From the starting sequences of the Half Life series to the open rails of Train Simulator, locomotives, and their cousins have a long history in video games. It’s a designer’s dream, really: a vehicle that can provide a literal on-the-rails adventure, a shooting gallery, a defense objective and a viewing platform, all rolled into one. What high-octane action game doesn’t boast some kind of jumping, climbing and shooting sequence, either on a train (that you “just needed to follow, CJ”) or during the chase of one? Yes, these choo-choos have a seriously snug place in the hearts of gamers everywhere.
With that in mind, it’s understandable why a studio like Do My Best Games would decide to base an entire title around protecting and maintaining a train. But don’t be fooled – this is no mere train simulator. Fighting through swarms of enemies to hunt down vital supplies to keep your vehicle running and its passengers living, rescuing survivors from the ruined wastes of a post-apocalyptic world, desperately trying to find a way to survive until the next inhabited station; The Final Station is one part exploration, one part tactical shooter and one part strategic management.
You can expect the game later this year, but we have been graciously invited to experiment with the beta experience so far. Let’s take a look at what this rootin’ tootin’ choo-chooin’ pixelated train-based adventure has to offer.
Straight off the bat, the first thing you will notice about The Final Station is the skill behind the artists and animators. You’ll often find that indie studios can sometimes use pixel-based graphics as an excuse to slack off on the looks of the title. Do My Best Games is not one of these studios. Everything from the background landscapes to the death and reloading animations is well put-together. You’ll wince when dying survivors choke and bleed out, you’ll cheer as the swarms of enemies flinch and evaporate as they die, and even something like the smoke from a cigarette is a seriously impressive piece of artistic talent.
Nowhere better demonstrates this than the lonely landscapes that you shoot through during the train management sections of the game. Dilapidated towns crumble around you, war-torn hills hint at the events of the ravaged past, the few inhabited towns that are left are filled with a cornucopia of characters to interest with – each interesting in their own way.
Here Comes the Pain Train
But enough about how it looks, how does it play? The gameplay, as mentioned, is a mix between feeding, healing and making sure your passengers don’t choke during the long train rides between stations. You do this by pulling levers, distributing food, applying bandages, adjusting power levels and generally rushing about trying to keep one of the few functioning trains left in the world running. For the most part, this is a game of priorities: the guy with a previous wound might bleed out before you can feed the hungry lady, but everybody is going to suffer if the power to the ventilation system goes down and they suffocate.
There’s a steep learning curve here, and you will lose passengers either due to a lack of time, skill or resources. Medkits and food are in short supply, making them priorities during your scavenging missions at the stations themselves. This section of the game, which involves more shooting and exploring, still retains the resource management aspects of the travel sections. Run out of bullets in The Final Station, and you’ll quickly find yourself gobbled by the creepy shadow creatures that inhabit the broken vestiges of humanity’s cities. You have to balance the decision to use some of your precious bullets to kill the monsters guarding some potential treasure, versus running out of bullets further down the line and resorting to dangerous melee combat.
The Final Station Survival Guide
In this way, the game is always a battle for survival. No matter where you go or what you do, you are always having to fight against something. While your ultimate objective for these sections in The Final Station is always to get the “blocker code” (an obstacle that stops your train from just plowing through every station to the finish line), how you manage to get there is up to you. The levels themselves are unfortunately a little linear at this stage, and it would be good if the later levels open up somewhat to help improve that risk-reward gameplay. However, you do still have choices as the player even during the action sequences.
Try to scavenge everything you can to ensure your survivors have a little bit longer before they die, or skip the most dangerous parts to conserve ammunition? Whatever your choice, there are consequences, as certain survivors reveal more of the story through their conversations during the train ride, as well as offer you resources as soon as you reach a safe area. More survivors, more resources, more plot – but to keep them alive, you have to use precious supplies. How you balance that is up to you.
In The Works
I would like to talk about the story a little, because there is one, and it looks like it could be interesting. Unfortunately at this point in time, the narrative is a placeholder and is a little hard to follow as a result. Something about the first contact, some strange capsules you find on certain levels, the train having to take something somewhere, suspicious government activity and an ignorant populace; All ingredients of a classic post-apocalypse story with a dystopian government. Even though it is hard to understand, the plot is still engaging, which bodes well – if it is difficult to comprehend but still driving, the final product should be able to deliver particularly well.
Ultimately, my first impressions of The Final Station are solid ones. Great graphics, solid risk-reward gameplay and an interesting plotline all spell an indie title that will be well worth having in your library. We only got to play through the first chapter of a five chapter game, and it took us about an hour – if the rest of the chapters are similar in length, you are looking at a short, but fun little game. An excellent first offering by anyone’s judgment. Keep an eye out for Do My Best Games’ The Final Station sometime this summer!
A serial hobbyist, Jack loves everything from blacksmithing to brewing – and, of course, the occasional video game.