I was left a little disappointed with The Final Station. Not because there were issues with the game, or it wasn’t very good, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s nothing short of amazing. I love The Final Station, I want more, I need more, there’s so many questions I still have. I want to explore the world more and learn more about the universe that the development team at Do My Best has created.
The core of the gameplay is split between two sections; those on the train and those on foot. The Final Station takes a number of cues from the survival genre; limited ammunition and supplies, the need to conserve resources in order to survive, and the fear of the unknown. The on–foot sections see the player searching for two things; the release code for the blocker to release the train and continue the journey, and more supplies in order to keep surviving. You see, every station is equipped with a blocker, devices that lock your train in place, whilst the person who was supposed to have your code at the station has disappeared. You must go and find the code before you can continue your journey.
Sounds easy enough, right? Well no, because there are also a multitude of creepy black silhouette zombie-like things that have a violent disposition towards you. Moving through the levels requires a bit of planning, and a bit of luck, as you can’t see what is in the room next to you unless the door is open, meaning you have to be prepared for anything, as each type of enemy requires a different strategy. The normal shambling silhouettes are slow and predictable, and fairly weak, a few shots or a few punches will put them down, but the quick ones require you to fill them with holes before they bite you.
The first few levels of combat in The Final Station start off quite simple with you being left to shoot/punch things until it stops moving. But the game quickly begins to mix and match different numbers and types of enemies, meaning that you have to think on your feet and plan your attack so you don’t end up wasting ammo you don’t have. Combining these enemies leads to new and interesting ways to fight and using exploding enemies to kill a large group is easy enough, except when there’s an armoured enemy in front of them that needs to be removed first.
Creepy monsters aside, ammo, food and health packs are severely limited and you must be sure to carefully use what’s available or risk ending up facing a room full of enemies with no ammo. Thankfully the checkpoint system is quite good and you’re also able to restart a whole level if it goes really badly. And sometimes you might need to.
The other side of the gameplay involves using the train to move form point to point. Your train, the Belus 07 is old and because of this, its systems often malfunction and need you to sort them out through various minigames. You also have to look after the survivors on the train. It is these passengers who will give you rewards if you manage to get them to their station alive. They do however need food – and medkits if they’re bleeding – in order to survive and can be a huge drain on your resources. You will often be faced between saving one survivor at the expense of another. With limited supplies, often I had to choose who I could save and who I had to let die.
The Final Station is quite unlike anything I’ve ever played. The developer’s attention to world building is something that has really raised the bar. At its core, The Final Station is a story about survival and hope, but it’s a little more complicated than that.
I won’t delve too deeply into the story because it’s something that really needs to be experienced, but basically it goes something like this…Almost 100 years have passed since a cataclysmic event nearly wiped out humanity, known only as the “visitation”. Humanity is spread far and wide across the country, and the only way to reliably get from point to point is via rail travel. There’s rumour that ‘The council’, a form of governing body is building a machine to save everyone. Known only as the ‘guardian’, it’s a last attempt to halt a second visitation form happening. From the starting point you, the protagonist, are a train operator, who is tasked with delivering passengers and cargo about the world. Very quickly things start to take a turn for the worst and a deeper mystery begins to emerge.
The story is not only really engaging and full of mystery, but a lot of it is pieced together by the player rather than being told to you. Listening to conversations in cities or listening to the passengers’ discussions on your train, as well as finding notes and messages help players to piece together parts of the story and the world, such as what is the visitation and where did it come from. This type of ‘show don’t tell’ story means players must act a detective to understand the rich and detailed world. There’s a much bigger picture full of characters you’ll never meet in person, as well as events that raise more questions than they answer.
This is though perhaps my biggest gripe with The Final Station. There’s so much story I want to know it all, but there’s plenty of opportunity to miss important parts of the story, especially in the train sections. Trying to juggle managing malfunctioning systems, listening to passengers’ discussions, keeping them fed and healthy, and looking at the beautiful vistas in the background where important things are happening, is just too much. I felt like I ended up missing something potentially important as I was running about doing something else.
Visually, and while pixel art is fairly common nowadays, The Final Station does a wonderful job of mixing a simple art style while still filling it with tons of detail. The vistas on the train and the environments at the stops are packed with little details that help to tell a story as much as the notes or conversations do. Sometimes clues or details can be as small as a pixel, but say so much in terms of the story.
Overall I love The Final Station. I wish there was more because running at about five hours long it’s not a massively long game. But I’m also very glad for the time I have spent with it. Working out parts of the story for myself have been engrossing, and parts of the story and the world have been left with me.
Now if you don’t mind I’m going to put on my tinfoil hat and try and work out the mysteries of some of the unanswered questions.