The Final Station is an 8-bit survival horror game where you drive a train around occasionally stopping to kill zombie-aliens created by pods filled with black goop that fell from the sky.
Note: My review copy of this game was provided by the developers.
Your job is to drive a train which nearly breaks down every ten seconds through several dozen train stations where you must fight zombies and scrounge for supplies. “Blockers” also known as “plot devices” stop your train from progressing until you find a code which unlocks them.
The story takes you on a 7 hour romp through the game’s fictional country full of rich lore that’s never fully explored while driving your train completing the occasional pointless minigame. Dozens of cool and intriguing plot points are brought up only to be ditched.
Gameplay is fully functional, but only because of how overly simple it is. After the fifth or sixth station you visit the combat becomes stale and repetitive.
The times the story grabs you the most are the most disappointing points in the game. That may sound contradictory but every time the story becomes cool or scary, you’re left unsatisfied. The story is so poorly told because half the story and world-lore is told through notes found around each station. They’re disjointed, don’t give enough info, and missing one or two or reading them in the wrong order makes it even harder to comprehend what happened in each station. What’s even more frustrating is when you read a note completely irrelevant to the station or the game’s lore. In one station I found a person’s daily schedule and in another I found a shopping list. Thrilling.
There’s so many awesome ideas that just didn’t feel fully fleshed out. Almost every station told a cool story, and felt unique which makes the lack of a properly told story even more disappointing.
At one point, a station turns out to be a mansion owned by a dracula-style millionaire of some kind who was murdering people, harvesting them, and putting all their blood into a giant vat to make some drink that he thinks will do something special. It sounds weird but interesting right? When you finally find the mansion’s owner he explains nothing about the mansion you just explored. You learn so little about this potentially awesome story because the only person you meet in the level only has one line of dialogue: “it didn’t work”.
One other method of telling the story is the passengers you get on your train, which is also horribly flawed. The game has you maintaining your passengers and the train’s mechanics. You complete challengeless minigames while listening to the passengers reveal lore to the player through their conversations. This is a cool way of telling the story, except going to a different car on the train (which is entirely mandatory every few seconds) resets the dialogue, so you rarely actually learn anything from the passengers.
Again, the game is so disappointing not because the writing is terrible or the gameplay is terrible, but because nothing is ever resolved. Hell, even the game’s ending is a copout. It seemed like the writers for this game had so many good ideas but no idea how to act on them, so we were left with a mediocre 8-bit survival game full of half-explored plot points.
Atleast the pixel art is good.
The Final Station is $15 dollars on steam, available now.
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