Kholat excels graphically, with it’s eerie environmental rendering of the Dyatlov Pass contributing much to the horror factor of the game. The game world is quite large as well which means at times you may find yourself wandering without a clear sense of where you are, but unlike our experiences with the Long Dark it’s not too difficult to get back on track. Walking is your primary form of movement and we emphasise what seems like the obvious because running is a luxury that is rarely afford and you will run out of breath rapidly. Depending on your own patience this can be a hinderance or be something you accept.
The game initially may wain on you before you start to appreciate what is happening or coming, which is a risk taken on purpose, because diligence is rewarded. Despite the vastness of the world, nothing is created within Kholat without purpose, though at times that is masked by the slowness of your movements and being led astray. This is why your most useful item is your compass which is paired with a map. Keep this duo in front of you as much as possible. Your only other comfort from isolation is having Sean Beans voice in your head.
Storywise is dependant on your interest in finding out actual information relating to the Dyatlov Pass incident and the mysterious deaths of nine hikers. In a way it’s used loosely as an environmental setting more so than a lore influence. There are extracts and notes relating to the actual incident so we can’t claim they haven’t tried something. You might not walk away with a clear understanding of everything that happened. The story is unravelled through notes and entries you find, which in the hopes of understanding more can feel like a scavenger hunt, though many notes are somewhat bland in the grand scheme of things.
Puzzles and atmosphere stand out, the latter especially which is key in any game that labels itself as a horror. While the realism element of walking is something we get, from the developers side it is still a game and a reduction to how prominent constant walking with little inbetween occurring, would have made things more bearable. It’s a hard game to review, because the environments are flawless when you omit any lagging, but at times loading is excruciating (almost as bad as Fallout New Vegas), but gaming experience itself is a mixed bag.
There’s various methods of dying within this game, some forced upon you by the monstrous enemies and some that could result purely in clumsy footing. Yes we fell off a cliff once. Dying is possible, but it’s not a frequent worry as the game doesn’t rely on physical objects representing death, but on the nature and atmosphere or your surroundings. What is more frustrating that being killed is where you resume, depending on your last save. Thankfully, finding tents scattered across the map, opens up a fast travel ability which is very useful and detracts a little bit of grief. While the game starts off offering very little in the way of interaction and life, it still is not without it’s merits.
As it stands Khalot has all the makings of a very atmospheric horror game but it requires a more engaging story and reduction to time spent not doing anything to really stand out.