The world is dying. Humans have become vicious, cannibalistic life forms that attack anything on sight. Communications across the country have failed, leaving people stranded. You are a train conductor who got lucky – or unlucky – enough to be in the right train, at the right time.
High-ranking officials at the end of their rope task you with an importing mission. Transporting weapons, the nature of which remains classified to you, across the country. With more than a thousand tonnes of locomotive at your fingertips, you begin the arduous journey to the North. The goal is to keep your train operational to reach the next station, where you fight through swarms of infected outnumbering you hundred to one.
With the oversaturation of zombie games in recent years, it takes a truly unique game to stand out from the dozens, to give the battle hardy formula of an apocalypse an interesting twist. The Final Station might not hit the mark precisely, but with its ominous atmosphere and intriguing storyline, it gave me an experience to remember. I can’t recall the last time I played a game, that made me crave DLC to prolong my time with it.
The Final Station conveys its story through snippets of dialogue and cleverly placed exposition in the form of notes and books. This can lead to a squint-and-you’ll-miss sort of situation. If you barrel ahead without stopping to explore the nooks and crannies, chances are high that you’d miss a key piece of the story. Things don’t make much sense at first. But as you gather information the game sparingly doles out; the story becomes less daunting and easier to understand.
I appreciate that the game didn’t shove walls of text in my face and say, “This is what’s going on,” because I like travelling down the beaten path. My knowledge of the current situation only expanded as the conductor trudged through station after station, which made me feel like I was there and experiencing things first hand. Even non-related story events are a joy to uncover, things like discovering a hidden, underground fighting ring or reading a note left by an enraged wife, whose husband was too involved in his hobby.
Unfortunately, no matter how interesting a story may be, the player won’t find themselves enjoying it if they’re occupied with useless busywork. The gameplay is split into two distinct segments. Taking care of the train, and exploring abandoned places you come across. The conductor keeps the locomotive in peak condition by doing mini-games that are mind numbingly boring. Press this switch, pull that lever, make sure the survivors you pick up don’t go hungry.
As I said above, parts of the story are told through dialogue. Conversations between the survivors are easily missed when you’re doing multiple things at once. I’ll catch the tail end of an interesting talk between an injured soldier and a housewife because I was too busy making sure the train didn’t overheat and explode.
I want to know more about the story, about what caused this apocalypse, but the game constantly forces me to keep my hands occupied. The micro-management portions aren’t a big deal by themselves. But they don’t add any substance to the game and only act as nuisances. It’d be better if they weren’t present at all.
As you explore abandoned stations and homes, you’d undoubtedly come across an infected. Supplies are scarce, leaving you to determine which is the best course of action. Throw caution to the wind and use your melee attack, or play it safe and waste your bullets? The gunplay is pretty standard, but the scarcity of ammo can make the game difficult if you’re trigger happy.
You’re taught early into the game to pay attention to your environment. Why waste a bullet when a chair can take care of things? The objective is not to mow down the hordes of infected trawling the urban landscape, it is to live to see another day and keep your guts inside your squishy body.
The game had the right amount of challenge for me. There are no situations I found impossible to get out of. If you find yourself stuck at a certain area, be bold. Get creative with the tools on hand. The solution might be one you’re afraid to try.
The Final Station might not be the longest, or the most visually impressive game, but the experience of trekking through a dying world and the truly original story, makes the time I spent worthwhile.