The Final Station Nintendo Switch Review by SwitchWatch
Developer: Do My Best
Publisher: tinyBuild Games
Release Date: February 23rd (NA), 27th (EU) 2018
Price as of Article: $19.99 USD, £13.49 GBP
Post apocalyptic games have always been around but there seems to have been a special resurgence in the past few years. The Final Station is yet another indie game set in the bleak future although this one has a premise very reminiscent of the movie Snowpiercer: A world devastated by the unknown and a train that has to keep moving.
The Final Station has one of the more intriguing stories that I’ve actually witness in an indie game, especially of the post-apocalyptic kind which is a genre that tends to feel is a bit over done and predictable these days. The Final Station really hooked me though. It’s the classic case of a zombie outbreak of not-zombies. Yes, that again is very predictable but I feel that this game tells it very well.
The story follows an everyday train driver tasked with completing a mysterious governmental order in transporting precious cargo. This is during the time after the what’s dubbed “The First Visitation” a catastrophe that decimated the world over 100 years ago, although it’s never fully clear exactly what happened. You quickly become enlightened when during transportation of your important package, “The Second Visitation” commences and the population begin to be infected and transform in to shadowy, zombie-esque creatures.
It’s then the conductor’s job to find survivors and transport vital items to fight for the cause, maybe helping save the world. The story tells a very tragic tale and you really feel for the people involved. I especially found moments on the train to be the most telling as you and the other survivors witness things from afar. Sure, the dialogue presented here may not be all that, but the sense of feeling you get from seeing things visually is very strong and I was surprised how invested I became in the struggle against The Second Visitation.
Surprisingly I think the audio is a bit of a weak point. This is mainly because of the lack of music as you’re playing the game. There’s almost zero music in The Final Station, especially during gameplay. I suppose this is a stylistic choice from the development team to make the world seem more desolate and empty but to be honest, I like music! There is a bit of music in the safe zones and it’s nice enough, but I needed more of it and especially some creepy ambient music during the exploration sections.
I’d rate the visuals between decent and really good. Characters, environments and all of that look pretty good. You get some really interesting visual pieces on occasions. My favourite visual pieces by far are the backgrounds you’ll skim past while travelling on the train. They’re huge, varied and often spectacular to look at. I think some may bemoan the pixelated sprite-work, but I honestly quite liked it.
I need to note that while the performance was fine for the most part, there is the odd bit of stuttering or two. I think this has to do with when you reach checkpoints and it is noticeable but didn’t really affect the gameplay for me.
The gameplay is divided into two parts. The side-scrolling exploration, adventure part and the train riding part. They’re two very different beasts but compliment each other well. Starting with the action sections, this is where your train will arrive at one of the many stations in this world. Every time it arrives it’s automatically locked in place for security reasons with a code. While you’re exploring the environment picking up supplies, food and med-packs you may come across survivors who can be persuaded to go aboard your train. The main goal of these exploration parts is to find the code to release your train, and these are strategically placed to be discovered right at the end of your wandering. In the mean time you’ll be fighting off a small variety of enemies that want to kill you. You have the standard shufflers, the small fast ones, ones that blow up after being shot and even some in armour. They all have to be dealt with in different ways.
Walking around with the left analogue stick you aim your gun with the right. You don’t get full 360 aiming coverage, but it’s pretty generous. You’ll fire with the ZR button but you’re really going to want to choose your shots carefully. Ammo can be very scarce in The Final Station and there were so many times I was desperate for it. You can craft more back on the train but when you’re out in the wild you’re at the mercy of how generous the cupboards, boxes and containers are in regards to ammo. Your best bet it is to use the melee attack as much as possible as well as going for headshots. I found this aspect made The Final Station a very tense game.
Saying that, it’s not particularly difficult. Sure, there are some awkward sections where you may perish at the hands of the monsters which outnumber you if you’re not quite prepared, but the game is generous enough with checkpoints that you’re never severely punished for dying and you can quickly retry from where you just died. Maybe some people will find it too lenient but I was happy I didn’t lose a lot of progress to be honest. There’s no greater waste of time in my opinion.
As mentioned, in each act you’ll find a variety of survivors who will hitch a ride on your train. It’s your job to keep them alive. This is partly where the train management side of the game comes in. While riding between stations you have to juggle between keeping your passengers healthy while also keeping the train running by performing maintenance in the form of pseudo mini-games. All passengers have two meters you need to keep an eye on, their health and their hunger. If either of these reaches zero, they die. To stop this you have to give them med-packs or food boxes, both of which are very scarce.
One of the issues I had early is that the game isn’t really very good at explaining things. Very early on my assistant engineer died because he starved to death, even though at the point I had no idea that could happen. I didn’t know about managing the trains systems. I didn’t know I had to provide food for the passengers. I suppose his death did make me learn very quickly though, him dying taught me a lesson. It still would have been nice to have an brief explanation before hand though.
The survivors are a risk versus reward feature. You will want to pick them up because dropping them off safely at a surviving refuge will give you cash and items. On the other hand they can be a massive waste of resources especially in the med-kit department. Some survivors will be badly wounded and need treatment fairly often. Using med-kits on them will leave you with less for your adventures.
My main gripe with the train sections is that there seems to be only one problem with the train at a time. Either the ventilation is dodgy, the suspension, the precious cargo needs monitoring. It’s always one thing, never multiple at a time which I found a little on the boring side. It’s also difficult to keep track of the dialogue said by the passengers. I was really interested in what they had to say but I was so busy making sure people weren’t dying and taking care of the train, it was impossible to follow their conversations.
The two separate gameplay sections are actually fairly basic and, taken out of the context of this game, may be considered a little too simple for some. However with the world building, the story and combining the two styles together make it work very well to make it feel grander than it actually is. Some may not enjoy the linearity of it and the predictability of the exploring, train journey, exploring, train journey formula, but I did.
For $19.99 or £13.49 I think you’ve got yourself a good deal with The Final Station. It’s a great little indie game that will probably last you about 5 hours. There’s not much room for replaying it which you probably need to take into account but I think the price is worth it. Maybe the American price could have been a dollar or two lower but it’s not much of an issue.
Mixes genres very well
Very tense experience
Needed more music
Maybe too simple for some