It’s been a while since I managed to sit down and play a game, which didn’t make me poke at its negative features or think “oh I’m sooo going to complain about this and that in the review”. I enjoyed those 6 hours of The Final Station’s immersion, where it could just effortlessly take me to its adventure and impress me on so many levels. I kinda felt bad when it ended, not only because I didn’t really fancy the ending, but because it was the end to a good game and I wanted to play more (sad face).
Okay, The Final Station is a game I found myself really enjoying and I wanted for it to last more. It kind of touched me on different levels of seriousness which I shall discuss now.
Let’s begin with the story. Okay so, for those of you who have not played the game and wish to do so, you might want to skip this part, because I will be discussing the impact of the story in the review and thus I have to give out some details. But I shall try to keep spoilers to a minimum.
The Final Station tells the story of a dying world, an occurrence, which had happened before. An event called the first visitation, where huge capsules entered Earth’s atmosphere and polluted mankind with an unknown gas, which started turning them into mindless zombies. It was believed that the gas was supposed to enhance humans, alas most of them turned into mindless walking creatures, who want to kill the living sh*t out of everything not like them. Now, mankind fended off the first visitation but the world was shattered and people became paranoid. They foresaw a second invasion and started building this “Guardian” in order for it to protect them from the capsules. And thus it happened. The Final Station’s main storyline is focused around the second visitation, this “Guardian” and how people dealt with it.
What part do we play? We are a machinist, who is tasked by a series of people to transport cargo around here and there. Since we live in an apocalyptic environment, most other means of transport are inconvenient, so everyone travels by train, hence the machine we drive.
What I liked about the story was that it happened two ways simultaneously. Firsthand we experience the second visitation and events which are happening in our presence and by completing our tasks. Second we find out more about the first visitation and how people have tried to prepare for the second one. Now let’s not forget that we are travelling through a dying world, so naturally some people have died, others have left, but in times of crisis people leave their things behind and this is how we experience the indirect story, as I like to call it.
Another thing I liked was how we see the consequences of our doings. Now we don’t really have a choice, because we are tasked by the government and we have to do it, but still our actions can be seen. There was this one particular impactful moment for me, with the first cargo I had to transport. Now I will not spoil what it is and what happened, but in particular, after I left the station, the event occurred and then I suddenly realized what I was transporting and what had happened. It was impacting, because realization hits you and your brain connects the dots. And also, the other passengers in the train are commenting on the experience and basically their reactions are just as impacting as the event.
This is the third thing I really liked about the story. Throughout the game if you explore the levels fully, you might find people, who did not manage to save themselves and you offer them salvation, by taking them on your train and transporting them to another shelter. I’ll cover passengers more later on as gameplay aspect, so this much for now. So, while on the train, you can actually follow their conversations with each other and this is also contributing to the plot of what’s happening in the world. And you encounter different people with different views. It’s just so enticing (I remember I almost forgot a few times I had to maintain the train, by getting distracted with following the conversations).
The last thing I’ll talk about in the story section, since I’ve started is the ending. Okay the ending left me with mixed feelings. I liked it and disliked it at the same time. Here are the respective reasons as to why. Firstly I liked it because this is supposed to be at least bits of horror game and I see a bad ending as a fitting ending for such a game. Now when I say a bad ending, it might not necessarily be a bad ending, since what happened was probably for the better. The reason why I disliked it was because the developers did a good job in creating their characters that I managed to sympathize and connect with my main character. Hence the events that happened to him and the way they did, I was very against that. I wanted to see a happy ending for my train driver … why? *insert a dominant amount of sad faces here*. Okay, you know what, f*ck it, I want to talk about it so *SPOILER ALERT*. Throughout the game when we reach a major station our character wants to call someone, but the phone is never picked up. I figured he wanted to call home and check if everything is okay. Now when we left the final large city in order to go home, instead of going on the “Guardian”, our train broke along the way. I was sad, I remember yelling at the cocky passenger I picked up with me, who was saying stuff like “you’ll become one of them” and “your train will eventually give up” and so it did, so I was yelling how he cursed me. But off I went to my home town and along the way I saw so many impacting sceneries, including the destroyed “Guardian” and then when I reached home it dawned on me. It was a little girl. I was a daddy. I wanted to check on my little girl if she’s fine. Now I knew sh*t was going down, because I was coughing the black oozy stuff, which turns you and guess what happened. It turned me in my own daughter’s room, I couldn’t even see her and that mysterious passenger just came along and shot me in the face. And he dared claim “I’ll take care of her” … motherf*cker. I’m sorry, but that was very impacting and I was just nope-ing a good 10 minutes afterwards. I didn’t want it to end this way. Not to mention it happened all of a sudden out of nowhere and … just why? I mean, I was fine for like 90% of the game and then it took like a moment for things to end. Pls no. *OKAY SPOILERS END HERE … JUST SO YOU KNOW*
There is one thing that will remain a mystery to me and that is what exactly the final station is? I don’t know if it’s Metropole or my home (I didn’t reach there by train, but figuratively speaking) or it as just a very figurative name for this grim setting, knowing that every station you stop may be your last. I don’t know, but the narrative did manage to draw me in and keep me there throughout the whole game. Not to mention that the setting and mood was awesome. I mean, I was on my toes on every station and I actually jumped a few times when zombies popped in my face a number of times. Hence why I never opened doors without charging my melee attack first.
The Final Station’s gameplay can be broken down roughly into 2 sections: you have the train levels and the station levels. What happens on each of them?
The train section is basically a train simulation where you drive the train, maintain it and deal with resources. I love trains, hence why I loved this game, also my grandfather was a machinist back in the days and the amount he knows about trains is astonishing. So there are a few noteworthy things happening while you’re driving your train. First of all you have to maintain your train operational. This is done by fidgeting with some controls and keeping an eye on them (like a series of mini games). Quite honestly I do not know what happens if you don’t maintain them, because I loved my train too much to let it malfunction (at least this is what I thought would happen). The second thing is to look after your passengers. Now passengers have 2 statistics: health and hunger. As general resources for yourself you have medkits and food (well that is for your passengers). As far as resources go, I found myself struggling for food at certain times, because people get hungry all the time and when you travel 2-3 stations with all 6 people it can get ugly. Usually you can restock on food or find it randomly on stations, but I was so bummed when the second big city didn’t allow me to restock on food and I was all like … well f*ck. Medkits are not a problem though, since you not only find them on levels but you can craft them as well and I myself didn’t particularly used them for me because I managed to go through stations without the need to use medkits, hence my bleeding passengers (basically injured people who lose health over time) could enjoy more medical supplies. This is the third thing you do on the train, you can craft supplies with random junk you find on levels. The craftable things are medkits and ammo for your weapons. Also randomly you may encounter a chat with one of your fellow operatives, which further supplements the story and this is another thing you do on the train.
The second section are train stations. This is the exploration part of the game, where you go explore to your heart’s content and kill zombies. Here we also experience the leftover stuff, notes and what is happening to our dying world. Here we also scout for supplies (and I seriously recommend you loot everything) like crafting materials, ammo, food, and useless junk for money, so you can buy stuff later on and by stuff I mean supplies, weapon upgrades (which are not that special, basically some nifty things like laser pointer for your guns, faster reload, bigger clip, ect.) Furthermore, if you manage to get people safely to the checkpoint (which are larger cities) you get rewards for each person (money or useful items). Some even upgrade your weapons for free! I personally managed to get every single person safe … it was satisfying. I didn’t really find battling through the stations that difficult. Most of the time I could fend off with melee and only used the bullets for flammable zombies and those with armor, which cannot die from melee. In the first few levels I was shooting like crazy, but once I got used to combat it’s easy-peasy. I remember having around 150 bullets at the end. Not to mention that in the whole game I fired my shotgun once. You can also throw objects at them and most of them instantly die. I liked throwing toilets at zombies, but that may be just me. I also avoided throwing explosive barrels at them, because I killed myself like that more times than I would like to admit. But if it is one thing, it was immersive and also I do appreciate checkpoints if I f*ck up by accident. Here’s a friendly gamer tip … *whispers* abuse the ladders.
The art style will be the last thing I mention, since it’s unique and very interesting. It’s like a 2D pixelated graphic setting, but it’s not like those old pixelated games, where it’s too pixelated, rather than just a normal sense of pixels, if you get what I mean. If you’ve played the old pokemon games like Pokemon Red, Blue, Yellow, those are hard pixels (I’m not saying they are not good to look at and that is the charm of those pokemon games). Here we have smooth pleasant colorful pixels. I liked the changing scenery too. There were deserts, snowy areas, heavy city areas, dark tunnels, peaceful village settings (and other awesome scenery while you travel on the train). I also think the game’s scenery gave a very watercolor feel. Music was also memorable and tension-building. I found myself being heavily immersed into what’s happening by the music and sounds in the game. I’d definitely be taking a look at the soundtrack later on.
Okay, ladies and gentlemen we reached the final verdict. I realize now that I didn’t say anything negative about the game. It’s been a long while since this has happened, but I really cannot think of something in The Final Station at the time, which would bother me. But if I really have to be picky … for a single time play it’s okay, you cannot really feel the linearity which would happen of future playthroughs and I feel that kind of kills replayability value. I finished the game in 6 hours and it wasn’t all in one go, but even if the levels are basically rinse and repeat, something kept me going. Maybe it was the immersion of the game and the desire to find out more. Those are the two symptoms, from which the game suffers (replayability value issues and repetitiveness, which for a 6 hour game is not really that felt, but it might be on replays, given value in mind here). As a final verdict, I believe The Final Station holds a firm 8/10. I can definitely recommend this game to people and give it my both thumbs up, however I don’t know if I’d replay it in the near future.