounter are some invisible enemies that have a slight orange glow to them and leave behind orange footprints as they walk. The look of the enemy is much like what is described by some eyewitness hikers on the night of the true incident - they described "orange spheres" in the night sky. The developers of the game definitely did their homework on the Dyatlov Pass event and you get the feeling that you're experiencing the same horrors up on the mountain. Popular British actor Sean Bean serves as the narrator for the start of the game and you'll run across some interesting documents that are voiced as you read them. If you have the patience to find all the documents in the game, you'll get the true ending but if you don't find them all, you get a very unfulfilling ending.
One major problem with Kholat is the way the game literally throws you out into the cold armed only with a map and compass and makes you navigate through the area with only those items. You can't tell where you are on the map and there is no way to mark waypoints on the map. The compass that is given to you is Russian, so I had to look up how to use a Russian compass - basically red = north and black = south. You are given many coordinates to find on the map. Each time you head to one of the coordinates this will lead you to events that will allow you to progress through the game. During the events, you'll usually have to find some sort of document that confirms you have been to the area. Once you have been to each of the coordinates a marker will appear on your map to signify that you were there - it's pretty annoying to get a marker AFTER you found the coordinate rather than one that helps you find that area from the start. Once you've visited all the important areas marked on your map, you'll be treated to the ending of the game shortly afterwards.
The way the game only gives you a map and compass and doesn't help you out in any way led to me getting lost a bunch. Even once I knew how to navigate with the compass, I was getting lost constantly since the area is SO huge and it's very hard to tell what path you are taking a good bit of the time. Many of the important coordinates were honestly found on accident while trying to find another coordinate. The game should at least let players mark their destination so you don't have to constantly pull up the map and find it again. When you bring up the map, the cursor will start in the middle and you'll have to always zoom in and find an area once again.
The controls for Kholat are pretty simple. You have a button for ducking under obstacles, one button to pull up the map and compass at the same time, one button to pull up the compass alone and there is also a button for your flashlight. You'll be doing a BUNCH of running around to different areas in the game. You hold down on the left thumb stick while moving in order to run and you have to keep holding it to maintain your run. There is no way to toggle the run so that you only have to tap down on the button once while moving to run. Your character loses stamina and goes back to a simple walk after about twenty steps so you'll have to take breaks from running very often.
The enemies in the game don't pose much of a threat if you simply keep your distance from them. They make some super loud screeches once they find your character and if they grab you they will instantly kill you. You'll also die if you fall into a spike pit or fall too far from a cliff. The game is full of instant kills, but if you are careful, you won't have to worry about dying that often. The worst part about dying is that the game only saves after you pick up a document or after you fast travel between campsites so if it's been a while since you've done either one, you'll have a lot of progress to make up for when you respawn. The overall map that you explore has a very lifeless feel to it. You'll hear wolves but never run across any. The only type of enemy are the instant kill enemies that you'll run across every now and then.
Kholat is actually a decent survival horror if you're willing to play it just for the atmosphere alone and have the patience to put up with the bare bones navigation the game offers. It has some REALLY nice atmosphere for a survival horror and the voices in the game are done quite well also. I'd really like to see these developers try another survival horror in the future, but they need to give us some better navigation options next time. Getting lost constantly gets old really fast.
+ Immersive Atmosphere
+ Good overall sound
- Overall navigation is ridiculously hard
- The overall map has a lifeless feel to it
- Character's stamina is horribly low
- Lackluster ending
Final Rating: 65% - Kholat has some really good atmosphere, but to enjoy this game, you really have to have patience to see it through to the end.