Final Station, The (Video Game)


Final StationDeveloped by Oleg Sergeev, Andrey Rumak, and Do My Best

Published by tinyBuild

Available on PC through Steam

I think more horror games should be set on trains. Fear Equation, Resident Evil 0, The Charnel House Trilogy, all games remembered for the trains. There’s something inherently spooky about locomotives. Chugging along a set path, the claustrophobic corridors and sporadic lighting are both foreboding and fatalistic. You never know what’s in store for you behind each cabin door. No matter how hard you fight, you’ll always wind up at the end of the line. What awaits you there? Salvation? Or just another nightmare waiting to unfold?

If you think I’m being too metaphoric with my horror, then you clearly aren’t the audience for The Final Station. This is unabashedly an “art” game. You will frequently question what is real, and not a level goes by that isn’t wrought with symbolism. This is a plot that demands a lot of unpacking. You can read every text log, watch every cutscene, and listen to every dialogue, and still not know exactly what is going on.

The world of The Final Station is by far the strongest element. It’s vague enough to demand your attention, but not so much so that it becomes nonsensical. I’m generally against plots being vague for the sake of intrigue, but in this case it works. If you were to explain every piece, it falls apart. If you just take the setting as a framework to hold the metaphor, it works beautifully. This is a gorgeous universe that doesn’t stand up under extreme scrutiny. If you’re the kind of person that is bothered by that, you won’t like this game.

The Final Station

Is a bug monster robot thing in the garage out of the ordinary? Very. Is there going to be a single text log explaining it? Not a chance.

I’m being obtuse, as I don’t really want to talk about the plot. The basic premise is that you play as a train conductor, transporting stuff and people across a world on the brink of collapse. Each station along the track is blocked by a device that requires a code, requiring you get out of the train and hunt it down. Of course, no one just wrote it down in the office, so you’ll have to fight off a number of enemies as you search for it.

Why are there blockers at every station? Why couldn’t they just text you the codes on your terminal? What exactly are the enemies? Who even are you? This is the kind of scrutiny the game doesn’t stand up to. If you just accept the world as the way it is, it’s a terrifying dystopian society on the brink of collapse. Using the power of misinformation, the government has managed to distract the populace from their impending doom while simultaneously working to ensure their own survival. It’s bleak. If the world is dying, what better than bigotry and conviction to keep people away from the truth?

The Final Station

It’s not a dystopia until you’re shooting prisoners in the basement!

Discovering the world was great, and that is where my praise ends. Actually playing The Final Station is rudimentary. If the world building was McDonalds’ french fries, the gameplay was the Filet-O-Fish. Getting the blocker codes is essentially a fetch quest. The levels are designed so you don’t have to backtrack a lot, but it’s still just a straight line. You’ll quickly fall into a routine of counting your shots/punches, with each enemy boiling down to just a number of clicks on your path to the next level. There are only three guns and six enemy types, and there isn’t enough variety in attacks to make the combat interesting.

The Final Station

This is one of the larger later enemies. Or as I like to call him, “Mr. 5 Bullets”

Traveling between stations, you’ll take care of your passengers’ needs while attending to the train’s deteriorating systems. All passengers require packs of food, while certain injured passengers need a constant supply of health packs. The malfunctioning systems are all tedious mini-games, asking you to pull a lever or push some buttons to stabilize the power usage. Failure to do so will result in increased travel times which, given your limited supplies, might mean the lives of your passengers.

The Final Station

Hurray, micromanagement!

On it’s own, it’s a tedious and somewhat pointless management simulator. Coupled with the fact that these train segments are when most of the exposition happens, it’s fucking ridiculous. Traveling across the world, picturesque pixel landscapes race by in the background. On the train, passengers discuss and argue, giving you bits of insight into their various lives and perspectives. Through these varied individuals, all with their own lense of disinformation, paint you the picture of a world that is fractured and afraid. Or at least it would, if I wasn’t too busy playing both stewardess and mechanic.

Ideally, games are supposed to marry the gameplay and narrative. Games like Mass Effect have done so through dialogue trees, and many others have moved towards interactive cutscenes. It’s a small change from pre-rendered vignettes to walking through a narrative zone yourself, but an important one. What is never supposed to happen is the gameplay and narrative to be actively at odds. That is exactly what The Final Station is doing with their train sequences. Imagine you’re playing Dead Space, and every time you tried to read a text log you had to fight off waves of necromorphs. And the text logs are unskippable. And the text logs can die. And they are boring as fuck.

The Final Station

I’d love to see what’s going on with the passengers, but if I don’t push this button when a blip goes off we all might starve to death.

The Final Station is a game I really wanted to like more. I was having a great time learning about the world. It has interesting pacing, both throwing you in head first and slowly peeling back the layers. The fantastic visual design is bleak and foreboding. There’s a wonderful juxtaposition between the Giger-esque nightmare world and the idyllic countryside. You’ll descend fully into madness, and wonder if you ever knew what was real. And it just sucks to play.

$15 is a bit too much to ask for such a short and obviously flawed product. It’s only 2-3 hours long, and even at that it drags. If this were $7-8, it would be a good deal. I certainly appreciate what they did with the story, but playing it was a chore. I really think the team has promise. I just hope next time they focus more on the fun.

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User Rating 3.67 (6 votes)


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