Review: The Final Station (PC)
The world is dying. But there is something that needs to be done. A final job as train conductor on your way back home. That sounds simple right? It would be if your train didn’t need monitoring of rickety systems that overload or turn off when not monitored, wounded passengers needing aid and every station requiring a unique code before you can head off.
Being a train conductor isn’t about sitting around while the train heads from A to B. No, thanks to everyone evacuating or being dead thanks to ravenous infected you have a lot to do. While en route you need to monitor machinery that is on the fritz and keep your passengers well fed and in good health.
Then when you reach a station your train gets locked to the rails until the rail blocker code is entered, which the head of the station should have. Except they are probably dead and you will need to sneak and kill your way through infected as you scrounge for medikits, food and parts to craft ammo on your train. All you have are a few notes, or an open IM on a computer to guide you to where the conductor went, either to find the code or his office key. Sometimes you will find people who want to ride on the train and while the money they will give you for reaching their destination seems like a great reward, the strain on resources of keeping multiple passengers fed and healthy could leave you without a medikit when you need one.
Oh if you thought this was bad enough, it seems like someone at the train company has it in for you too. Why you? Why was your route changed and while you are travelling, is that a war in the background? The lies and misinformation you get offer little to satisfy your curiosity, leaving you to glean the truth from scraps of books and raving old men.
Puzzles solved with bullets
This zombie-survival game is more like a puzzle than an action game. Thanks to generous checkpoints in the game the penalty for death isn’t that severe, allowing you to try various means to get through rooms as efficiently as possible. Resources are scarce, especially ammo, meaning you want to make every single shot count. That is the plan at least. When you have enemies running at you ready to bite your face off, sometimes your twitchy trigger finger wastes all your bullets, or you shoot wide and die painfully. You respawn, ready to open that door again, knowing now what lurks beyond in the dark. Is there something you can use to thin the herd out? Can you walk in and grab a heavy object to toss at someone before they respond? It isn’t as challenging as say Hotline Miami but it has a similar feeling of elation when you clear a large horde of infected while taking no damage and using minimal bullets. Sometimes you can kite and punch your enemies to death, while other situations are too tight, too cramped for this.
It is in the quite moments that the game is most chilling, the depravity of humans laid bare after they evacuate or died to the infected. Apartment rooms are rigged with cameras, the landlord watching and selling off edited footage. A underground fighting racket that disposes of those who refuse to dive in a large pit of spikes. There are many more examples of what has happened to people since the First Invasion and now with the second on its way, most people have reached breaking point. There is a mansion you enter late in the game that has such a terrible owner, once you find his secret.
If the length of the game is throwing you off, just think about games like Journey or Inside which deliver an experience and something to chew on and then end. The best part of The Final Station is near the end where the game breaks away from the patterns used for all the other chapters to deliver its story unfettered by mechanics and pickups. It is heart-wrenching in the way it affects you and it left me slightly stunned. This game is so minimalist, yet so full of dark, foreboding atmosphere that I spent the whole time hunched over, tensed up as I made my way through this science fiction horror.