A game I knew nothing about going in, The Final Station is a cute, 2D neo-pixel graphics game and side-scrolling shooter that pleasantly caught me by surprise. I suspected immediately that some sort of bias was going to factor into this eventual review because of its retro delights, but The Final Station goes on to show that looks and the blending of genres are not everything.
The Final Station marks the debut of Russian (I’m guessing? due to the creators’ names) game company, Do My Best Games, and in a lot of ways, the 2016 release does indeed feel considerably like an indie game: it has a somewhat original concept in both ambiguous narrative and unique gameplay, yet a lot of its presentation feels blatantly amateur.
The Final Station takes place during an apocalypse of, surprisingly not your standard zombies, but of noiseless, silhouette, infectious creatures that don’t seem to do much other than to make beelines for uninfected humans, making them pretty eerie and repulsive. Your job as the player — a train conductor — is to linearly stop at stations and rescue survivors by shooting your way through small hordes of the creatures, and by finding supplies such as more ammo, first aid, food, and the materials to craft said supplies.
One thing The Final Station does well straightaway is stick with its ambiguity, both narratively and actively in gameplay. The game never informs you on the situation nor does it ever tell you what to do about it, which I found to be a great choice because it lets the player find out everything for themselves, even if its approach is linear.
The primary overarching objective is to keep each one of these survivors alive and satisfactorily satiated, or else they have no choice but to drop dead right in your train car unless you are able to reach a safe area in time. This overall objective is neat and subtly thrilling because it requires a rational use of your scarce resources. One wrong move, and you won’t have enough food for that one poor, starving soul. For the ones that do survive, however, the player is handsomely rewarded. Most of the time, the reward is money, but crafting materials are also given.
Gunning down the eerie creatures themselves is moderately enjoyable. There are only two weapons the player carries through the game: a pistol and a shotgun (the pistol then eventually gets replaced by a rifle). A risky melee option is also available, as well as the ability to pick up and throw objects. The enemy variety is fair, with six different types of enemy behaviors, as far as I remember (and as far as I found out).
Now that I have touched up on all of the positive aspects, it is just as important for me to discuss the negative ones. First off, certainly the weakest aspect of The Final Station is that it is terribly repetitive. I was okay with the linearity of it all as long as there were enemies constantly being thrown at me, but other than just introducing some new behaviors from the creatures here and there, the game dryly clings to the concept of going in, killing, rescuing, and looting. The task is basically the same every time but the stakes are never raised. It is almost as if the different stops were randomly generated layouts but the enemy encounters only get the faintest more difficult.
If they had just spiced something up every so often with anything inventive. The only examples I can think of was the one stop where it was pitch black and you could only see because of a little circle of light around the character, and the two or three times a swarm of enemies suddenly appeared and prompted the player to quickly react.
Much like when I first set eyes on The Final Station, I was taken aback when it so abruptly ended. Even by that point, absolutely nothing had been spiced up and I was vastly disappointed because in order to find any of its alternate endings, I would have had to play it all again — something I hate when games encourage it. Playing the same exact game again doesn’t make for replay value. Replay value only works when the content of the actual game itself is fun, even on the second, third, and so on go of it.
Seeing as The Final Station was a pretty plain sit, I refused to play it again. Ignorant as it may be, there was no way I was going to go through the same repetitive process after all of my resources, money, and upgrades had just been laid to waist. There is also an annoying interaction bug and a tad too much time spent on narrative for my taste, so why bother.
For all the disappointment and irksome promptness The Final Station offers, I still found it decently enjoyable. I actually did come close to playing it again but I simply didn’t see the point, as my opinion most likely wouldn’t have changed. It really felt like the developers were onto something, but The Final Station ends up becoming more of a time-waster than anything.