By Tyler Trosper / February 23rd, 2017
|Title||The Final Station
|Developer||Do My Best|
|Release Date||August 30th, 2016|
|Genre||Action, Adventure, Indie|
As I maintained the train, the two soldiers kept silent, their mission a mystery. As I adjusted the ventilation, the train barreled through a tunnel. Darkness. On the other side the two soldiers were gone, their seats dripping with blood.
And that’s just one of the moments in The Final Station that truly terrified me. In the game you play as a silent train conductor. Not only do you have to maintain the functionality of your train, you also have to care for your passengers’ health. In between train voyages you have to gather supplies from zombie-like infested towns. Somebody got survival horror in my train simulator! Or did someone put a train simulator in my survival horror game?
As a survival horror game, The Final Station works very well. Ammo is limited, even when you factor in the ability to craft more on the train or buy them in the occasional populated city. A well timed head shot can take out some enemies in one go, but some enemies are either too fast or have armor you need to knock off with a melee attack first. Needless to say, I died a lot, even when I had plenty of ammo to spare.
Health packs are in decent quantities, but here’s the thing. Do you use a health pack on yourself or do you save it for your passengers? It was a moral dilemma that ran through my head every time my health got low. Can I make it back to the train with this much health left? Food, on the other hand, is only consumed by the passengers, but it would have been interesting to treat it the same way as health packs. There are item shops, but they are few and far between, leading you to earn a lot of money without much use (especially in the final chapter).
Though the game has retro 2D graphics, that doesn’t mean it isn’t scary. The world of The Final Station is a dying one, where a strange alien virus has mutated people into various zombies. The game is full of dark, somber colors. It runs similarly to a sidescroller, but you are unable to see what the next room or building contains until you open the door. The farther I went in the game, the more anxious I became when confronted with another door. Would I find supplies on the other end, a survivor to rescue, or a hoard of zombies?
The Final Station definitely gets the mood and mechanics of a survival horror game down, but what about as a train simulator? As the conductor, several aspects need to be monitored: ventilation, engine temperature, and any issues with sensitive cargo. Also, you receive messages from other conductors and survivors throughout your journey. And let’s not forget the passengers as well, which I can freely admit sometimes engrossed me with their conversations to the point where I didn’t notice someone was dying. Upon finishing a chapter of the game, you are rewarded for keeping your passengers alive, and some are worth more money and items than others.
It can be pretty nerve-wracking to balance train repairs, caring for your passengers, and occasionally getting new messages to check. However, most train rides usually boil down to one thing needing to be repaired, occasionally two. Sometimes the passengers’ dialogue can interfere with your maintenance, with dialogue bubbles overlapping and blocking things. However, rides themselves are very short, lasting maybe a minute or two, sometimes less. It’s pretty disappointing, seeing as how it’s a big part of the game.
This leads to the biggest flaw of The Final Station; its length. I beat the game in three hours or less. It’s incredibly linear. Sometimes it gives you choices while chatting on the train, but none of the answers really lead anywhere different. The ending is incredibly vague to the point I thought maybe the game has multiple endings, but I haven’t found any information to confirm that.
Despite the vague ending, I really did enjoy the story. Over a hundred years have passed since an incident known as the First Visitation. Though everything appears calm at the beginning of the game, you slowly learn how much the world is decaying. Much of the story is told through the world itself, through propaganda and messages left behind by the deceased. The Final Station can be beautifully subtle at times, but the ending is when it becomes buried in ambiguity.
The music of The Final Station fits the game perfectly. Many of the tracks are incredibly chill and soothing. However, as the game continues the tracks become more somber. The absence of music also plays into the mood and growing anxiety of the more horrific moments. The game doesn’t have voice acting, but it really doesn’t need it. Granted, it might have helped smooth out the awkward dialogue in the rare instances of characters talking face to face. On the other hand, bad voice acting could have destroyed the mood completely, so I’m okay without it.
The Final Station is an enigmatic experience. Though I was worried that the “horror game, train simulator, repeat” formula would grow stale, I was entranced by the world and its story. I loved the sinking horror of it all as the world continued to devolve into a wasteland. I only wish there was more to it. A train ticket for The Final Station costs $14.99 on Steam.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
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