Released: August 30th 2016
DLC: April 19th 2017
You are an engineer, a train conductor, one of a few. Travelling via rail across a world ravaged by an unexplained virus that the government are desperately trying to cover up. People are dying, people are missing and rumours of nameless, violent creatures are abound.
“Something is happening here. Don’t tell the military.”
Thrown straight into the action with no details of context, controls or character, you soon wake up in the past, where your story slowly begins to unravel. The narrative plays coy throughout, only revealing itself if you comb the area for notes, analyse the environment, hunt out characters or read messages left at desktops. While you’re at it read their private diary and see what they say about you.
The Final Station demands you discover the pieces of its story yourself, and connect them together as you travel from city to city and station to station. Blockers, as the name suggests, are station outposts that derail your journey and make up the bulk of the areas you visit, hunting out the code needed to get locomotive whilst swiping everything that isn’t nailed down. Here, you feed your knowledge of the world by uncovering what happened at these stations whilst pumping humanoid shades with gunmetal. From common-garden grunt to walking atom bomb, how you choose to ration your ammo can make or break a mission as fisticuffs can only get you so far in an onslaught of the black, viscous and gooey.
Whilst exploring you meet a few stragglers, survivors you can rescue, your train becoming an Ark of sorts. Travelling between stations, they open up about the world and what has happened, but must be catered for like a needy and obsessive Tamagotchi. Each passenger saved offers a reward, whether it be money or materials to elusive weapon upgrades, and while the more the merrier on the doomed express means more mouths to feed it will sap your meagre rations a rapid time.
Once you arrive at the next city and close a chapter you are free to explore and purchase supplies at your own pace. These segments of peace are most welcome, and all carry a bewitching air of conspiracy, intrigue and mundane humanity. The pixelated art style lends itself well to these scenes. The soundtrack is equally sublime and illustrates the world where the abstract visuals and sound effects are so detailed you can hear the shift of pelting rain to muffled howls on the roof as you enter buildings. The soundtrack tenderly underpins the subtle melancholy of the cities, or the psychedelia of uncovering an underground drug den library club (true story).
Every location you visit, down to every room, is peppered with details that paint the narrative which is never outright discussed or clarified. Similarly the map only reveals itself as you investigate rooms and underground bunkers, opening a door has the room fade into view, building a network of interiors as you hunt for codes. We’re not spooked out by this at all…
Where The Final Station trips up is also where it succeeds. By giving so little away, it allows players to drink in the world for themselves, but by doing so, you’re forced to figure out the controls on the fly. Tinkering with malfunctioning machinery involves a mini-game of sorts, which gives no instruction on how you fix a potentially lethal problem. Later realising you can actually craft materials on your train, making much needed medipacks and bullets from scraps you discover all around can be a rude awakening. It also later becomes impossible to enjoy the dialogue your passengers have between themselves, you’re far too busy keeping them alive, the train in check and answering messages, which is a shame because these human remnants are varied and interesting for their brief time aboard the carriage.
The main campaign is lengthy with a world swimming in nuances, the recent DLC pack then adds a further layer to the world of The Final Station. The Only Traitor offers a different story which fixes previous problems. Now, a bat-wielding survivor, the new protagonist, takes the wheel and drives between outposts, stopping off not for codes, but supplies and move forward. These car sections need no up-keep, allowing you to talk with the single survivor you bring and can swap out, each with different skills, who can heal you or craft bullets. This adds respite between the much harder, less forgiving levels of The Only Traitor, with new enemies, locations and music.
The Final Station is a deep, detailed and interesting dystopian sci-fi escapade, where a lack of information paves the way for brilliant discoveries, horrific realisations and inventive story telling. There are a few hiccups, but they in turn inform the experience. By leaving details to the imagination, The Final Station allows players to really engage with the world they’re travelling through and much like the pixel-art style, it gives room to project, allowing players to mull over the nature of what’s happening.
The DLC adds another deep campaign to further flesh out the world, a self-contained sequel of sorts that warrants a revisit to the original. An incredibly deep and lengthy campaign set in a crumbling, compelling world.