If you're getting tired of the ever-more popular zombie/alien invasion trope, The Final Station has something new for you.
The world is dying. Again. It's been 106 years since the last 'visitation' and now things are amiss once more. Take control of the train traveling cross-country, rescue survivors and keep them all alive while you uncover the mysteries of the returning invasion.
The Final Station is developed by Do My Best, and while they have a team name, the developers are a team of just two men. It's their debut game, and honestly? It's really damn good. They've created an original and engaging game, with brilliant pixel art backgrounds and vistas.
The Final Station is split into two mechanics: exploration, and simulation.
As the train driver, you'll need to explore each town on the map in order to rescue survivors and get the blocker code to release the train from the station and allow it to continue on its journey. Along the way, you can find food and first aid, two very important items which can also be found on your train. You'll also find lots of 'junk' items which have a monetary value that will automatically be transferred to your cash balance. You can use the money to buy items if you're lucky enough to stumble across some living survivors or shops. Keep an eye out for spoons... while they're not worth a lot in terms of cash, but they count towards your achievement leaderboard.
To start with, the stations along your journey are mostly in good repair. There's a distinct lack of people, but exploring paper cuttings on walls, or computer screens gives a snapshot into what's happening in the wider world. As you delve further into the game, you'll come across towns that are abandoned. You'll still need to find the blocker codes to move on, but when you do, you don't have to worry about writing them down as they'll be on screen once you've collected them.
Opening lockers and dipping your hands into toilet cisterns, you can find all kinds of supplementary items which can be used in crafting once you return to the train. Ammo and first aid components can be found all across the cities. You'll know when the items you've picked up are for crafting, as they'll be highlighted in blue when you pick them up.
Keep an eye out for hidden passageways. These are highlighted by having a white outline when you're close enough to interact with it, and they're often found on the floor, making them easy to walk over and miss. These will usually hide secrets such as survivors or food and first aid. It's worth exploring them once you've finished looking around above-ground, since there could be anything down there, and anything you find above may help you below.
While traveling between stations, the driver should be busy the whole time. There are many parts to keep an eye on throughout the journey, which leaves little time for conversation with any passengers on board you may have picked up along the way. The passengers will chat away while you work, and you can either stand and see what they have to say or crack on with the job at hand.
The front of the train holds the communication systems in order to talk to other technicians and people of interest you've met on your journey. This is where you will also find a crafting menu. Using the items you gathered, you can make first aid kits and extra ammo. Since you can only craft on your train, this makes resource management an absolute must. Particularly when your train passengers may be injured or hungry, and keeping them alive with your onboard rations to get them to their destination stations will net you a hefty money bonus. On the other hand, what good is it to hoard money when everyone is dead and you can't find anyone to buy anything from?
In the passenger carriage, there is the breaker and the ventilation system. If either of them overloads, the health of the passengers will begin to decline and they'll need resetting. The easiest way to tell the status of the system is by the display on each of the items, which should be a green tick when everything is running smoothly.
The breaker at the furthest left of the passenger carriage will need readjusting if it begins overloading, and you can reduce it by hitting A until the level normalizes again. The ventilation system shows five vents, and they should all be balanced out equally. If one of them is higher than the others, you can select it and press A to bring it back down a notch. Later when you pick up some cargo, you must keep an eye on the system for that too, ensuring the two wheels have the same read-out on their dials. If they don't, you can select a reel to increase or decrease it until it matches.
All of these things will need to be juggled while keeping passengers happy and alive. If a passenger dies, you can ransack their body for extra money. Just claim survival of the fittest and you'll be guilt-free.
After a few stations, you'll start to encounter 'invaders'. These are black humanoid shapes that will shamble after you and attack if you're within reach. There are a few variations of these enemies, from normal unarmed monsters, small fast ones that rush and bite you, surgeons with masks on that need to be punched off to reveal their weak head, or exploding ones which you should take out from a distance.
Ammo is initially in short supply, so you'll want to conserve it by using melee attacks. Hitting B once will make the train driver punch, but you can hold it to do a charged attack. These are great for breaking down walls, and also one charged attack will kill a normal monster outright. If you can get more than one into a crowd, you can charge the punch and get them all at once with one hit. Single punches don't do a lot of damage at all, but you can use the punch to smash through windows in order to escape an otherwise locked compound.
Throughout the levels, you can find items that you can hold and throw at enemies. This includes but isn't limited to boxes, batteries, and even toilets. You can move items between rooms, so if you find something that you don't need to use immediately, you can carry it with you like some cutesy 8-bit Solid Snake.
Before long, you'll get your first weapon, a handgun. You can use the right stick to aim the reticule, and yes, you can headshot the invaders.
The Driver can die. When you get low on health you can refill it with Y, but only if you have first aid kits on hand. If you fail to heal yourself in time, you will respawn at a predetermined check point. The good thing about this is that you can approach things in a more methodical manner without having to entirely restart the entire stage.
The Bad Bits
Honestly, there isn't too much to say in terms of things wrong with The Final Station. The only minor complaint I have is that the menu systems aren't colored differently enough to make it clear what selection you're making. Case in point, when I first loaded the game, the title menu is white and the selection highlighter is off-white. Not being able to tell for sure which selection I was making almost caused me to launch the game in Russian. The same problem persists in the communications and crafting menu, it's very difficult to tell what selection you're making, and I often found myself diving in and out of the wrong sub-section over again trying to find the right part I wanted.
Kudos to Do My Best. For a debut game, I'm very impressed by the level of quality and thought that has gone into The Final Station. While some may feel like pixel-art is overdone in general, I can't fault Do My Best for going down that route for their first game -- its simple design allows for a lot of creativity
- Engaging simple fun
- Quality pixel art
- Variation of mechanics keeps the game fresh and interesting
- Menus are difficult to navigate due to color choices.
This review was conducted on Xbox One with a code provided by the developer.