The Final Station
Developer(s): Do My Best Games
Publisher(s): tinyBuild Games
Platform(s): PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
Reviewed On: Switch
Release Date(s): February 23rd, 2018
As I’ve expressed before, games are derivative, just like any other creative medium. Developers pick and pull from things that inspired them, aiming to create their own unique experiences. A Hat in Time and Aegis Defenders do that wonderfully. The Final Station does not.
The Final Station, developed by Do My Best Games, is the worst kind of game to review. It’s not a great game, but neither is it terrible. It sits squarely in the middle of mediocrity. The game sprinkles nuggets of interesting narrative and mechanics but fails to push any of them forward in meaningful ways.
Your Average, Everyday Apocalypse
The Final Station‘s story is one we’ve seen before. The world is dying. Humanity hangs on the edge, fighting for survival. You must make your way through a harsh, uncaring world that tries to kill you at every step. We’ve seen it before, and The Final Station does little to make it any different.
The premise of the story centers around a nameless Train Conductor tasked with transporting special cargo. Along the way, the player learns what has happened to paint everything in such dire straits. Over a century prior, the world was afflicted by a global catastrophe dubbed “The First Visitation”. Society has adapted in the wake of that disaster, cobbling together a rudimentary defense. The Final Station carries an oppressively nihilistic view of humanity’s struggle in the apocalypse.
Equally as dreary is the bland writing. The Final Station does an admirable job of fleshing out the post-apocalyptic world but fails to capture any lasting interest. It doles out its narrative through stilted English and awkward dialogue. All the story beats and character moments are there, but never more than the bare minimum. The game does a great job of telling me why I should care, but never shows.
Unlike a game like Aegis Defenders, The Final Station‘s pixel visuals are serviceable at best. They’re not bad by any means, but they do little to make the game stand out among every other game that has a pixelated art style.
As with the narrative, The Final Station‘s visuals provide the bare minimum. The Conductor travels to different locations, each with their own distinct tones and moods. However, the visuals do little more than tell you “A” is different than “B” and both belong in the same world.
Dull by Design
The Final Station‘s core gameplay is, like its visuals and story, utterly bland. The systems and mechanics are all there, but only so much as to give you a “Win” and “Lose” state. You “win” by progressing from one station to the next. You “lose” when you die. There isn’t much more to it than that.
The core gameplay loop consists of two distinct segments: the Train and the Stations. During the Train portion, you manage different aspects of your train, including power, supplies, and passengers. In the Station part of the game, you explore on foot, scrounging for supplies, rescuing survivors, and fighting off enemies. Your ultimate goal is to find a code to release the blocks on your train, allowing you to progress to the next station. So on and so forth. Each of these gameplay segments present vaguely interesting mechanics. However, they require little engagement or interaction from the player.
The Train segment consists of little more than managing resources that dwindle at far too slow a rate to carry any danger. In lieu of forcing the player to make risky decisions (because that would be too interesting), the game simply has you ticking off boxes to tell you “Yep, you’re playing a game.” Granted, the Train portions aren’t the main draw of The Final Station, but they do little to immerse me in the game.
Most of the core gameplay occurs at Stations, where the Conductor must fight their way through hordes of enemies to continue their journey. Both the level design and combat are incredibly lackluster. Linearity, unless done right, is one of the most annoying things to see in an action-adventure game. If this review has not yet assured you, The Final Station does not do linearity right. The combat itself is fairly standard run-and-gun, with little running and awkward gunning. For the few times that the game requires accuracy, it’s hard to get a bead with the Switch’s analog stick.
I have a beef with the combat specifically. As the conductor, you travel with modest armaments that can protect you so long as you have the ammo for it. Like other games in post-apocalyptic settings, ammo is a scarce resource that requires you to think carefully about your shots. That would work just fine if The Final Station allowed for good alternatives to using your gun.
The only other ways the game allows you to fight is through a melee attack or throwing objects. Since throwable objects are limited in supply, your one consistently reliable means of damage is your melee. Logic dictates then, the most efficient way to play the game is to use a mix of melee and gunfire.
However, the cooldown on the melee is painfully slow, and enemies are so easy to dodge that you can easily hide until your it’s available. What should be tense combat instead becomes a tiresome waiting game. If the most optimal way to play your action game requires waiting on timers, you need to rethink your design choices.
- Good reflection of a post-apocalyptic world through mechanics
- Wide variety of gameplay elements
- Hefty amount of lore and backstory
- Awkward writing and dialogue
- Simple combat and level design
- Standard pixel-art visuals