Here we have a train simulator / zombie shooter. Why not? The Final Station is certainly original: you play as a conductor in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies (which for some reason all look more like silhouettes than flesh-eaters).
You're given an important delivery mission by the military with a secondary objective of stopping off at various stations along the way to search for and extract survivors. Will you help those you find on your journey or will you save all the resources for yourself?
The gameplay alternates between two styles: explorative and shooting sections in the stations, and keeping survivors alive aboard your train. Both play substantially differently from each other. In the shooter sections, you stop off at the next station on your route where you must find a code in order to depart again. You'll also have to either fight or run from zombies, gather materials for crafting, and look for any survivors. Ammo is fairly limited so you'll need to conserve as much as you can. This isn't too difficult, however, as you'll quickly learn that most of your enemies can be safely dispatched by backing away from them while spamming the punch button. The only time you're likely to get into any real difficulty is when you have to go up or down a ladder with a bunch of zombies waiting at the other end. It seems impossible not to take a hit in some of these instances which feels pretty clunky and unfair. To make up for it, there are frequent checkpoints although this has the side effect of making The Final Station a little too easy.
Once you're back on the train, you have to effectively babysit your passengers if you want them to survive to the next station. This means keeping an eye on their health and hunger meters, and bringing them food and medikits when necessary (I guess the short walk they would have to take to the front of the train is too much trouble). You'll also have to keep the train operational by repeatedly attending to one of its malfunctioning systems. Once you get a lot of passengers on board, doing all this at once can be quite hectic; however, it provides a welcome change-up in the gameplay. The passengers will converse among themselves during the journey but it's rather hard to follow their conversations when you're constantly running around seeing to their every need. One cool effect is how the landscape behind the train changes each time a foreground object momentarily obscures the view. These scenes, despite their obvious graphical limitations, still manage to paint a fittingly desolate picture of the post-apocalyptic setting.
If you successfully deliver passengers to towns, you'll get a reward in the form of cash and (sometimes) items. There's a good bit of resource management you'll have to think about if you want to save everybody; e.g. not using too many health kits on yourself and searching every room for food. As the game is so easy, there ultimately isn't a huge amount of incentive to go out of your way to help them, especially as some survivors can be rather ungrateful. Subsequently, whether they live or die feels somewhat inconsequential.
You can also craft more ammo and medikits while onboard the train, but the interface for doing so is pretty awful. Basically, it's very hard to tell which options are selected, meaning you frequently quit out of the crafting menu by accident. In the end, I just had to learn the sequence of button presses to craft something rather than judge it by eye. This is a problem elsewhere in the game, too. From the main menu screen to vendors in towns, it's almost always unclear which option you have selected because of the backwards colour scheme. If you think the lighter colour means an option's selected and the darker one means it's not then, like me, you're in for a surprise. One time, I accidentally sold all my items because it looked like the "buy" button was highlighted when it wasn't.
But the main problem with The Final Station is that it's quite dull to play. Between the shooting sections, there's a lot of wandering through empty environments or having uninteresting conversations with NPCs. This isn't helped by the fact that the appropriately sorrowful soundtrack is used so sparingly throughout. Most of the stages have no music at all which hardly helps to reduce the boredom. Furthermore, after a few levels of station exploring followed by train babysitting over and over; it gets pretty repetitive.
The Final Station deserves credit for an original concept and some fleeting graphical flourishes. However, its long periods of downtime between the rather unspectacular combat mean that, much like a long train journey, its overriding impression is one of tedium.
- + Original concept
- + Some nice graphical touches, particularly the backgrounds
- + Keeping survivors alive can be challenging
- - Repetitive gameplay
- - Lots of boring sections of downtime between the action
- - Very unclear menu interface