by Robert Thomas
reviewed on PC
A Beautiful, Yet Haunting Experience
The open and beautiful mountain system creates a very new and refreshing horror experience. Claustrophobic buildings and caves are few and far between; instead, you'll be hiking by the moonlight, while snow storms rage and dissipate around you. Although the environment is beautiful, it begins blend together after some time with the game, helping you to get lost in the complexity and similitude of the area. All of these things work together to create an uneasy and startling environment.
There is minimal instrumental accompaniment in the world of Kholat. Instead, ambient noises create their own orchestra. Wind echoes against the stone, creating harsh whispers, driving your paranoia. A bizarre cacophony of natural noises seem to personify the mountain into a being that attempts to warn you of the lurking danger. Though very natural, the environmental sounds cease at different points in the game, creating restlessness as you move through the eerie silence. Silence will be broken either by harsh strings indicating danger, or the chilling voice of the narrator.
Sean Bean's work as the narrator of the story is amazing, alongside excellent writing. Bean's voice-over gives insight into a terrifying character, as he seemingly stalks the player, delivering lines that only he could do justice. Other voice actors do an amazing job as well, with each gathered note being read aloud, hauntingly, by the writer. You get to understand other characters as they begin to succumb to the madness of Kholat Syakhl, their calm demeanor becoming disconnected babbling over time.
Missteps on the Path
Kholat's brilliant mood and tone are a bit undermined by the lack of interaction for the player. You'll spend almost the entire game walking, running or reading your map. While this non-involvement does help to create vulnerability, it also can become tedious. On my first play through, I was enamored with the world, never encountering any boredom with the walking. When I found out there was another ending if you collect all of the unmarked notes, I decided to go through the game again. The second time around, Kholat became very dry and I couldn't bring myself to finishing it again. Despite that, my first expedition through Kholat was truly magnificent.
A Great Example of Horror
Subtlety is often forgotten in horror games, jump scaring players into oblivion, but Kholat knows how to build a mood. Kholat understands tone and uses so many elements to create suspense; consequently, the few scares in Kholat become meaningful and create an exhilarating experience. Kholat knows what horror game should do, when it should do it, and how. If you love horror games, Kholat is one game that will give you a delectably terrifying experience.
Navigating the mountain can be difficult, like it should be. Great voice acting, visuals, and sounds all work together to create a suspenseful tone.
Uninvolved gameplay makes subsequent playthroughs tedious.