The world around you seems to be dying. Whispers of an invasion float through the air and three passengers on your train are about to die due to hunger; you can only feed two! It is both the well-presented pixelated environment and well-organized inventory management that feel at home in developer Do My Best Games’ The Final Station. Unfortunately, although this train journey does offers some change in scenery, it often feels too comfortable.
The game is set in a kind of post-apocalyptic world. You play as a train conductor, who must deliver important cargo to a variety of locations. As you play through this locomotive journey you’ll make random stops, it’s at these stops where you’ll search for survivors and supplies. Each stop acting like a mini level, providing a different and sometimes contrasting location to explore, often with its own story or dark secrets to uncover.
Although your true intention in the game is somewhat vague this surprisingly doesn’t disengage you; there is more than enough letters, note and messages left around the world for you to come to your own conclusion. I often found asked myself “what happened here?”, and upon discovery I was often shocked at just how dark the outcome appeared to be.
While searching for survivors, you’ll soon realize you are not alone. Most of the people who populated this world have become plagued, turning into haunting shadow-like creatures. There is a variety of these creatures, each requiring a different approach to take down. This called for me to take a thought-out approach, regularly weighing up my options on how to progress through room full of hunger played civilians.
If being chased down by a pack of these mutations isn’t enough, then try doing it with no ammo. This happens a lot. The Final Station does a brilliant job of limiting your firearm ammunition. Think back to the times of original Resident Evil games where missing just one round in your target caused you to wince in pain. All this inventory management adds to the calculated decisions you have to make when approaching a new area; do you risk opening a door to find more ammo or will you be greeted by monstrous shadows?
So when you have cleared an area of survivors and supplies, what do you do? Well, care for them on your train of course! It is in these sections that the game shift from survival horror to survival sim. Naturally, survivors on your train become hungry, causing their health to deteriorate. Using the supplies picked up throughout your scavenging, you must take care of them. More often that not, you won’t have enough supplies to help everyone, so, who do you save? Well, probably the passenger with the biggest reward.
Safely delivering survivors to a checkpoint (about every 4-5 stops) will bring a financial reward, which you can choose to spend on leveling up your weapons or purchasing ammo. Although this is a legitimate process to earn money, it was never a challenge. The difference between some of the rewards was huge so I never felt that bad for letting someone worth $30 die, especially if it was to save someone worth $350.
Once you have visited the first two checkpoints you soon there’s another haunting realization: this is the game! You simple move from station to station to station to checkpoint, collect your rewards, and repeat all over again. This doesn’t feel monotonous in the first two acts, but as you move into the third act it starts to feel a little stale. Play through the third act and you’ll also start asking the question “why did we stop here?”; too many of the later station have almost nothing to them. Yes, you can argue that they are some of the best designed 2D layered backgrounds, but with almost zero health packs and no food to scavenge, you’ll feel like that was a pointless stop.
Credit has to go to the developers for the soundtrack and sound effects. The excellent sound design really help create an immersive experience; eerie silences are shattered with creaking door or piecing gunshots. As you approach certain areas the ringing of a single synthesizer note growing louder and louder, making you doubt if you really want to enter that building. On more than one occasion I was taken back by how effective the sound design was.
The Final Station is one of the most unique games I’ve played for a while. Clearly a lot of attention has gone into filling this pixelated world with some deep and creditable back story. The first two acts are a pleasure to play through, providing an engaging and smooth ride. However, due to repetitive gameplay and stopping at one too many empty stations, the game loses its impact as you reach The Final Station.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
A thought-provoking train journey that becomes a little derailed in the closing chapters.
Design - 8/10
Gameplay - 5/10
Plot - 7/10
Crisp pixel artwork and immersive sound design make make up for some repetitive gameplay in the final chapters.