Review: The Final Station
There are enough games about the end of the world to paper a Victorian manor, so when I saw The Final Station I was initially skeptical. But, they introduced the concept of a train plowing through the post-apocalyptic world, and it reminded me of that awesome movie Snowpiercer. And it turns out that The Final Station did manage to offer a fresh take on the ‘end of the world’ concept. However, it also managed to offer a really boring take on trains, so it’s a mixed bag.
Let’s backtrack. The Final Station opens with an unnamed man moving through a building in 2D and encountering humanoid creatures that were all black. I guided this gentleman through a couple rooms before finally succumbing to my injuries after killing a dozen or so of the mysterious black creatures. After that, I woke up without a gun in a calm setting, and began exploring. It turns out that The Final Station isn’t post-apocalyptic per se: It’s much more post-cataclysmic. The world you live in is the one that survived a disastrous event that you don’t really learn that much about. However, life goes on, and people have managed to create a new life for themselves. You work as a train conductor, and you learn that under mysterious circumstances, all the other trains have stopped working, leaving you as the sole means of transport for a variety of survivors. You embark on a long journey.
At this stage, the game splits into two sections: Exploration sections and train sections. You’re given a series of little missions as one of the last surviving train drivers, and this takes you all over the map. When your train stops, most of the time you end up at abandoned outposts or camps where almost everyone has been killed off. You fight the black creatures, collect some resources, and eventually find a code that allows you to get back into your train. Throughout the process, you read little tidbits of paper and learn about the survivors and what their lives were like. You also learn about the catastrophic event and how humanity is trying to stop it from happening again.
In terms of the survival gameplay, it’s fairly vanilla. You move from room to room, manage your ammo carefully, and scavenge for supplies. One thing I liked was that, even though the game is a sidescroller, you don’t actually see what’s in a room until you open the door. However, for the most part, it’s either an empty room with some ammo or crafting supplies, or a room filled with black creatures that you need to carefully headshot to avoid wasting what scant ammo you do get throughout the game. There are only a handful of different types of black creature, and you eventually collect just three weapons. However, in traditional survival gameplay style, you stick with the pistol and save the rifle and shotgun for special occasions like they’re the good china. With instant respawn, the survival sections are thankfully never unfair, but they do tend to lack serious challenge.
The train sections are where the action grinds to a halt. You get on your train, and there are stretches where you do nothing. Sometimes one of the train’s parts will malfunction and you’ll need to repair it, sometimes you’ll need to feed or heal one of the survivors you’re transporting, but most of the time you’ll do a whole lot of nothing while waiting to get to your destination. You can check your destination and craft items, but that’s pretty much it. You do get a chance to speak with the survivors and learn more about the current events, but it’s actually really obnoxious because their voice bubbles appear slowly, and you often have to leave in the middle of their dialogue to go fix a train part if it’s malfunctioning. To be honest, I eventually got the sense that the train sections were basically padding.
As much as you learn, however, the game’s story unfolds ridiculously slowly. On some level this is cool because it gives an air of mystery and it pushes you to play on and figure out what’s going on, but on another level it’s just excessive. This is compounded by the fact that eventually, the game starts adding in strange events and even hallucinations, so the lines of reality become even more blurred. I was definitely intrigued, and the game managed to be immersive, but they overdo it at times.
The story usually advances when you stop at survivor outposts or military tasks, and complete one of your missions. At this stage, you also get paid for any survivors you’ve managed to keep alive. You explore, and see people living their lives. I would say one thing that I found remarkable about The Final Station was how much detail went into crafting this world. There are dozens of little stories you find when exploring, and the developers manage to make the world feel very substantial with clever use of pixel art. Some of them are surprisingly intense, and they actually stayed with me.
In terms of how it eventually ends, I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say that the game would have benefited tremendously from making the game tighter. I got to the final stages with a sort of exasperation, as the game had gotten pretty repetitive at that stage. While it was a fairly memorable story experience, I could never really shake the feeling that The Final Station was pretty shallow in terms of gameplay. There’s a lot of potential here, but as a survival title it doesn’t ramp the challenge enough to sink its teeth into you. If you like cryptic stories and slower gameplay, it’s a solid title, but if you get impatient easily, there are better ways to explore the post-apocalyptic world.
The Final Station was reviewed using a PC downloadable code of the game provided by Do My Best Games and tinyBuild Games. Game was tested on a PC running Windows 7 Pro, with a 4GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 970 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 8GB of RAM. The game is also availble on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 via digital releases. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published
• Post-apocalyptic world is really fleshed out
• Survival gameplay is fairly tense
• Survivor stories have good writing
• Train sections are really dull
• Gameplay gets repetitive
• Story gets too cryptic at times