|Platforms||PC (reviewed), PS4, XBO|
|Developer||Oleg Sergeev , Andrey Rumak , Do My Best|
|Release Date||August 30 2016|
Disclaimer: Review code provided
The Final Station is a side-scrolling survival shooter set during the end of the world as we know it. You don’t play a heroic figure, anti-hero, anything of the sort – in this game, you’re put in the shoes of an ordinary train conductor just trying to survive and understand what’s happening around you. The human race is succumbing to an infection that turns them into highly aggressive not-zombies and all of them want to murder your face.So you’re a train conductor and the world’s going a bit tits.
You’ve got two objectives: Transporting ominous components around the country and collecting survivors. Your journey through the game will take place over two alternating sections, on the train and on foot. The train sections generally involve equipment maintenance, crafting supplies from scavenged items and keeping your survivors alive with food or medical attention. At each station you pass through there’s an encoded barrier, meaning you have to disembark and fight your way through each station and town to find a scrap of paper some dingus left lying about somewhere. This is where the meat of the gameplay takes place.
So you’re a train conductor and the world’s going a bit tits. You’ve got two objectives: Transporting ominous components around the country and collecting survivors. Your journey through the game will take place over two alternating sections, on the train and on foot. The train sections generally involve equipment maintenance, crafting supplies from scavenged items and keeping your survivors alive with food or medical attention. At each station you pass through there’s an encoded barrier, meaning you have to disembark and fight your way through each station and town to find a scrap of paper some dingus left lying about somewhere. This is where the meat of the gameplay takes place.
The pixellated graphics might lull some into a false sense of security – The Final Station is very challenging. The infected are tough to put down, but what adds to the challenge is the scarcity of ammo and resources. To begin with you’ll have a single pistol and a meleé attack to defend yourself against the murderous infected. You’ll have to rely on either scavenging or crafting your ammo, yet neither approach is particularly bountiful. You will need to use your ammo sparingly, yet there’s certain environmental items that you can utilise to dispatch your foes. the game gives you the solution, but finding it can be tricky.
The enemies come in varieties to keep you on your toes. You have your standard shambling
zombie – apologies,infected, your slightly tougher shambling infected, an armoured variety, a fast moving variety and a couple others that should rightly be surprises to discover for yourself. Each are easy enough to deal with on their own, however when you happen upon a group of different not-zombies, their differences in methods of attack can be lethal. You will die often. Thankfully, the game has well-spaced checkpoints throughout – you’ll not notice passing through one until you die, but when you do you’ll never respawn in a frustrating position. Mechanically speaking it’s tight too, with precise aiming and responsive movement. Each gunshot feels like you’re spending the precious shell, encouraging you to make it count.
The level design is interesting and diverse. Artistically speaking, it’s pretty great – the pixel graphics lend an air of nostalgia, however these are laid over one giant portrait that forms the background, creating an environment that really hooks you in. Even on the train segments which could have easily been generic landscapes, there’s interesting things going on all around you at all times. The music is pretty great too. Without spoilers, there’s some genuine intrigue going on here; combined with the notes and letters you’ll find littered around the environment, The Final Station does a pretty great job of building their world. Not so much their plot.
The portions of the game you spend on the train come in here – I got the impression that they’re meant to, anyway. As previously mentioned, when you find the breaker code and get on your way again, you’ll need to spend the journey patching up your survivors and performing maintenance on your trusty locomotive’s various components. The latter is one of the most useless mechanics I’ve ever seen in a game. I’ll put it this way. the survivors you’ll need to keep breathing are interesting. They have stories, they provide plot context and exposition during their conversations and they have personality. The problem is that when you’re performing the maintenance work, there’s a big fuck-off screen overlay for each “mini-game” (and I use the term for lack of a better word) that plants itself directly in the middle of the screen, blocking all the speech bubbles containing the plot.
If it’s not that, some instruments as well as the crafting/food banks etc. are all situated in the driver’s cab – moving the NPC conversations completely offscreen. This is ridiculously frustrating as this often provides some of the best dialogue and exposition in the game. To begin with, the plot is something to be guessed at and figured out, so when given some direct information from the people actually living through it, the game forces you to actually click the button yourself that obscures it from view. Then there’s the ending. The game continues in its standard format for a good four hours – train section followed by city crawl and repeat, with some great set pieces of a sort thrown in here and there. The last half hour of the game or so is dedicated to wrapping up the final threads in the plot and getting you to the finale. Said finale is kind of just… dropped in, with all the subtlety of a freshly-bricked window. It’s not a surprise, it’s not clever, it’s not original. It’s just there.
That being said, The Final Station was an enjoyable experience. The flaws are quite damning, but not so much so that it completely ruined the game for me. Your experience may vary, but there’s not a great deal of replay value. I’ve noted that the developers are already working on some sort of DLC, but with no specifics announced as of yet there’s not much to take away from that other than that I’ll probably play that too.
The Final Station is a fun game. There’s no doubting that, I started playing and didn’t stop. It is not, however, an original game. It’s definitely worth playing for the artwork and great gameplay, but many may find the flaws too much, especially considering the only thing they damage is the ability to deliver the plot. The translation isn’t a hundred percent, but it’s easily forgivable considering the small team who developed it. Some would say that it’s not attractively priced, but that depends entirely on the value you put on it. It’s a very well done survival shooter with polished mechanics (for the most part), set in a creepy, effective atmosphere and aided by some fantastic artwork, but the lacklustre ending and plot obfuscation leaves a lot to be desired.
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