By William Shelton
Release Date: August 30th, 2016
Systems: PC(Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Developer: Do My Best Games
Publisher: tinyBuild Games
Obtained By: Review Code Provided by Publisher
Trains are amazing things. The wide spread use of them helped build the US as we know it today, and they’re still in high use in places like Japan and…..Japan is the only one I know to he honest. So with that knowledge it’s kind of amazing more games don’t use them as a focal point. I mean honestly, how has no developer ripped off Snowpiercer yet? Getting back on track, The Final Station is a game where you play as a train conductor after the apocalypse. Is it full steam ahead or a total train wreck? All aboard and we’ll find out.
In The Final Station you play as a train conductor 106 years after an alien invasion. On this particular day it seems like the world might be facing another invasion, and you are tasked with taking important defense materials to where they are needed while also finding any survivors who may need help. While the games main story isn’t much to write home about, each station and survivor you find has their own story and I found those to be very entertaining. Unfortunately, the act of experiencing them could use some work. I remember once I had a group of survivors in the train argued about a conspiracy surrounding the First Visitation. I was enthused with the conversation, but I was only able to get bits and pieces of it as my attention was diverted and NPC conversations kept going even while I wasn’t able to pay attention to them. Because of this I didn’t really experiences a lot of these stories as fully as I wish I had. Not knowing how those two survivors worked out their conflicting feelings on the truth behind The First Visitation annoys me. And that’s not the only story I can say that about. The late game makes up for this a bit with a pretty great piece of environmental storytelling and an ending that is rather heart breaking. You could speed through the story like an express train through a vacant station, but I enjoyed taking the scenic route.
Gameplay is split between taking care of the train and it’s passengers and exploring towns and stations. The train sections are the low point, as most of what you do is some light puzzles making sure the different sections of the train aren’t drawing too much power. Not a bad idea for a core mechanic, but so little goes wrong at any one point that these sections feel like busy work. I was never rushing from one section of the train to another, instead I was casually strolling every now and again. Taking care of the passengers isn’t much better. You have to keep track of their health and hunger, but the ones who need it the most are almost never worth the effort. There were times I’d find myself wasting all my health packs on someone because they offered the best rewards only for them to die anyways due to reopening wounds. Or, maybe that was due to the fact that a train conductor was playing nurse. None of this is bad, I just wish it was expanded upon more. As it exists right now these sections feel more like they are there to give the player something to do between missions. But, with just a little more work they could have really added a lot to the core experience. For example, if too much went wrong and the player ignored it, what if the train broke down, forcing them into an impromptu mission to find replacement parts? What if as passengers died the others began to decide it was in their best interest to take their chances on their own? Minor additions like that would have helped the game greatly.
Combat and exploration fairs better however. Most of the places you stop are deserted and overrun with zombie like people infected by an alien virus. You have to go out and look for the code that disengages the locks on the train to get moving again, while also looking for supplies and survivors. I never found these sections to be hard, but they were enjoyably suspenseful. Rooms are blacked out until you open doors or windows, so you never know whats coming your way until it’s right there. And like in most survival horror games, health and ammo is always scarce and hard to find. Because of this, even when I knew I could shoot my way through an area I still moved with trepidation through each location.
The only complaint I have about these sections is that they don’t evolve enough throughout the course of the game. The scope of the towns and stations you explore increases, sure, but you’re doing the same thing each time. With this making up the bulk of the game play, some mechanics changes every now and again would have been appreciated. The enemy variety does help with this to an extent, but one or two big shakeups to the formula would still have gone a long way. As is, the combat still manages to impress, but playing for extended periods gets tedious.
The visuals and sound design never failed to impress however. Not only does the game look fantastic, but if you take the time too look at the back grounds there are some pretty damn gorgeous back drops. Add to that the sparse use of music and you get that classic survival horror feeling of isolation. Most of the games sound track is just your footsteps echoing on whatever surface you’re walking on until a fight breaks out. When music does come in its either disconcerting or somber, matching the games tone perfectly.
The game was tense when it needed to be and was engaging through out the four hours I spent with it. It may not scare the pants off of you like some other games and you may not find your self going back to it once it’s over, but I defiantly recommend giving this a look. The Final Station gave me a good few hours of tension and that’s all I wanted out of it. Some aspects of the game left me wanting more, but that’s only because what’s there was so good to begin with. It might be a bit of a bumpy ride at times, but this is still a train worth catching.