I've generally enjoyed the often maligned "walking simulator" brand of narrative game; Soma, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Gone Home, these are all titles I've dug. These are games mostly devoid of action, where the focus is on wandering detailed environments, learning a story (often second hand by way of journals and audio logs) through observation, and just soaking in the atmosphere. Kholat, developed by Polish studio IMGN.PRO, sounded like something I'd be totally into: Stuck in a blizzard on top of a deadly mountain, players explore a hostile environment to find clues related to the Dyatlov Pass Incident of 1959, in which a group of Russian hikers mysteriously died.
Sean Bean reads the game's story, giving the experience a nice, foreboding narrative sound. The heavy snow effects are pretty, and give Kholat a truly imposing setting. With each winding passage and snowy hillside I got lost in, I felt immersed in an empty, hopeless world, my character shambling through this purgatory in the dark, alone, with only occasional flashes of light to puncture the desolation.
|Watch out for fog monsters|
|Bridges are some of the game's few decent landmarks|
When you're not dying and reloading, you're wandering the mountain in search of nine haunted sites. Your map contains coordinate for each, but finding these points is a chore, since the map isn't very accurate, it doesn't display your location, and the landscape looks pretty uniform throughout. The idea of navigating using landmarks and orienteering rather than a traditional gaming map is cool, but Kholat's world is so quickly repetitive that it's hard to get your bearings at all; it's not a game like The Witness, where map-free navigation is quite easy thanks to visually distinct regions of the world.
|You don't do a "man is the real monster" story by literally writing "man is the real monster" on screen.|
|Not the most readable text on a TV.|
|Compass having problems.|