Welcome back everyone. Today we’re covering The Final Station, brought to us by Do My Best and tinyBuild, released at the end of August this year.
You play as a train operator in a world recovered from an enigmatic disaster known as “the visitation”, and now, as you take your train out on a supposedly routine run, it seems it’s come back for another round. As such, you are pressed into service for some vague mission that no one will elaborate on beyond “it’s important.”
The gameplay comes in two phases. In the first, you must manage the systems and passengers on the train. Control panels on different cars must be tended to, though only one needs to be managed for each leg of the journey. Passengers must be fed or they’ll start losing health. And you’ll want the passengers alive for the rewards granted for safely conveying them to their destinations, and for their chatter that helps provide more insight into the world while helping the time pass.
The second phase starts when you arrive at a station. Due to a previous accident, all trains are locked down upon arriving at a station, and you must disembark to retrieve the code for the blockers inhibiting your progress. You’ll also find more passengers, survivors of the ongoing disaster, as well as supplies to help you tend to them. While doing so, you must be prepared to face… well, we’re never really given a name for them. But they are there, and they want you dead. Some fights are sudden and unexpected, like when you open a door to see what’s on the other side. Other times, you’ll have a safe vantage point to view the mobs and try to plan a course of action and these sections feel more like puzzles than anything, as there will often be throwables such as explosive barrels placed nearby to even the odds. There’s a number of doors not related to the path to the blocker code, so you have to decide each time whether it’s worth the risk, as you could get the hordes mentioned prior, or you could get valuable supplies. Sometimes you’ll even get both. You are at least given the option to restart from a checkpoint or even the beginning of the current station if you felt you burned through too many resources, as using that last medkit may mean a passenger is left to bleed out on the train car floor.
The presentation does a fine job of immersing you in the world. The ambient sound keeps you in a state of constant uneasiness, which is exactly the right mindset to be in when any door could have a dozen of them sitting behind it. The sprites are decidedly low res, but the environments detailed enough to compensate for it. It’s another instance of “beautiful but bleak” that I’ve been running into with my review titles lately.
The story can be tricky to follow, as even after reading every note and talking to every NPC, I wasn’t completely sure what was going on. But I did enjoy what I was able to piece together, so I think the devs did a good job on that front. I will warn you that this is a depressing game, and as such you might want to follow it up with milk and cookies or pictures of kittens or something.
Complaints time: The story has a nice crescendo and finale, but the gameplay doesn’t match it. The last couple scraps are pretty much the same as all the ones that came before, such that if you were only taking your cues from that aspect you wouldn’t know the story was wrapping up until it was already over. I wasn’t expecting a boss fight or massive horde per se, but ending the gameplay itself with a whimper made me regret working so hard to save up on ammo and medkits. A couple of the fights also felt rather unfair, giving you a big group to tackle and only a few seconds notice to do so.
So that’s The Final Station. At $15 for what was, for me, a 5 hour game, it may not be for everyone. That said, I believe this is one of those games that should be experienced for its intriguing story and unusual mechanics. It’s available on Steam if you’re interested.