Review – Kholat (Switch)

Let me tell you about the Dyatlov Pass Incident of 1959, in which a group of nine trekkers ,led by Igor Dyatlov were found dead under mysterious conditions at the eastern slope of Mount Kholat Syakhyl in Russia. Six of the trekkers died of hypothermia, whilst the others died of unknown causes, with injuries that have caused much investigation and speculation. Even today the full truth of these events are very much a mystery.

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There’s little to snow environmental variety.

Kholat takes takes place after these events. You play as someone following those explorers’ footsteps in order to discover the truth behind these events. Only once arriving at the Kholat camping site, you discover what truly happened and the horror that lingers. This is a very fascinating setup for a game. It takes this historical incident, some of the theories and mysteries surrounding it and then puts its own supernatural spin on top of that.

Unfortunately, the engaging premise couldn’t quite give us an equally engaging gameplay experience. The game is a simple walking simulator that gives you very little to no direction of where to go or what to do. As soon as you start the game, you are given no context of where you are supposed to go, and you could be walking around the starting town for a good 10 to 15 minutes. The town itself is just barren as well, nobody or nothing to interact with. It’s this static empty feeling that drags the whole experience down.

This drags on for the remaining two to three hours that Kholat lasts for. You start exploring this vast and empty world with nothing but a compass and a map. All you have to go on is a bunch of co-ordinates listed on the map, but navigating using it will often times feel awkward, as a path that you might need to follow can end up being a dead end. In the opening hours I found that simply walking in a straight line on a random direction would eventually lead me to some event to interact wiath. If you see something of some value it’s likely that an objective will be there.

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The Switch version lacks a level of visual polish.

Whilst the game is mostly a exploration title, there are some horror elements and these are really minute and weak. Occasionally you will encounter some ghost-like enemies that will kill you if they manage to touch you. It’s the most basic of horror mechanics, which add absolutely nothing to the overall experience, and they show up from out of nowhere.

The Switch version of this game is really subpar, even when you put into perspective the fact that we were already expecting some setbacks in comparison to the PC version. Visually, there’s a notable downgrade for a 2015 game with poor draw distance that can easily take you out of the experience. We’ve seen much more visually complex games like Witcher 3 and Hellblade arrive on the Switch with way less compromises than this one. Then there are also frame rate drops and long loading times. If you want to play Kholat, just play the PC version, which looks infinitely better, and probably costs a lot cheaper.

Kholat is narrated by one of my favourite actors, Sean Bean, and hearing his voice is a nice break from the boring exploration. He pops up every now and then to deliver some grim lines. In fact, this is one thing I think Kholat does very well. The sound design here is better than many other horror games. No music to distract you from the grim and atmospheric environment.

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Spooky…

The Dyatlov Pass Incident might have been a fascinating story that could have inspired a superb horror game if fallen into the right hands, but Kholat misses the mark. The boring gameplay, graphical downgrades, poor framerate and complete lack of “horror” resulted in an unsatisfying experience.

 

Graphics: 3.0

The Switch version looks really underwhelming. It’s a noticeable downgrade from the original PC version, with poor draw distance and framerate issues.

Gameplay: 5.0

Kholat is a pretty standard walking simulator with a very confusing navigating system, plus the aforementioned framerate hiccups.

Sound: 8.5

Having Sean Bean narrating your game is always a plus, and the general sound design is also really good here.

Fun Factor: 4.0

Despite an engaging premise based on real life events, and some good, albeit undercooked, gameplay ideas, nothing about Kholat is fun.

Final Verdict: 4.5

Kholat is available now on Switch, PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Kholat was provided by the publisher.