The Final Station is the latest game from TinyBuild the publisher behind releases like Party Hard and Punch Club. This go around we’re leaving the boxing ring for a post-apocalyptic future in which a mysterious monstrous force has invaded our planet and corrupted much of the population. You play as an ordinary train operator who is tasked by the government to both deliver precious cargo that will save humanity while also rescuing any survivors he finds along the way.
Recent security upgrades at the railway stations mean that each one is equipped with blockers that will prevent your train from moving any further until you input a numerical code provided to you by the station manager. At first this is just a matter of talking to the right person but each stop quickly devolves into exploring dangerous territory and battling enemies in order to find the all important code.
The game operates on a 2D plane with WASD controlling your movement and the mouse aiming your weapon. You can play The Final Station on a console but I found the controller woefully inaccurate in lieu of the mouse. It’s not so bad once you get a laser attachment on your gun but until you do you’re definitely going to want your reticle.
In its best moments The Final Station will transport you back to the golden ages of survival horror where death could come quickly and resource and ammo conservation were key. Exploring the stations can be a challenging affair, and you’ll often find yourself outnumbered. Running is always an option, in fact it probably won’t be uncommon to complete a level without completely clearing it of enemies.
You’re able to heal yourself at any time so long as you have medkits in your inventory, but the catch is that those are the same medkits that you’ll be healing up your passengers with. Yes that’s right, you’ll be collecting passengers from station to station. Their needs are basic, occasionally requiring food and medkits to restore their health. This means that every time you’re forced to heal yourself while exploring a station you’re also potentially dooming one of your passengers.
Initially I was intrigued by this premise, imagining scenarios where I would have to make hard decisions relating to who would live or die. Although the game’s difficulty is balanced in such a way that’s it not that hard to rescue everyone. I only had one passenger expire while under my care and I know exactly where I messed up to cause that unfortunate event. Even so it’s a neat component to the game.
Ultimately though, your time spent on the train feels like a missed opportunity. On each trip one of the different components on the train will break down and require adjustment. Early on I assumed this would morph into a fun mini game with you jumping back and forth between controls but instead only one control port will ever need adjusting and so you’ll usually just find yourself camping it while listening to blips of the story from your passengers.
The Final Station relays a lot of its dialogue through the passengers of your train. The problem is that you’re typically too busy adjusting controls and monitoring their vital signs to really pay attention to whatever it is they’re gabbing about. You’ll also get bits of story from the different towns you’ll visit but I found most of the game’s dialogue to be stilted and sometimes poorly translated. It’s not awful and the game is still plenty of fun without a full grip on the plot but it could have been so much better with the right adjustments.
Delivering a passenger all the way to safety will net you a helping of cash to spend in town. You can use the money to purchase things like more medkits, food, ammunition, and even upgrades to your weaponry. I did have some grievances with the final set of passengers. I delivered them to the city as usual but I was never able to find a shop anywhere to spend my money in. Maybe there was one somewhere that I just breezed past but I felt like I looked awful hard and never found anything. So why bother rescuing anyone in that final set?
In fact overall we were sailing along just splendidly on the “4/5 score” train until I reached the game’s final hour where everything starts to feel oddly rushed. It’s around this point that you find the game’s final weapon, an assault rifle that replaces your pistol (along with all your hard earned upgrades). The gun handles ammunition more efficiently but overall I felt like it was a weapon downgrade rather than a benefit. At this point you’re also so close to the end of the game that there’s no opportunities to upgrade the rifle in any meaningful way.
Pair this up with the game’s somewhat bizarre and abrupt ending and I can’t help but be a little suspicious that perhaps The Final Station was forced to end sooner than its creators may have actually intended. TinyBuild’s presser says the game runs 5-6 hours but my playthrough (which I felt was rather thorough) clocked in closer to 4. I don’t think there’s necessarily an issue with the game’s length but players who are overly concerned about how far their money actually goes should know that your time spent playing has likely been embellished.
The game is launching for $15.99 but will be on sale for the first few days for $11.99, a price that is probably worth it to the curious. If the game had stuck its landing I could have absolutely seen it appearing again on my game of the year list, but unfortunately the strange design decisions in the back half have pushed it down into a sometimes frustrating, mostly average experience.