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The Final Station (PC) artwork

The Final Station (PC) review

"A somber, dreary yet interesting story with risk-less gameplay and fluff-filled downtime."

Games must straddle an awkward line where the story and gameplay balance are concerned. Both of those elements might provide prospective players with the motivation they require to keep going. Some players, however, will complain that a game spends too much time tending to the narrative and becomes bogged down as a result. Others will bemoan the extensive gameplay that leaves little room for storytelling.

The Final Station (PC) image

The Final Station does a decent job of striking a balance. It introduces an intriguing tale of conspiracy and a doomsday scenario that may or may not be a figment of the imagination, but then it kneecaps itself by failing to maintain tension. It also finds obnoxious ways to harm the hero and is criminally linear. Perhaps none of those individual qualities make the game look bad on paper, but when they are combined, they're enough to prevent it from possessing any real staying power.

The premise is simple: upon arriving at a station, the train conductor (who the player controls) must disembark and search for access codes that unlock the "blocker," a device currently keeping the train from proceeding along its prescribed route. Those codes are often hidden away at the far end of a particular map, which means you must wander from room to room (or building to building) in search of loot, crafting supplies, survivors and story elements that range from useful to useless. Oh, and there are enemies who aren't identified except as "Them." They are ghostly entities that hide behind closed doors and prefer to attack in groups.

Most of the game's tension comes from your limited ammo supply, which means you must often crack open doors in search of prizes, while knowing that you could instead run headlong into a gaggle of... Them. Luckily, there's a melee attack which you can charge up, with only a brief cooling period following each use. Careful footwork might allow you to slay enemies without ever firing a shot, but the melee charge isn't as reliable as one might hope; even in cases when my cooling period expired, I often would hold down the button and my character would merely perform a quick punch. This could happen two or three times before the charge attack would ever commit. Luckily, "They" aren't clever enough to use ladders, so you can conserve ammo by landing a charged strike and then retreating until you can return with another one to finish the job.

The Final Station (PC) image

That technique doesn't always work, though. Sometimes, you'll happen across ladders where the conductor's animation is interrupted so that he can mount and dismount, which results in cheap, nigh-unavoidable hits if any enemies are close at hand. Opening doors and alerting enemies to your presence also prompts them to rush you so quickly that by the time you can get off a shot, the speedier ones are already in your face. Med kits replenish your health in such cases, but that just feels like a waste of time since the only punishment for dying is that you will be sent back to the nearest checkpoint. You won't lose any money and won't miss out on bonus loot, so a fatal end is turned into a minor annoyance.

Since gameplay tension is too weak to engage the player, that leaves only the story and side events within some levels to pick up the slack. One such event finds you struggling to keep survivors healthy with looted or purchased supplies as they are ferried to their next destination. When you arrive, success nets you a hefty reward. Elsewhere, you must keep the train itself in good shape, by way of a few mini-games that lack any substantial challenge. Both of the above diversions are available only during transport between levels, and thus they feel like fluff that serves merely to kill time, rather than a necessary component.

The Final Station (PC) image

It's the story that winds up serving as the game's primary draw, but it follows a set path and its highlights seem wasted. There's a rather crafty story being told, so I won't get into a lot of detail for fear of spoiling it. The abridged version is that "They" are a foreign entity capable of turning normal people into shadowy monsters. While the world's leaders are pulling their hair and searching for a solution to the worsening problem, the conductor must continue ferrying important cargo throughout the increasingly hostile world.

No doomsday story is ever that simple, of course, and questions inevitably arise. The big one is whether it's even possible to save humanity at this point. Sadly, there are no moral dilemmas along the way. Your silent protagonist just rolls with whatever comes, and gives up when his objections are ignored. You can unearth more plot details by exploring the levels more thoroughly than is strictly necessary, thanks to notes and computers and the survivors you find along the way. It's all very somber, and the hero has quite the defeatist attitude.

The visuals do a good job of communicating that sense of dread, too. The world, though presented with a dulled color palette, features nice detail. Frequently, the foreground and background are used in concert to establish some rather impressive shots. I just wish those scenes stuck around longer, and that individual plot points carried heftier weight. It would have been nice, as well, if there were choices to make besides the number of X or Y supplies to buy, and the order in which to aid survivors in order to obtain the greatest reward.

I finished The Final Station after playing for around five hours, after suffering only a handful of deaths and while clearing out every nook and cranny within each level. Given the overall pacing of that experience, which kept my fingers and my brain both active on a fairly regular basis, I would say that the experience is ultimately one worth having, even though there are many points along the way when the game is neither fun to play nor particularly demanding. It functions well enough in spite of its shortcomings, and yet I can't help but feel that it could have connected much more meaningfully with a few changes. As it stands, The Final Station is a mostly unremarkable adventure that just barely earns a passing grade.


Dinoracha's avatar
Freelance review by Lucas Goulding (September 09, 2016)

Dinoracha is a world-renowned internet famous Let's Player, voice actor, writer, reviewer, e-sports competitor, masterful stream host and man of the people. These may or may not all be gross exaggerations.

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