*DISCLAIMER: ALL VIEWS IN THIS REVIEW ARE MY OWN AND DO NOT COME FROM THE COMPANY THAT HAS KINDLY PROVIDED THE GAME*
The Final Station is a game where you, "Travel by train through a dying world. Look after your passengers, keep your train operational, and make sure you can always reach the next station. Make your way through swarms of infected at each station. Explore mysterious and abandoned stations looking for supplies and survivors." - Steam Page
A complete surprise is how I would describe The Final Station. I hadn't heard of the game before receiving and went into the experience completely blind. I originally thought that the game was going to be a randomised, FTL style, train management game, but after playing through the introduction, I realised that it was instead a linear experience that I was thoroughly enjoying. The game was released on the 30th August 2016 and is currently sitting at Very Positive reviews on Steam; the game is also out for Mac, PS4 and Xbox One.
In the story, you play a train driver who is trying to complete his regular route until the military, force you to deliver cargo to try and stop an infection that is spreading. However, you can't just go from point A to point B. At each station, there are blockers which stop the train from going any further. To unlock the blockers, you must find the key code in the surrounding area; this means dangerous exploration. Whilst travelling, you must maintain your train's systems and keep your passengers alive long enough to get to the shelter.
This isn't the first time that this infection has occurred either. An event known as the "First Visitation" happened 106 years ago and resulted in exactly the same infections. These infections were caused by unknown capsules being dropped from the sky and releasing gas which slowly started to turn people. In present day however, the Council are trying to stop a second visitation by building the Guardian; an unknown machine created by the Blacksmith.
This story is executed flawlessly in my opinion and thoroughly exceeds in making the player engaged and immersed. With twists and turns, the story unfolds into a well-written and extremely enjoyable experience. However, though the introduction slowly builds up the tension by not telling you everything straight away, it can seem a bit slow. It took me 30 minutes to complete the introduction of this game and when the game is only 5-6 hours long, I think that it could have been done at a slightly quicker pace. I'm only really saying this, because I replayed the game 2.5 times to write this review and trying the rush through the introduction to get to the actual game was quite boring; speed running everything still took me 20 minutes.
Other than that, I would say the story is well directed and the use of small hints from the environment and NPCs to tell it, made the experience so much more engaging.
There are two main gameplay components in this game; the part inside the train, and the part outside the train. Both of these sections play completely differently to each other and though the sections inside the train can become quite tedious, the overall feel of both sections is exciting.
Whilst travelling between stations you have to maintain your train and keep your passengers alive. This is executed in a slightly tedious way, which could have been done a lot better if it was given a little more time to be worked on. To maintain your train, you must keep the power levels at a steady amount. To do this, you must perform small tasks to set the increasing power levels back to normal. However, the execution of this system isn't that good. You would think that it would be like FTL; where you have to run around your train to repair equipment and multi-task. However, every single section where you are on the train has only one malfunctioning piece of equipment so there is no running required. The task that you have to do is either a simple lever or a button. This means that you just stand there pushing a button or pulling a lever for the entire journey to the next station.
That is not the only part of the train mechanics though. Another essential part is keeping your passengers alive. This is done by keeping their two needs at a high level; the two needs being Health and Hunger. I believe that this system could also have been improved, because in the actual game there is only one type of food...."food". It is simply called "Food" and increases the hunger level by the same amount each time. I would have preferred it if there was different kinds of food which increased the hunger by different amounts. This would have allowed for the user to choose what kind of food to give each passenger. Some foods could also give the passengers negative buffs if the food was off. This however is not in the game and results in you simply picking up food or med-kits and healing or feeding the prisoner that needs it. This can be slightly tense though, because food is very scarce. This means that you have to decide which passenger best deserves the food and what they will reward you with if they get to the shelter alive. This puts a moral dilemma into the game as a good passenger might give you bad rewards and a awful passenger might give you good rewards. These choices in this section of the game create a tense experience as you are trying to manage everyone's hunger.
Whilst riding in the train, the passengers will speak to each other. This speech will deliver small hints to the story of the game. It also helps you find out what your passengers are like, so you can decide who to starve or kill...However, the text will only appear if you are in the same room as the passenger. This means that you might miss bits of information. Some may find this as an annoyance, but I personally think it's quite good, because you are not intended to hear the conversation. The conversation is not directed at you, this means alongside sorting everyone's health hunger and pushing or pulling that one button/lever, you need to keep an eye on what people are saying. This can be frustrating at times and you can miss stuff, but I think that is all part of the experience.
Finally, you have the menu on the train, on this you can pick up chats from co-workers that add bits to the story. You can also see a map of the line you are on and craft more ammo and med-kits. I never used this menu. I think it was pointless and would have preferred just a crafting bench and a phone for messages. All of the other stuff on that menu were not used and tended to just clutter the screen.
When you are actually outside of the train and looking for the passkey to unlock the blockers and proceed to your next station, you will come across a range of different enemies that have been infected. Some of these include:
- Walkers - The slow default enemy with dies in one headshot or 4 punches
- Crawlers - These are fast enemies that lunge when close and take 3 shots to put down
- Armored - Enemies that are armored and require a punch to knock of their helmet and then a headshot to finish them of.
- Pyro - These enemies are fast and explosion fueled, stay away from these.
- Brute - Strong walker which takes multiple headshots to take down.
- Jumpers - These enemies don't do much damage, but attach onto your face and distract you from the more brutal enemies.
I think that this is a good list of enemies; there aren't too many and there definitely aren't too few. The pace at which they are presented is good and the different techniques for killing them, makes the combat quite difficult.
For killing them you have a range of different weapons at your disposal:
- Pistol - Standard weapon that has a slow rate of fire
- Shotgun - Different ammo for these and more rare, but very brutal
- Machine Gun - Takes pistol ammo and has the same damage as pistols
- Melee - You can use any gun or your hands for melee attack
As you don't receive these weapons all at the same time, you are stuck with the pistol for a big portion of the game, receiving the shotgun in the middle and the machine gun right at the end. This means that you tend to forget about the other weapons and really just use your pistol and fists.
There is a serious lack of ammo in this game. Some may find this good, but when you are in a section that demands the use of weaponry, and you just used your last ammo on walkers, you are kind of screwed over. With the ever present demand for ammo and the user keeping close eye on it, you tend to just use your fists to fight. This becomes tedious pretty quickly at you tend to just run away and then hit, run away and then hit, etc. This is probably my only gripe with the outside sections, because the world is great to explore and the enemies are unique and require a very strategic plan when deciding to tackle a lot of them at once.
Shelters are mainly used for telling more of the story and stocking up on supplies. This can be a bit of an annoyance as some of these sections can take quite a while to complete and if you're like me, and want to get back to the action, you'll want these sections over and done with in the smallest amount of time.
Ending [POSSIBLE SPOILERS]:
The other reviews that I have read have seemed to hate the ending, they say that it was tacked onto the end without any thought and was a very lazy way to finish a great story. I however think it was a great way to finish. Your character needed a suitable character arc finish and certain questions had to be answered. The ended dealt with all of these problems in a relatively good and shocking way.
The graphical style of this game is a simple pixelated side-scroller with undiscovered locations covered up with grey. This is a nice clean look for the game and makes the experience very enjoyable.
The world in this game is brilliantly designed and thought out. At each station, you have a new environment with it's own challenges to face and the artistic direction of the surroundings is executed flawlessly. I particularly like the train sequences; when you are actually travelling on the train, objects that are closer to the camera than you are will pass in-front and after passing, the background will have changed and the passengers conversations will reflect what environment they are in. I thought that this was a wonderful addition.
The only negative which I would have to say is that the items that are around the world can be quite hard to find. This is because they are not highlighted until you are directly on top of them. Even with the specific item highlighted, it only creates a thin white border around that item; this can make it hard to spot either items with story elements, or essential items such as food or meds.
I thought that the quality of the script was great and that each of your passengers has a fleshed out narrative which would have been great to explore. I would to see DLC where you play as each of your passengers trying to survive, before the train driver found them. I think this would be a great addition to the game.
There is very little music in this game; what music there is, is very subtle and used very carefully. Though some may find this empty, I think it adds to the mood that this game is trying and succeeding to create. The sound effects are perfectly timed and not there to create obvious jump scares, and the weather effects create an eerie atmosphere that really put me on edge for one particular station.
This game IS a complete surprise. It is a relatively short linear experience, which lasts around 5-6 hours (100% completion with all achievements). The story is engaging and quite tense at times, and the execution of the sound effects excel in creating an eerie atmosphere. Though parts of the gameplay can be tedious at times, and the lack of food can lead to you wanting to restart the game, the combat is great with amazingly unique and different enemies to fight through. The art style is pleasant and in total, I would completely recommend this game to anyone wanting a deep linear story, with excellent gameplay mechanics. The price is a tad steep at £10.99, so some might want to wait for a sale, but I would definitely recommend this surprisingly brilliant game.
|Story||A surprisingly deep linear story with horror and management elements.||The introduction takes around 20-25 min to finish which can become boring.|
|Gameplay||The management is frustratingly good and the combat/enemies are fun.||Though the combat is fun, the lack of ammo means a lot of running and hitting.|
|Quality||The art style is unique and the world has good depth; great to explore; dangerous.||It can be hard to tell where items are unless you get close to them.|
|Music/Sound||The effects are frightening and excel in creating a tense environment.||There is no real music to the game, but the effects build up the tension well.|
Review by Sam Elliott
The Final Station is available now for PS4, Xbox One, PC and Mac for, £10.99. Thank you to Do My Best Games and tinyBuild Games for supplying the game and assets used in this review. Be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.