Kholat is an adventure-horror game inspired by the true events known as The Dyatlov Pass Incident. In the winter of 1959, an excursion by nine skilled alpinists in the Ural Mountains ended tragically with all members of the expedition found scattered and dead on the slope of Kholat Syakhl - known to the indigenous people as “Mountain of the Dead.” Despite an extensive investigation, the cause of the tragedy remains a mystery, with the Soviet authorities concluding only that an “unknown compelling force” had caused the deaths. The Dyatlov Pass Incident has been the focus of books, T.V. shows, movies, and now an adventure-horror game.
The game is scheduled for release at the end of Q1 2015, and many of us here at JustAdventure are looking forward to playing it. Lukasz Kubiak, co-owner of developer IMGN.PRO was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about the game.
David Kim: Hi Lukasz, thanks for taking the time to talk about Kholat. To start, in a recent interview you described Kholat as a mix between survival horror and an atmospheric experience like Dear Esther. Can you provide some information on the gameplay in Kholat? For instance, will the player be able to interact with the environment? Will they have puzzles to solve and an inventory? Can the player die? Or will the game be predominantly about exploration and the narrative?
Lukasz Kubiak: Yes that's right. Kholat is mainly an atmospheric experience game with a mix of a horror. We need to remember that in the first place, our title is set in dangerous, yet very beautiful, scenery. So even if we took care of “unnatural” elements, we wanted to be sure that the player also will look out for a dangerous environment, not only for - let's call them - anomalies.
So cracking ice on the frozen lake? Falling rocks? Avalanches? Checked, checked, and checked. Also there are changing weather conditions. There could be beautiful sunny weather one moment and a full snowstorm with limited visibility in another. Not to mention the strong fog; when you see strong fog and some orange lights, you better run.
There are no typical puzzles to be solved in Kholat. The main challenge is to find the path itself. There are special locations on the map where players will need to go, and they will need to find a right way there. Sometimes it will be easy and players will need to look out for some minor dangers, but other times the way will be much more complicated, a little more labyrinth-like.
Because of all the above-mentioned dangers - yes, a player can die in the game.
David: The story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident has many equally improbable explanations. These include secret Soviet weapons experiments, an avalanche,aliens, a lightning storm, a yeti, and the official, very opaque explanation, an “unknown compelling force.” In your Steam Greenlight description you write that the player’s task is to “find out what really happened.” Is the game designed to explore each of these theories and will the game actually provide its own answer to what happened?
Lukasz: “Find out what really happened” - of course we will try to tackle that - in the world we envisioned. In our version there is an explanation, and there is a huge story behind it. It would not even be possible to tell it all at once. Maybe if the game is successful and players like it, one day we will come back to the world of Kholat with a different story.
And yes, in our game we were trying to at least mention all main theories of Dyatlov Pass. Sometimes it is shown as a report that the player will be able to read, sometimes it is a place where we are trying to suggest something,etc.
David: You recently announced that Sean Bean provides the voice acting for the game's lead narrator, which I must say is great. For those of you who don’t know, Sean Bean is the actor who played Ned Stark in HBO’s Game of Thrones, and Boromir in Lord of the Rings. Can you talk about what it was like working with Mr. Bean? Do you have any interesting anecdotes you can share from the experience?
Lukasz: Well, it was like a dream come true, actually; we are truly his fans. Sean Bean was very professional, he did a great job, his voice is just amazing. When you hear it you know it’s him. I think that he is the best in serious acting and there is a lot of serious acting in Kholat - so you can imagine the result. And after everything he came to us, we chatted a little bit, about Poland and our game and that was it!
David: You state that there will be four narrators in the game. At first glance it would seem that the game would require only one narrator. Can you talk about the roles for the different narrators, or is this something we’ll have to play the game to find out?
Lukasz: Well, I think that I can share some info with you. As already mentioned in our news, Sean Bean will take the part of the mysterious Anton. Player can try to dig into his personality and identity.
Tamaryn Payne will take a role of a young, female student, who is narrating the original Dyatlov trip through a journal notes.
Garry Martin is an unknown prisoner. I can’t tell anything more about him right now.
Lastly, Robbie Stevens will take the part of the investigator who was originally (in our version of the story, of course) responsible for solving Dyatlov Pass case.
David: Anticipation for Kholat has been rising with each new announcement. Can you narrow the window on when we can expect to see Kholat’s release beyond the stated Q1 2015?
Lukasz: We are doing everything that is possible to deliver the game at the end of Q1 2015. But Kholat is our first baby, and we want to be proud and responsible parents. Rushing things has never done any good to anything.
David: One last question I have to ask is, how did the decision to make a game based on the Dyatlov Pass Incident come about?
Lukasz: Well, at the beginning we decided that we would like to make a horror game. For a couple of weeks we were trying to find a great concept for it. At some point we just found the Dyatlov Pass Incident story, and it was like "wow - this...is...scary." So we decided that it would be perfect to make a game based on the motives of this incident. Of course the whole story in the game is created by us, and it is fiction because we can't tell for sure what happened there. But there is a lot of information about the Incident, and there is even a dedicated storyline, with narration focused just around the Dyatlov trip. So we hope that people will like it.
David: Is there anything else you’d like to add about the game?
David: Thank you for your time, Lukasz.
Platforms: Windows, Mac
Engine: Unreal Engine 4
Official Page: Kholat.com
Gameplay Trailer – Oct 28, 2014
KHOLAT “The Light is On” Trailer – Aug 18, 2014