Title: The Final Station
Available On: PC, Mac
Developer: Do My Best Games
Genre: Action adventure
Official Site: https://thefinalstation.com/
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Where to Buy: Steam
The Final Station has finally pulled in, right on schedule and available on Steam. A game all about protecting and maintaining one of the last functioning locomotives in a post-apocalyptic world, players are tasked with shooting, exploring, maintaining and of course driving their train towards the end goal. It is no mere simulator either, as we’ve discussed in our previous beta impressions on the game: Jumping out of your on-rails vehicle to scavenge at over 30 different locations on your journey is a significant portion of the gameplay, and not only provides you with food, medicine and new survivors, but also with more background on the crumbling world around you.
The Final Station is a good game with a fair few surface flaws. I can’t help but enjoy it much in the same way that I did during the beta, but it needs some serious polish in order to get to the level it needs to be at. There is a solid title in there somewhere, but it is covered up by a few issues that make it hard to enjoy what is ultimately a linear, but still interesting game.
Take the plot, for example. The developers have made a point of mentioning how many lines of dialogue there are for you to discover, and they are certainly not wrong. There is a huge amount of background to read through and conversations to eavesdrop on. But unfortunately, a great deal of the English version, at least, is confusing, grammatically incorrect and difficult to follow. Couple that with the fact you only hear one side of conversations – what your character says during conversations isn’t revealed – and the overall storyline becomes mired in misunderstanding.
What little I can discern is very interesting, unique and engaging, but that language barrier ends up being a significant imposition on the enjoyment of the game.
The gameplay, on the other hand, can’t be quite so easily lost in translation. It doesn’t matter if it is a Japanese title or Finnish – good gameplay is good gameplay – and The Final Station has some shining moments. It is generally split into two halves: Exploring broken and lost train stations for supplies and survivors, and maintaining the train and its occupants on your way to the next sector.
The first is probably the more complex and interesting of the two. Busting down walls, opening up doors, flinching back as the strange black monsters come pouring out of an unexplored room – compared to the train sections, it is positively action-packed. However, it is also quite formulaic, from the maps to the way you deal with obstacles. Locked door? There’ll be a key just a few rooms away. Pack of enemies in the way? Pick off the explosive chappies, then just melee the rest of them to death in order to conserve ammunition. After 30 repetitions of this basic formula, it gets a little predictable.
The ultimate goal of every station visit is pretty much the same 95 percent of the time: Fight monsters, find supplies, get the blocker code that allows you to leave, then work your way back to the train, probably through an underground tunnel, probably finding one or two survivors along the way. It’s a testament to the core gameplay and the graphical design (more on that later) that this doesn’t end up being exceptionally boring. It gets predictable, as I’ve said, but you’ll still come back for more just to see what new town is just around the corner.
The train maintenance sections, on the other hand, are really dull. You would think that looking after a train making it’s way through a broken world would be a little more involved and exciting, but it isn’t. Here’s what it amounts to: Wait around for something to start sparking, go fix it, wait for somebody to get hungry, go feed them, wait for someone to start bleeding out, go heal them, repeat ad nauseam.
You do get treated to the conversations of the passengers, who can be very entertaining at times. You also get to have a look at the frankly gorgeous scenery outside the train. The soundscape as well is very well-done, and I can’t fault the developers on these matters on the train sections or elsewhere. But the problem with the travel segments is that it is exceptionally hard to ever enjoy them. For a game that has such a heavy emphasis on the train aspects, it is strange that it is so shallow to keep the engine running.
Furthermore, it’s a good thing that I have played this game before because a lot of what you need to know how to do isn’t really taught to you as a player. I’ve said before that game tutorials need to die, but The Final Station doesn’t quite get away without having one – or rather, a more significant and involved one. Were I a new player, this would be a serious barrier towards progression.
Now, after all my complaints, I’d like to discuss something that The Final Station does extremely well. The plot is good, but mistranslated, and the gameplay is enjoyable, if a little repetitive. The graphics and the sound – it is rare to find a game that manages to convey so much through pixelated graphics. The animations are fantastic (though again, repetitive), while every character you interact with has some kind of feature that makes them memorable.
The environment designs are particularly good, with every station having a slightly different feel and story to tell. One of the main factors that kept me pushing through to the end was simply to explore the world that Do My Best Games has created for us. The soundtrack and effects were the icing on the cake and managed to fill in the blanks where the translated dialogue fell through. Hats off to them there – they’ve created a game that is a really fantastic example of how even pixelated graphics can convey a huge amount of detail, emotion and story.
Overall, I can’t say that The Final Station is a perfect game, nor can I say that it is a pinnacle of achievement. The mistranslations were a constant annoyance, and while the core gameplay was solid, it was linear and repetitive. The look and feel of the world that has been created by Do My Best are quite fantastic, however, and I would recommend anyone with an interest in a unique storyline and environment design to check it out.
With a little bit more polish, The Final Station could be a great little indie gem – but at the moment, it falls a little short of the mark. It would get 4/5 for the concept, but the execution brings it back down to a 3/5.
Gameplay: Train maintenance and blasting bad guys.
Graphics: Pixelated perfection.
Sound: Gunshots and railways, beautiful background soundtrack.
Presentation: A yet-to-be-polished gem
- Gorgeous graphics
- Lovely soundtrack
- Good core gameplay
- Interesting world
- A lot lost in translation
- Quite linear
- Train maintenance is very shallow
- Repetitive at times