The world is dying.
Most cities lie empty except for swarms of the infected, ready to stir into action at the sight of fresh meat. As one of the last surviving conductors of one of the last remaining trains, your goal is to keep the engines running in order to bring supplies and a ray of hope to humanity’s last gasp.
In the Final Station, the apocalypse has already happened. Mysterious pods have landed, venting gas that infects everyone it contacts, causing them to mindlessly kill all other life. Confusion sets in, and misinformation abounds. Transportation and communication are all but shut down, and one of the only things left connecting small pockets of survivors is your train.
Fortunately your train has a nuclear power source, so fuel will not run out any time soon. That does not mean that getting to the next station will be a cakewalk. Systems on the train are old, and you must fill in as the mechanic, venting steam, adjusting voltages, and generally tinkering with instrument panels between stations.
You are also responsible for keeping any passengers alive that you pick up along the way. You will never have quite enough food and medicine to keep everyone alive, and tough choices must be made about who gets those precious resources. I’m not sure how others will play, but I selfishly kept the survivors alive who would give me the best reward if they arrived safely.
As the train arrives at each station, it is locked into place by a digital Blocker. The train cannot leave until the correct code is entered, and that code is up to you to find somewhere in the town. You may wander through high-rise buildings, networked underground military bunkers, or just through abandoned houses. Behind every closed door, you may face an infected running straight at you, so cautious exploration is key. Ammo for your pistol is very limited, you must learn to used the charged melee attack, and pick up items like chairs and toilets to throw to conserve ammo. There are several types of infected, and knowing how to take them down is important for survival. Since the game rewards headshots with greater damage, I grew frustrated when the crosshairs looked lined up perfectly, yet my shots whizzed by harmlessly.
Blocker codes aren’t the only thing you’ll search for in abandoned villages, you also need to find medicine and food, and crafting items for your ammo and med-kits. Along the way you will also find open laptops, hastily scribbled notes, and other momentos from those no longer there. These scraps of information, along with conversations with passengers and townsfolk in the few remaining settled cities paint a bleak, hopeless story. Food is running out. No one knows what the government is doing, except for one mysterious, last ditch effort. Loved ones are lost time and time again…some of the notes are quite haunting. Perhaps the most eerie is the occasional hermit you will come across holed up deep in a bunker, who will tell you, no, they’ll stay here and just let happen whatever will happen.
Final Station delivers a very effective story with a very constrained graphics. The blocky pixels are used effectively to paint a world beyond hope. There is a great variety of settings, from forest, dense cities, snow covered mountain tops, and research facilities. Final Station gives credit to the player’s imagination to fill in the extra pixels, and the reactions of the characters in the game flesh out the story as effectively as a 4K image.
Relying more on written and verbal narrative than flashy graphics, Final Station provides a compelling view of an inescapable catastrophe. Combat isn’t perfect, but the strategy of conservation makes it challenging and rewarding to finally get by a horde of infected only using 4 bullets. The mix of exploration and train maintenance simulation give the player a varied experience, that while repetitive, never settles into routine. The inevitable conclusion to this 4-5 hour adventure will stay with the player long after the train arrives at the final station.