As I waded through the hordes of once-human monsters known as the Infected, gathering supplies to continue my journey to The Final Station, I looked around and wondered how and why the alien gas could have such dramatic effects on humanity. Why was the government covering this up? Why were people explicitly ignoring these events as they unfolded around them? Having shaken off the throes of blissful ignorance, hands stained in the blood of the infected, shotgun pointing forward and supplies in tow, I made my way back to the train with the few survivors who saw the truth and headed down the railroad to my destination.
The Final Station is a story about the end or alteration of humanity and how a select few fought on despite the false or fleeting hope of survival. Mankind saw its “first visitation” over a century earlier. The zones where the visitation occurred are off limits to all except government teams who scoured those lands to retrieve alien technology. That technology literally changed the future. 106 years later, alien gas canisters have fallen from the skies preceding a second visitation. Those canisters emitted a gas which caused physiological and psychological change in those exposed. The majority were changed into the “Infected’ and turned psychotic.
The government, represented by a shadowy council, created a rail system that could travel to the surviving pockets of humanity. These trains were manned with conductors to run the trains and presumably to bear arms and fight when necessary.
Crafted by Do My Best Games and published by tinyBuild, the studio responsible for Party Hard, Punch Club, SpeedRunners, and more, The Final Station is a fun blend of twin stick shooter and resource management set in an apocalyptic if somewhat 1950’s-esque future
I outlined the story for The Final Station in my intro but to add some depth to that, there were many aspects to the story that I found particularly interesting. The overall theme carried that paranoid 1950’s, “only a few people and the shadowy government know what’s going on” kind of vibe. Sort of like a spy thriller but instead of spies, it was aliens and infected with normal, if somewhat quirky people mixed in. Your overall goal is to provide the necessary parts to get a giant robot operational so it can defeat the second visitation.
Throughout the adventure you will have chances to communicate briefly with the other train conductors and that will add to the sense of desperation the game is trying to convey. You are tasked with running your train to its final stop with items needed to combat the alien menace in tow. Along the way, while exploring the various overrun stations and towns/cities, you will find survivors who will catch a ride to the next safe station. While they are traveling with you, they will talk to you and amongst themselves and reading their conversations will also add depth to the world and give some insight as to how people view this world changing event.
I did feel the story became disjointed at the end and went from a somewhat surreal interpretation of world events to completely surreal and non-connected. While having a surreal flair to it, the story was continuous but at the end, after you have made it to the final station, the story takes a wild turn and becomes less about the entire journey and more about your own transition and hope that you can find a way to keep your family safe. A guru-of-sorts guides you through these final moments in a spirit guide fashion and then closes with an assurance that he will take care of “her”. It felt like the bridge between the desperate train run and your own climactic bid to get home was missing. There really needed to be more of a real reason and less of a psychedelic one, although I suppose the bridge may have simply been the effect the gas was having on you with hallucinations as a possible result.
Despite my one concern with the story I absolutely felt engaged throughout and was always interested to see what would happen next. The story is truly the thing driving your experience with The Final Station forward. For that reason, I still assign this category a 9 out of 10.
At its core, The Final Station is a twin stick shooter with resource management elements.
While in the train itself you will need to keep it running by checking and re-calibrating various gauges. You will also need to keep your passengers alive by providing food and medicine to care for their needs. Failure to keep the gauges calibrated will shut down the train until you do so. Failure to feed or heal your passengers will result in their death(s), which are represented by a nice bloody mess where they had previously been sitting. Passengers will disembark at the next safe station, which is typically anywhere from 2-5 stations away. Whoever arrives safely will reward you with cash, ammunition, food, and so on.
When your train arrives at the next station on the line, you will need to find a passcode that removes a blocker placed on the tracks at each station. The person who has that code is rarely at his/her desk and so you must go find them. Even when they are at their desk they generally will need some time to get the code for you which gives you some time to explore the area. Exploration is simple 2-D left/right movement with some ladders to climb and doors to open. Often, you will need to also find a key or a battery to move forward in hopes of getting that passcode or to simply return to your train.
The majority of stations have been overrun by the Infected and outside of the occasional survivor holed up in this room or that, you will be killing your way through these stations. There is a small variety of Infected from your slow, easy to kill types to the super fast and tough ones to the larger than normal ones. There are also Infected soldiers in full body armor, some leapers that like to try to chew your face off and some exploding Infected as well. As with most zombie-centric media, headshots are the most effective. To accomplish this you are armed with a pistol although you will find a shotgun later and both weapons will be automatically upgraded as you reach specific story events. Of course, you can also put up your dukes and fight and I found this to be the way to go with the generic infected whenever possible to save your precious ammo. You will also find medkits along the way which you will use to heal yourself and your passengers.
There is a limited crafting system that allows you to build more medkits and ammo as you find the appropriate parts. Additionally, you find a lot of junk during your journeys which is automatically converted to cash. At friendly (non-overrun) stations, you can purchase supplies (food, medkits, ammo, and later on, clip upgrades for your weapons). Other things of note are your ability to interact with certain objects (books and notes, musical instruments, and such) and use some of them (chairs, toilets, oil barrels) as impromptu weapons.
The gameplay in The Final Station was solid. There were a couple frustrating moments where I was standing too close to a ladder in combat which lead to accidentally climbing instead of firing. That resulted in some unnecessary deaths but since the save system is quite forgiving, this wasn’t really a big deal. I also experienced almost no technical difficulties. There was a little stuttering towards the end but it never lasted long and never had an impact on the gameplay.
Another 9 out of 10 here.
The graphics in The Final Station are quite nice, especially when considering the choice of pixel graphics over more refined media. There were some standout moments, especially in the backdrops for the frames, that were especially pleasing. The graphics were not the main focus of this game but they worked nicely regardless. I’ll let some screenshots fill out my thoughts on this category:
A solid 8 out of 10
Much like the graphics, the audio in The Final Station were never intended to be more than enhancements to the game, and I felt they worked perfectly. Gunshots sounded real, the instruments you occasionally find sounded spot on, and the various ambient effects were done immaculately. While I cant say that I remember many specific moments from an audio standpoint, I can affirm that the audio tracks throughout helped keep me fully immersed in the experience.
Another 8 out of 10
Do My Best Games accomplished what they set out to do with The Final Station. This was a deeply immersive experience that never got old and never felt stale. Despite the specific stations not having a ton a variance in design, they were just different enough to be fun each time. The story was mysterious, desperate and interesting throughout. The artwork – especially the backdrops – were well done and the audio helped complete the package. It seems like every time tinyBuild gets involved with a new game they seek to try something different and getting involved with Do My Best Games was a successful venture by my mind.
I quite enjoyed my time with this game and give it 8.5 Infected being shot in the face by a train engineer while trying to transport the parts that will make a giant protector robot operational so it can in turn fight against the alien invasion out of 10 possible. The other 1.5 were deftly avoided by yours truly.
Or as Samuel Jackson might put it, “I’m tired of all these (8.5) MnF’n infected on this (these) (10) MnF’n train stations!”