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Sean Bean's Winter Vacation: Brief Thoughts On Kholat

In Kholat [official site], every day is a snow day. I’ve spent a couple of hours wandering around in the game’s open world and I’ve mostly been looking at drifts, flurries and heaps of the white stuff. Occasionally celebrity narrator Sean Bean says something, sounding weary even for a Yorkshireman, but he’s mostly been quiet since picking his way through the introduction (at one point the subtitles suggest “extraterrestrials” might be involved in the Dyatlov Pass Incident on which the game is based; Sean’s too practical-minded for that sort of nonsense so he goes with “wild animals” instead).

I’m supposed to be using my map and compass to find points of interest, referencing a list of coordinates, but I’m not sure that I care to go on. I’m snowblind.

Kholat has a few good ideas. I’m not particularly interested in the Dyatlov Pass story – presumably it’ll be ghosts/military experimentation/aliens wot did it – but I admired the lack of hand-holding as the game begins proper. I say “begins proper” because there’s a prologue in which you’re forced to walk a linear path by some abandoned buildings for no reason that I could discern.

Then you’re dropped in the middle of nowhere, with a tent, map, compass and flashlight. And that’s it. No tutorial, no instructions, just the voice of Bean uttering a cryptic comment every now and again.

Unfortunately, I’m finding the Unreal Engine 4 scenery bland rather than bleak. It’s a handsome game on occasion and there may well be variety further down the line, but I don’t feel compelled to squint at shapes in the snow for another couple of hours to see what comes next. There’s an inconsistency to exploration as well – some branches and rocks block my way like the waist-high walls of yore and in other places, I manage to force my way through objects of similar composition. Despite the apparent freedom to wander any which way, I find myself constricted and funnelled down similar paths far too often.

There was a glowing orange man at one point though. At least that’s what I think he was – he sent me back to a save point and was guarding a magical rock that contained an audio log.

If you’ve been enjoying Kholat, do share comments below. I bounced off its snowy landscape like Eddie The Eagle but more patient minds may endure.

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Adam Smith

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