By Andrew Skelton (Outfoxed)
I like trains. I like trains enough that in the sixth grade, I wrote a 17 page research paper on trains (three to five pages? HAH!). I also generally enjoy survival games, retro pixel graphics, side-scrollers, and resource management games. So when I learned about The Final Station from tinyBuild themselves, I was pretty stoked. This game had all those things! After a hands on demo at the last PAX South in January, my excitement grew. Now, of course, the game has been released, and tinyBuild was kind enough to provide us with a code to play the game. Were my dreams fulfilled? Did I have a game combining one love with a bunch of acceptable likes?
Because You Know They’re Running Late
The Final Station does not offer much in the way of a tutorial. The first time you play, you’re thrown into a demonstration stage which allows you to get used to the game. This level has several key components about it, such as NPC interaction, opening doors, reading/using objects, and how not to die horribly to hordes of shadowy creatures. Well, okay, it might not do that last one so well …
Controls for the game are super simple. E interacts with any interactable NPCs or objects. Left mouse is to fire your weapon, while right mouse executes a melee attack. TAB cycles through the weapons you have. Q allows you to use a medkit when you need a boost, and R reloads your weapon. Movement is naturally handled by the WASD keys. The mouse cursor also functions as your aim, and as a directional tool (useful if you need to backpedal but keep your eyes forward while shooting enemies).
Where the Pistons Keep On Churning
The gameplay of The Final Station is split into two different modes: exploration and travel. The primary function of exploring is to gather money, food, and medical supplies for your train. Of course, you’ll encounter opposition in the form of the infected. You can also find survivors along the way, and as a side-quest of sorts, take them on your train to deliver them to another destination on the tracks. Be prepared; the game does offer a decent challenge, though all of the situations are defeatable, even with no ammo, low health, and little chance.
The Final Station is also, of course, all about your character’s train. At first, there isn’t much to do, it seems. You can listen to your passengers banter and bicker, provide food and medkits to the hungry and sick, and repair various train functions to ensure the happiness of your guests. This is also, however, the most insidious mode as far as survival goes. See, getting a survivor to a station grants you rewards, like money and items. That’s the rub, though: you actually have to GET them to their desired location. Some passengers are easier than others since they’re healthy and fed. But then there are those who eat way more than the others, or who are busy bleeding all over your floors. Is the reward worth it? If no, well, you could let them die (you heartless monster). Of course, people don’t exactly like occupying the same space as a dead body …
For the Miles that They Go Down
Thankfully for you, the game features a simple crafting system for ammunition and medkits. You can’t craft food, you might ask? What does this look like, Star Trek? There are no replicators here! Throughout the game, you’ll also earn money, via finding it, or being granted it dropping off passengers. Money can be exchanged for goods and services (even if all you wanted was a peanut). You can purchase train upgrades, sure, but most likely you’ll be spending it on food, ammunition, and medkits, since they are vastly more important.
And She Won’t Be Coming Back
Set in a world where people have started recovering from an invasion over a century prior, The Final Station tells a story that is both hopeful and bleak at the same time. Your train engineer character pilots one of the few remaining trains, carrying with him cargo that’s supposed to protect mankind. It also sets its world quite well though the passengers, who will talk and argue with each other aboard the train, painting a picture of the world through the eyes of the commonfolk.
It would also be remiss of me not to talk about the soundtrack. The music is subtle, haunting, and airy. It fits the tone of the game perfectly without being obtrusive or obnoxious. The sound effects are simple, but get the job done. However, one amazing touch is the sound firearms make. While not completely accurate, they are significantly louder than anything in the game, and they have the added effect of drawing the infected to you if they’re nearby. Subtle things like that tend to make for a much more believable experience.
Final Verdict: Grood (3.5/5)
I really did enjoy Final Station, but there are some flaws to the game that need addressing. The first is the translation. I completely understand that English may not be the first language of the developers, and in that regard, the translation is actually quite amazing. There are some jarring elements from time to time, which I think is fair to indicate. Another not-quite-complaint-but-definitely-not-a-positive I have revolves around the cyclical nature of the game. For the most part, you explore every inch of the stop your train is docked at, fight or flee from infected, and then board your train to manage the passengers while you’re en route to your next exploration. Finally, combat is fairly simplistic. It definitely works for the game, but some might want a bit of a deeper experience.
For those cons, though, I did enjoy the game quite a bit. The narrative and story definitely provide you with copious amounts of intrigue. You’re almost immediately made to question whether you’re doing the right thing by helping the military, but you do it anyway, because it’s your job as an engineer to carry cargo. The music is haunting and lingering. Even the micromanaging of train repairs and passenger needs is oddly satisfying here. It may not do much to further the survival genre as a whole, but The Final Station is still quite a solid title, providing a fair chunk of gameplay — and trains, in case I didn’t mention that before.