Perhaps fittingly for a game littered with half-eaten human corpses, The Final Station is a game full of half-finished ideas.
A 2D shooter/survival horror experience, The Final Station has you play a train driver on a journey from “regular working day” to “zombie ghost monster apocalypse”.
Set in a sci-fi world whose history is hinted at but never truly explained, your job is to travel to successive train stations. At each one you need to get off the train, explore an area on foot, rescue some survivors, scrounge for ammo and supplies and fight a lot of zombies before finding a code that unlocks the “blocker” (a device restraining your train) and allowing you to continue.
Between each of these stages is a sequence set on the train itself, where your passengers chat about what’s going on outside and you need to click around some very basic minigames to juggle the train’s systems and keep it running.
That sounds like a lot of stuff to keep on top of, but for the most part you’ll just be running around doing the scrounging (clicking on every empty locker and desk you come across) and shooting (aim for the head and be stingy with the ammo) parts.
Which is pretty lucky, because not many of those other ideas really come together. Keeping the train running doesn’t keep you occupied; it’s an incredibly tedious piece of busywork. The search for blocker codes becomes a chore. The whole point of conserving your supplies is undone by the fact that at each death you’re instantly respawned at a generous checkpoint, your inventory restored as well.
Even the game’s bread and butter, its combat, isn’t that enjoyable, with most of the game spent only using the most basic weapon and many encounters easily avoided or outrun.
Your mileage with the game, then, is probably going to come down to how much you dig its mysterious attempts at telling (or, not telling) you what’s happening. The Final Station reminds me a lot of Canabalt, another 2D tale of the end of the world that relied on pixels and colour palette to say what other games would be more verbose with.
Not every note left lying around is of vital importance to the plot.
This isn’t a game big on cutscenes or exposition, and any conversations you do enter into, Zelda style, never show your own contributions to them. Instead its left to the background art and in-game items (like notes and journals) to fill in the gaps.
I found it all a bit vague for my liking, especially since so much of the game is directly funnelling you through events that in-game dialogue is only presenting half of. Like, were this some bare-bones platformer or walking simulator, such minimal story-telling would be part of the charm! Here, it’s almost like self-sabotage, undermining the only thing that kept me interested in the game once all the repetitive boring stuff wore thin.
The Final Station is £11 on Steam.