If you haven’t heard of Kholat, I’m not surprised. I myself didn’t hear about it until just a couple weeks ago when I received word of it in a press email, but once I saw the trailer and read the game’s history, I was hooked. You see, the game has a setting that I’m well aware of based on a real event in the Russian mountains back in 1959, and even today, it remains a mystery as to what really happened to the nine people who died there.
In Kholat, players take the role of a man who has returned to the Dyatlov region 56 years after the mysterious deaths to gain an understanding of what really happened. Our protagonist is voiced by Sean Bean, and the game starts out with a dark, mysterious tone. The snowy town we come to as we exit the train at the game’s outset appears deserted, yet we know nothing about it (my guess was that it was a small logging town whose industry had dried up sometime after 1959, leaving it mostly abandoned, but we may never know). As we delve into the forests beyond the town, things start to get strange and surreal. Sometimes, you wonder if your character is delirious and imagining some of the things around him, but then things you cannot explain become very real threats to you. In fact, one of the things I love most about the game is its realism. Over exerting yourself in the excessively cold weather can lead to delirium and death. Falling through the ice on a frozen body of water can lead to death. Getting crushed in a sudden landslide? Death. You can even start succumbing to snow blindness if you aren’t careful and get lost in a blizzard. But there are other, more sinister threats out there as well.
The game is broken up into different acts, and from what I can tell so far, each act is a very large, open-world area for you to explore and unravel mysteries in. Navigation is done the old-fashioned way: all you have is a topographical map and a compass, and it’s up to you to use geographical landmarks and magnetic headings to figure out where you are at any given time. This was done in Miasmata, but I think it works even better here.