Last week, I had been lucky enough to receive a press review copy of the upcoming survival horror game Kholat. As it turned out, I was double-lucky, because Kholat has so far been turning out to be a pretty awesome game. Here is my account on my first look at Kholat.
Platform: PC (copy provided)
Release date: June 9, 2015
As I mentioned earlier, Kholat is a survival-horror game, and it plays just like one. Instead of focusing on combat, this game has you focusing on simply staying alive. Because of this, the overall interactivity of Kholat is mostly limited to rummaging through your equipment and walking around.
Aside from simply staying alive, Kholat introduces some very interesting and impressively immersive exploration choices. Unlike most survival-horror games, you are traversing outside, through the snowy mountains of Russia. Kholat uses the unique opportunity provided by the landscape to give you an actual map and compass rather than the mini-map that I’m sure many gamers are used to by now. This means that if you want to prevent yourself from getting lost, you will have to pay attention to all of the different landmarks scattered throughout the world. This keeps the player engrossed in the world, but also provides a distinct fear of getting lost.
One of the keys aspects that Kholat is doing very well in is providing all sorts of different kinds of fear and terror, which fits the genre perfectly. Instead of being confined in the stereotypical mansion or sanitarium, you are alone in a vast, cold mountain. The atmosphere itself makes you paranoid about whether you will be able to find your warm campfire ever again, or whether you will be able to hide from the wolves that howl in the night. In games like Amnesia or Outlast, you expect some sort of monster, ghost, or maniac, because what else would prove a threat inside those otherwise comfortable walls. In Kholat, anything could happen.
Kholat’s story is based on real events revolving around a group of hikers in Russia that all died mysteriously. Kholat itself offers a supernatural explanation as a possibility, but what exactly that supernatural phenomenon is remains a mystery. The vehicle for much of the storytelling includes some narration in the beginning as well as the discovery of various journal entries.
Kholat features some of the cleanest, most beautiful graphics I’ve yet seen in a survival-horror game. More or less poor graphics are rather common in the genre, but this game looks about as good as most AAA titles. Granted, the scenery rarely changes from forested tundra, which is almost by default one of the more impressive-looking settings a game could have. Also, there are not very many characters or animals or anything to look at, so the scenery is pretty much all you’ve got. Still, that scenery is just so damned pretty.
Sound is such a huge part of this game, and I must say, it did not disappoint. All of the sound effects, voices, and music really blew me away.
Since most of the sound was used to provide the tense atmosphere, the music is fairly scarce but amazing nonetheless. When you first jump into the actual game, a beautiful voice singing a sad-sounding song that I could not understand greets you immediately. Slow instrumental music plays every now and then as you explore the mountains as well.
Kholat is narrated by the much-beloved Sean Bean (famous, of course, for his portrayals of Boromir in Lord of the Rings and Ned Stark in Game of Thrones). His voice work was spot on, and he was not alone. As you explore Kholat, you will find many journal entries, some of which are fully voice-acted, and all of which sound very convincing.
Last but not least are the sound effects, which I believe are what truly brought Kholat together as a game. Throughout your exploration, you are continually bombarded by the cold sound of the frozen wind, which serves well to keep you feeling on-edge and, perhaps more importantly, alone. The omnipresent wind effects are often accompanied by the low howling sound that is fairly common in both horror games and horror movies. There have also been some moments where effects like an unearthly, horrific howling noise would play, only to be answered by a much more natural yet equally terrifying howling of a pack of wolves. All in all, the sound is what really makes Kholat feel like a horror game.
As a survival horror game, Kholat shows a lot of promise. The overall atmosphere of the game world that is this mountain is just perfectly heavy and tense. The sound quality is simply amazing and the graphics are surprisingly high-quality for a relatively unknown game of this genre. The gameplay is a little unconventional, which might turn some players off, especially those who are used to relying on an in-game mini-map or other conventional gameplay methods. I understood most of the “gameplay” to be more like a puzzle, in which you are supposed to figure out how to best navigate the world using some navigation techniques and landmarks. Overall, I’d say Kholat is a very solid game and is certainly worth looking into once it becomes available on Steam this Tuesday.
+ Great graphics
+ Intense atmosphere
+ Amazing sound quality
+ Unique navigation elements
– Limited gameplay
– Game world feels empty
– Starts off slow
Preview Score: 4 / 5