Indie titles are always an interesting bunch to try out. Smaller developers put their heart and soul into realizing their dreams, but unfortunately a lot of them bring forth great ideas without great execution. The Final Station is one of these such titles. It’s not necessarily a bad game, but it falls short of being a great experience.
The Final Station follows a loan train conductor in a post-apocalyptic world, riddled with zombies, while searching for survivors and transporting them to safety. You are tasked with diverting valuable equipment to different stations as they work on something called the Guardian, which is supposed to help battle the undead. The game’s story and lore had me hooked and invested as I wanted to learn more and more about the world and what exactly happened. Most of the story is presented in letters, logs, and emails you discover while exploring the different train stops.
You can also interact with other survivors you encounter but it’s hard to really dictate what the conversations are about because the game’s protagonist is silent. Sure it looks like he talks, but you never know what he’s saying, leaving you confused during some interactions–especially the important story ones.
One of the cores of The Final Station has you maintaining your train and taking care of the survivors you invite on board. Maintaining the train is definitely a missed opportunity. Only one problem occurs: After each stop, it has you running a simple mini game, and by “simple” I mean just tapping the X Button repeatedly to keep a pressure gauge from getting too high.
You can also choose to take care of the passengers on your train instead for extra cash and crafting resources. Passengers get hungry and some are even injured. Each passenger has a hunger and health gauge, and if either of these drains, the passenger will die. Due to the fact food and health are hard to come by, it becomes difficult to keep everyone alive. This is doubly true when it comes to the health, as you share the same health packs as the passengers. This is only a problem early in the game as later you will have enough materials to craft more health and food as well as money to buy more in town shops.
The meat of the game has you traversing a black and white world with some touches of color here and there. While exploring the different train stops, your goal is to find the confirmation code to head to the next station. Your search will lead you down hidden paths full of survivors and hidden loot, used in crafting ammo and health packs. A variety of zombies appear throughout the game, from fast running leapers to zombies covered in body armor that require headshots to kill. None of it is particularly challenging, especially later on when ammo is plentiful and more powerful weapons become available. It’s as simple as you can get, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I would have wished for some sort of puzzle solving or something that would add some variety. It also doesn’t help that the game can be completed in about four hours.
A lot of the game’s interface also takes a big hit. Speech bubbles and other text are small and hard to read requiring me to move pretty damn close to the TV. When crafting, it’s even worse as your selections are a bold green color and it’s impossible to know what you select to craft, because your highlighted indicator is also green. Most of the time I was selecting to exit the crafting screen because I had absolutely no idea what I had selected. But the biggest fault is the game’s lack of any tutorial. At no point in the game was I told how to switch weapons, how to attack, how to heal, and quite honestly how to do anything in the game, leaving me to figure out everything on my own.
As I mentioned earlier, The Final Station is mostly a black and white title. Its pixel characters actually fit perfectly into the world and the touches of color stand out and add a lot of depth. Blood splatters in abandoned homes tell the story of a horrific encounter while the vistas from your moving train sport a great and unique watercolor portrait. The game’s music is also well done but only comes in small spurts. In a way, I was upset that there wasn’t enough of it but appreciated it when it appeared as its sparse use was much more impactful.
I enjoyed my brief time with The Final Station, marveling at its dark and bleak world while learning what transpired and lead to its downfall. Its simplicity will allow you to easily get into and enjoy the game, but it’s that same simplicity can also make it quite repetitive. Maintaining your train sounded like a good marketing technique but feels more like a gimmick that doesn’t really impact the core game. It’s also not very fun taking care of the passengers who require you feed them and take care of their wounds leading to yet more boring downtown between train stations.