The Final Station is a healthy mix of 2D side-scroller shooting and emotional storytelling.
In The Final Station, you play a train conductor who’s given the task of carrying cargo and passengers around the country. To refuel and move on to the next station, you’ll be forced to hop off the train and hunt down an access code that will allow your train to leave. While environmental exploration is easy, there are hordes of zombie-like creatures that will make survival more difficult. You’ll have to manage health and ammo as you search. If you use too many health packs at a time, it’ll cut into your train’s supplies and some of your passengers could die as a result. In this way, Final Station makes getting from town to town a desperate struggle for survival.
Final Station’s plot is easily the most compelling part of the game, which is why it’s such a shame that some of the most mundane tasks can prevent you from catching the whole story. As you collect passengers, they’ll chat amongst each other while the train travels. In doing so, they reveal more about current events and provide context to why society has become an Orwellian dystopia. While they chat, health and hunger will begin draining and you’ll have to manage supplies to keep them fed and healthy. As you shuffle to the supplies at the front of the cabin, you’ll miss ongoing discussion and with it important information that makes the world feel more real.
While the train refuels, you’re subjected to Final Station’s serviceable combat. The shooting and punching aren’t bad per se, but the controls sometimes feel like they’re working against you. You’ll occasionally shoot to high or low or throw an object in the opposite direction as intended. Thankfully, most of your enemies are slow, lumbering zombies, so you can fire a few shots off before they’re in melee range. Still, Final Station’s emphasis on supply management makes each missed shot feel like a massive mistake. While high stakes survival can be thrilling, dying because of wonky controls and not my own mistakes can be frustrating.
In general the exploration loop is the same each time your train stops to refuel. Move right on the screen, search each room, find a sewer or ladder to come back with. In a few levels later in the game, you’ll be able to travel up and down city blocks, which adds depth to the world design. It’s puzzling why this exploration method isn’t explored during the real meat of the game.
Although I didn’t discover it until halfway through the game, there is also crafting that can be done while your train is barreling towards the next refueling station. Here, you can craft supplies for your passengers and weaponry to make the next stop a little easier. While it’s worth your time to gear up, heading to the front of the train to craft will mean less time keeping your passengers happy and soaking up Final Station’s plot.
The dystopian setting and general mystery surround the plot is much deeper than I expected from the game’s opening sequences, but it’s a surprise that ultimately keeps the repetitive gameplay interesting. Thanks to notes spread around the environment, walking through desolate cities and crumbling homes was emotional and engaging. I couldn’t head back to the train without knowing if I’d found every scrap of narrative hidden in each area.
With a roughly three hour run time, The Final Station offers a fun but forgettable experience. The plot is richer than you might find in other side-scrollers, but the somewhat sloppy gameplay loop holds The Final Station back from indie excellence.
The Final Station was reviewed on a Xbox One press copy courtesy of Evolve PR.
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