Neither a wise man nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
“The following is a contributor post by the Midnight Mystic Mage.”
The Final Station is a fantastic little indie game developed by Do My Best Games and published by tinyBuild the publishers of such games as Party Hard, Punch Club, Speedrunners, Hello Neighbor, and many more. This game took me about 5 hours to beat start to finish, so it is not a huge time investment. The time that you do have is with a quality game and this another game that does the pixel graphics style very well, much like the last game that I reviewed: Kingdom: New Lands. I played Final Station on a MacBook Air laptop which I felt was a pretty good way to experience the game. It is also available on Windows, Linux, Xbox One, & PS4.
So you play as a conductor who is driving along in his train and so happens to stumble upon an apocalyptic zombie-like outbreak. The monsters who succumb to the disease are fully black and are almost reminiscent of something out of Limbo in design. There are different types of the zombie-like creatures, one that gave me quite a bit of trouble were the smaller but faster ones who come barreling out from behind doors when you get them open. There were many emotional scenes where you were able to read a note left behind by someone who had turned or been killed by one of the monstrous creatures.
When you are conducting the train there are different things that you have to stay on top of. On each trip there is a different part of the train that is malfunctioning as well as you having to stay on top of keeping the passengers from dying from hunger or dying from their wounds. To keep that from happening you must gather supplies during the levels that you play which are 2D side scrolling shooter stages. There’s food, med kits (which you need for the passengers and yourself), as well as ammo for your guns, and pieces that you can craft into ammo or med kits while on your train ride.
During the ride you can listen in on the passengers’ conversations, talk to other conductors who have not been wiped out by the apocalyptic conditions yet, and check out the map while you take care of all the things I mentioned previously. There of course is a reward for each passenger that makes it safely to their destination. It is a greater reward for more important passengers but it can also be harder to keep those passengers alive for the whole ride. If they are wounded it becomes more difficult because the health drains much faster and it can be hard to decide whether to keep your precious med kits for the treacherous journey or use them to keep the passenger alive and reap the reward.
So the gameplay during the levels is what really hooked me and kept me coming back for more. I may be off base in saying this but it reminds me of a pixelated Metroidvania style of game. I was playing on the laptop and surprisingly the trackpad felt just fine with the minimal amount of aiming needed. The objective of each level is to find the code needed to leave in the train which will be freshly picked with whoever you find around the level that needs saving as well as those from previous levels who have not yet reached their destination.
I really did wish that the game was longer because I was starting to really get into it but it came to what I thought was a bit of an abrupt ending. I wish that you were able to run more missions after you make it to the final station to bring supplies or that it was a bit longer, or something along those lines. There is a surprise ending that I will not give away which I thought was fine but I really wish they had done a bit more to add depth to the game because it was a load of fun to play and the only thing I can do now to get more is to keep starting it over again. I may do that eventually because I did love it and think it would be fun to try and do better and discover more on another play through, but I would have really liked there to been a bit more. A bit anti-climactic if in my opinion if I am going to be completely honest.
The 8-Bit Review
I love a good pixel design in a game and The Final Station does a fine job on this front. It is not something that someone who only enjoys the newest 4k top notch experience will appreciate, but for those of us who like this type of style it was done very well. Don’t get me wrong there is definitely nothing wrong with sitting back with a beautifully rendered gaming experience that pushes the current technology to the limits of it capabilities; I love a well done AAA game as much as the next guy. There seems to be a lack of appreciation by many people for a well done game with pixel graphics though at least with many people that I talk to about gaming. The scenes in this game were beautiful and watching the background fade behind your train as you move from station to station was entrancing and delightful.
One of the first games that I played when really getting back into gaming full swing a few years ago and actually one of the first if not the first one that I blogged about was Shadow Complex. The Final Station has many of the aspects that I really loved about that game but in a pixelated style that is pulled off very well. The shooting feels natural, the mini games and the crafting make the train rides feel necessary, and I love the Metroidvania style levels. It is 2D side scrolling and you go up and down to different floors, you have to pass up certain areas that are locked that you can then come back to later once you find the key. You become aware of how precious ammo is early on and may decide like I did to bash the easier foes and save your bullets. Ammo, medkits, and food are all in short supply and you must make the right decisions with each of them in order to keep things moving.
It was easy to jump in and play and felt very natural as far as the controls go. I definitely feel like the Gameplay and Accessibility are the strongest aspects of this game. It doesn’t hold your hand but you don’t need it to and that’s always a refreshing thing in game design. Leading people to realize for themselves what needs to be done is always better than blatantly shoving it down their throat. “This is how you walk” Oh really? I was planning on head butting the keyboard until he started to move, thanks.
I felt like there was an opportunity here to be much more of a fright fest than what it was. There were moments like walking into a room full of what appeared to be some sort of doomsday cult that made you a bit uneasy. I just feel like they could have brought it to that next level with a few more moments like that. A pixelated game that comes to mind with quite a few genuinely chilling moments was The Last Door. This was one area that I felt could have had more attention, but the game’s spooky atmosphere was great and done very well. A few more, “Oh crap” moments would have been well served though. It definitely doesn’t miss the mark so far as to be funny or just plain not scary while trying to be, I just feel like it could have hit another level with a few more big moments of horror.
The abrupt ending had me feeling like, thats it? I felt like I was really just getting into it and then it ended in a way that I wasn’t expecting. The unexpected ending wasn’t really a bad thing per se, but it came at a point that I was super hyped to keep playing and it was just a bit unwelcome in my opinion. I love a good short game, and this game is undoubtedly that. I do however wish that there was some kind of option to keep playing and doing supply runs or exploring the ruins in surrounding cities. Instead this ending happens and the credits roll, your only choice is to start again and the replayability isn’t really there for me personally at least immediately. In fact, that leads me to my next area that I would like to score because…
I have no desire to play the game again right away. That being said I do believe that I could give it another run through one day in the future, especially with how short it is and how fun the gameplay can be. I feel like they could have done more in the realm of decision-making or the character’s abilities that would make you want to run through again. I did enjoy the story and didn’t mind the lack of decision-making while playing at all as far as things that would change the direction of the game or story. I just think that there might have been a few things that could have been added to make you want to jump right back in and see it from another angle especially due to the short game time and rather sudden ending.
I had to try a few times at certain parts where there were more than a handful of enemies, but there were never any boss fights which I felt could have enhanced the experience a bit. The thing that added the most to the difficulty was the limited amount of supplies that you had to be very careful not to over use. I felt like that was a very smart choice and added a whole new level of interest for myself personally. You can’t just go around mowing down zombies like Rambo without any fear of running out of ammunition. You have to plan when would be a good time to use melee and when you need to go in with your full arsenal, guns blazing, and take down the horde.
My Personal Grade: 7/10
I really love this game and was very fond of the visual style and gameplay. The way the story is told is also very neat, but I can’t help but feel like I wish there was more there. I love a good short game but for some reason the way that it ended just really left me feeling like there was supposed to be more that was going to happen. If they make another game to follow up I will definitely play it but it wasn’t exactly set up for that to happen. There is really nothing too much to complain about other than that, great game with a nice little apocalyptic story, very well made indie game that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with and I would totally recommend it to anyone who can get their hands on it. It won’t take up much of your time, and the time that it does take you will be happy to have spent it.
Aggregated Score: 6.8
The Midnight Mystic Mage is the resident writer of sublimereviews.wordpress.com, a reviewer of games, books, and film, and a fan of all things horror and spooky. Follow the link… if you dare!
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Categories: Game Review