The Final Station (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Renan Fontes 23.02.2018

Review for The Final Station on Nintendo Switch

Post-apocalyptic settings aren't exactly hard to pull off in a videogame format, but they do require a delicate touch in crafting a world an audience can care about. It's easy to get lost in the apathy of the end, but apathy without intrigue is just boring. Lending its entire premise to traversing the apocalypse by train, The Final Station is a side-scrolling survival game that indulges in vague storytelling and tone to create an end of the world narrative where mystery, and stress, are prioritised above all else.

In a world on the brink of a second apocalypse, a conductor finds himself suddenly in charge of a mysterious cargo, while also going out of his way to pick up survivors on his train. As far as end of the world narratives go, The Final Station has quite a lot going for it just conceptually. The world has already ended but can end again, the one constant is a train that the conductor is in control of while also taking orders from his superiors, and the presence of survivors keep the experience from feeling too isolated without softening the loneliness of a post-apocalyptic setting.

Gameplay is split into two main sections: the train and exploration. In the train, the conductor has to simply keep everything intact and ensure his passengers stay alive. Off the train, the conductor has to explore several areas, fight off enemies, and find train codes so he can head to the next stop. Most areas are totally devoid of life, save for a few key survivors and an onslaught of enemies. Combat basically boils down to either shooting or punching enemies, but both are not without their faults. Ammo is scarce, so it needs to be used strategically, and melee attacks won't work as effectively in scenarios where there are multiple enemies on-screen.

Screenshot for The Final Station on Nintendo Switch

While most of the meat of the gameplay will be fending off enemies and surviving, the aesthetic and atmosphere of the world create a hostile, almost sad setting where each area sucks the conductor in and refuses to let him out without a fight. There's a genuine chaos to fending off enemies silhouetted in black. It's uncomfortable in a way, not being able to tell what exactly the threat is. Most areas where enemies are encountered also give off some creepy implications. Walking into a house to find a dead body on the first floor and three enemies on the second paints an unsettling picture of what went down before the conductor arrived.

Despite establishing an incredibly sombre atmosphere that's as immersive as it is morbid, The Final Station suffers from an unfortunately stiff script. Just about every single piece of dialogue is in desperate need of another edit. Character interactions are clearly trying to be poignant and meaningful, but it's hard to appreciate what's being said when the actual writing is so frigid. The state of the script is especially sad since the experience is quite narrative heavy and dialogue is presented in an intentionally vague manner. It isn't particularly difficult to decipher what characters are saying through context, but it does hurt the overall immersion.

As poor as the script is, the actual story beats are strong enough to keep the narrative engaging. Passengers build repertoires with one another, and seeing them off or seeing them die does elicit an emotional response after spending a considerable amount of time with them. Along with a very clear passage of time from station to station, each stop feels like a proper next step in the conductor's journey. Environments are generally bleak, but that makes the rare instances of vibrant colour all the more welcome. The hostility of the outside world also builds a relationship with the train, where it serves as one of the few bastions of society after the end of the world.

Screenshot for The Final Station on Nintendo Switch

Like with any survival game, remaining notes and corpses leave behind a story of what the world once was, and was on its way to becoming. It's a genre staple, and to be expected, but it's still deserving of praise when done well. For whatever reason, the notes are generally better written than the dialogue. They are better grammatically most of the time, and their content sets the tone for each area rather nicely. Having an idea of what occurred before the conductor's arrival allows players to invest themselves more in the setting and try to piece together what exactly happened.

While the script might have issues, the biggest problem with the narrative has to be how dialogue occurs in the train. Passengers interact with one another, but their dialogue only appears if the conductor is in their carriage with them. Should he walk away to craft, fiddle around with the cargo control, or grab food, the dialogue will continue but no longer be displayed on-screen until he returns to their carriage. This is likely done for realism, but it does mean players are basically punished for sticking to the rules. Most of the time, it's easy enough to just sit in the passenger area and soak up the story, but there will inevitably be instances where the conductor has to leave.

This is all a part of the difficulty, of course, as a core principle of The Final Station is management. Passengers need to be fed and bandaged, dialogue needs to be heard, the train has to be toggled with, and sometimes the conductor needs to take messages from his co-workers. Combined, at the worst opportune times, these elements create a highly stressful management simulator where priorities will differ from player to player. There is no right or wrong way to tackle the gameplay, but it does seem like the developer is pushing for a "keep everyone alive" scenario, no matter the costs.

Screenshot for The Final Station on Nintendo Switch

Management isn't exclusive to the train, however. Ammo and med-kit management are incredibly important when exploring new areas and fending off enemies. Wasting bullets will inevitably lead to a scenario where the conductor can be easily overpowered, and using a med-kit on the field can mark the death of a passenger should they need one down the road. Since passengers are the best source of income, it's critically important to keep as many alive as possible. A hefty wallet alleviates the stress considerably. Rest stops allow the conductor to stock up on ammo, med-kits, and food to lighten the load of the journey. Weapon upgrades can also be purchased, but they are expensive, necessitating the requirement to keep others alive for the payout.

While it's easy to get immersed in the experience, the gameplay does start to feel repetitive by the end. Every area follows the same layout: get off the train, find the code, back-track to the train. Some areas are longer than others or have optional content, but the derivativeness of the objectives does run thin by the last act. More variety certainly would have gone a long way in helping the pace, especially since the last chunk of the story drops much of the groundedness that made the story compelling, in favour of a dramatic finale.

Even with a noticeably weaker ending than the rest of the game, The Final Station racks up enough goodwill early on to justify seeing it to completion. Its script is far for perfect, and there's not much depth to the combat, but exploring each area, keeping passengers alive, and simply immersing oneself in an apocalyptic wasteland on the verge of suffering another cataclysm, makes for a compelling train ride through the end of the world.

Screenshot for The Final Station on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

In spite of an unfortunately stiff script and repetitive gameplay, The Final Station is still one of the most atmospheric and interesting survival titles in the genre. With a genuinely impressive ambience that revels in morbidity, each moment of gameplay is immersive and sombre. Surviving feels like an actual goal as enemies are relentless and ammunition is difficult to come by. Managing the train and keeping passengers alive is stressful, but it's stress that's rewarded and adds to the hostile aesthetic of the world. The last act does lose its way in terms of narrative, and the writing leaves much to be desired, but the moment to moment experiences are conceptually great and make for a memorable journey. The Final Station might be lacking in some departments, but what it does well, it does well.

Developer

Do My Best Games

Publisher

tinybuild

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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