Next step…Monsters R’ Us.
Once upon a time there was a world, normal and full of life. Trains were used much like they are today, for hauling cargo and people. In our world, trains are very much still a part of our economy, more so than transportation for people themselves. What if the world went bad though? With a virus that ran rampant, turning people into parasites or creatures that attacked the living? Trains becoming more important than ever before, transporting those of the living to other places considered safe havens. This is the core idea of The Final Station, and a surprising one at that. I never would have imagined a game about exploration, monsters, and trains to provide such a fun yet thrilling experience, but here we are.
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The 2D style pixelated retro look is one players will be familiar with, that while not providing a unique graphical look, still works wonders with the soundtrack and atmosphere the developers provide. The core gameplay and element loop is interesting if not a bit repetitive in nature. It boils down to players having to take the train to each location, which locks the train into an auto lock. In order to leave, a password must be found on each level. Progressing through the levels leads way to scraps, money, and ammunition. Once the code has been discovered, survivors found, notes read, and anything else that can be rounded up, it’s time to get going to the next destination, where more story elements can come via notes or the survivors talking on the train.
Platforms: XB1 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $9.99
How long to beat: 4+ hours
The exploration bits prove to be both tense and eerily quiet at times, leading to an unsettling feeling to say the least. Never knowing what lies beyond a door until opened, a mesh of black slime infested people can bum rush the player. It keeps players on their toes and aware of the ammunition count. Running out of ammo can and will happen, but luckily there is a melee move that can be charged for an instant kill. It takes time to recover and use again though, so don’t expect to karate chop the way out.
While the enemies look visually lacking with just a blob of black goo all over, I do appreciate the variation. Some come standard and take a few shots, or one to the head will take it out. Ones with armored helmets need that knocked off first. Another type is explosive and should be taken care of from a distance, else suffer an explosive death.
The train element is a more unique aspect as it requires the player to keep the train running from destination to destination. Part of the train might overload or break, and it requires constant monitoring. Granted it usually only occurs on one aspect of the train, so it’s as easy as monitoring that broken part and also keeping people alive on the train. People get hungry or might be sick with a slowly declining health meter. Luckily players can craft medicine or find food, and it’s added to the train’s storage box. Keeping NPC’s alive is fairly easy but it also feels rather unrewarding. Sure, they awarded me with more money if they survived, but they didn’t seem detrimental to the plot.
Speaking of story, usually what’s told is done via dialog from people on the train or notes found around the different locations. It’s interesting and keeps players a bit motivated to discover more, but it’s not a title I’d play just to see how it ended. It’s more about the journey on the train and the elements of survival and exploration, giving that survival horror feel. Even with its less detailed visual showcase, it still works.
The Final Station has a unique premise and one I found myself really enjoying, even though it seems to hit a fairly constant repeating loop early on. It never felt challenging but every time I did get low on bullets, I found myself getting nervous. Yet it seemed like I would either always be able to find more ammo, use boxes or chairs to throw, or my fists to fight the enemies. Sometimes I got bum-rushed opening a door, which usually led to my biggest freak out moments playing, but otherwise the challenge was minimal. The aiming can feel a bit off, if not just a bit basic, with having to turn the aim cursor around for melee always throwing me for a loop. I found the font also a tad too tiny for my liking, and had to get closer or squint to read it.
The Final Station is an enjoyable romp for a one time through experience. It’s tense at times and has a unique idea for a gameplay loop, yet I do feel they could do more with it. If this is a foundation for perhaps a more elaborate sequel with more features and ideas, sign me up. As it stands, it’s still a fun take on the survival horror mold that worth checking out. It can start to wear out its welcome, but it doesn’t overstay.
Favorite moment: Traversing a quite area, opening a door, only to realize a horde of black oozed monsters are running for me.
Worst moment: Trying to read the font, it’s just too small.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.