Every time I feel as though they start scraping the bottom of the barrel for zombie post-apocalyptic games, one comes by and wets my whistle just enough to be satisfied with it. The Final Station is one of those games. It takes a surprising amount of things and compacts them down to make you feel as though you’re always doing something, constantly on the go, and the game walks a fine line with difficulty. Things could be going fine, and then opening one door too many can change everything. However, the game isn’t without some minor issues.
In The Final Station, you play as a train conductor, assuming that was your job before everything went bad. You are going from train station to train station, searching for anything useful, and seeing if you can find any survivors as well. You need to be on the lookout for things to keep yourself healthy, food and meds for the survivors you find, weapons to use and, of course, ammo for said weapons. There is a bonus in that it seems the story is told through notes and IMs you find all over on pieces of paper and on computers. You get to see a lot of what people were doing last before everything went to the zombie overlords (let’s be honest, they are our masters).
The game is a survival shooter, but I’m split on which one it is wanting to be more of. Not in a bad way at all but, in a way, it seems to focus a lot on survival as you have to keep survivors alive. On one hand it seems easy — you keep them fed and healthy and they stay alive — sounds like raising a child, I guess. However, that doesn’t always come so easy. I had a pair of people on my train and I fed them, but one guy became hungry again very quickly and I had no food. Needless to say, he had four dollars on him. Surviving isn’t just when you’re out and about off the train; you have to keep up maintenance on the train to keep it moving from place to place while trying to keep everyone on the ups. You also are able to talk to people through some online system on the train, which seems like a way to pick up missions as they ask you to check places out. Once you’re off the train, that is when it becomes a shooter. That can be tricky as well. Ammo can be scarce at times and if you get real low, you might find yourself between a rock and a hard spot.
The zombies in The Final Station are no joke either. They hit hard, some move fast, and some even have on body armor. You can pick some things up like chairs, boxes, and toilets to throw at them when you really need to or want to save ammo, but often there are more zombies around than what you have in the area to throw at them. You can punch them, but zombies hit hard and they will leave you close to death quite easily; med packs can be rare to find as well. Though searching can leave you lacking, you do find scraps and, with those, you can make stuff on your train, such as ammo with gunpowder you find and med packs from pills that you scavenge up. This can be very helpful as it could mean leaving the train with nine bullets instead of just three.
One of the worst things about this game is the reaction time. You can run faster than zombies, but when you run and have to climb a ladder down, it takes a second and leaves you either open to a few hits or even dead. It could be more fluid or feel less like I’m mashing the button repeatedly. To be fair, the game is intense, so no matter what I’d be mashing the button repeatedly.
There is also the fact that The Final Station is supposed to have full controller support. However, the first time I started the game, it worked for about five seconds and then the game crashed. After that the controls never worked again and I was stuck using the WASD and mouse to do everything. Now, for your average PC gamer, that will be no problem at all, but for a controller dork like myself it was a little tough. It is also because of this situation that it is hard to tell if this game is truly hard or just harder for me using a mouse and keyboard. The Final Station is clearly not suppose to be a walk in the park, but I can’t help but feel like a big part of my constant failing is due to not being able to use a control.
The Final Station hasn’t released yet; The version I played was a preview build and it’s still being worked on, so I’m sure they will have the controller worked out by the time the game releases. So, other than that, the game is pretty well polished. The only other thing that raised an eyebrow for me was the checkpoints. When you die, you don’t start back at the train, but close to where you left off. Not to mention with the same amount as health you last had. There was one incident that left me, well, very frustrated when my checkpoint was right in front of an armored zombie that was killing me in one hit. It put a real damper on getting away from him in time before getting hit. The real kicker being that I had to run past him to get away and when you run past zombies you are vulnerable to incoming hits. It was like God stepped in and wanted us to be together, for about a second before he started eating my brains.
The Final Station is creative, fun, and leaves you wanting to play more. The game is in good shape for not being finished yet. Other than the initial start and having it crash my PC, I didn’t run into any problems at all. I’m definitely interested in gettting hands on with the game once it is completed.
A PC preview copy of The Final Station was provided by tinyBuild for the purpose of this preview. The game is set to release this summer.