Developer: Do My Best Games
Publisher: tinyBuild Games
Release Date: Out Now
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux
After hitting PCs and consoles last year, tinyBuild Games and Do My Best Games have brought their apocalyptic-train managing-survival sim (hey, it’s the best way to describe it!) The Final Station to the Nintendo Switch with its additional DLC included as part of the package. It’s a unique survival title that blends together familiar gameplay mechanics in a neat way, making it easy to get absorbed into the dangerous adventure it offers.
The Final Station sees you taking on the role of a train conductor who’s leading a train (duh) through a deadly route in a newly chaotic world. He’s not alone though, with not only plenty of passengers that need to be safely transported but also a mysterious cargo that could prove to be one of humanity’s last hopes. No pressure, then.
Between each dangerous stop on your journey you have to gather resources and fight off deadly foes, all whilst making tricky choices that will determine which passengers survive the trip. It’s daunting, especially since you slowly learn more about then and their role in the world, but it’s up to you to determine which ones will make it to their own final station.
A good bulk of The Final Station isn’t actually spent on the train though – instead, it’s spent exploring the world and traversing through its many deadly areas, all whilst taking down the dangerous zombies that are roaming around and uncovering the resources needed to keep both you and the train’s passengers alive. At its core, The Final Station is a survival sim, so you’ll have to balance all of your actions carefully and ration out your resources if you want to see your journey through to its conclusion.
Whilst most of the environments you explore are full of enemies and need investigating in order to progress through the game, you’ll also come across Safe Zones where you’ll be able to buy new items, unlock new weapons, or simply discover more about the world. The passengers you’re transporting aren’t getting a free ride, so looking after them properly and making some cash ensures that you’ll be well-equipped. It’s like a balancing act, with your resources not only being scarce and needing managing between your passengers and yourself, but also being the key to gaining better equipment in the long run.
Exploration is fun and there’s certainly an unnerving vibe to be felt during your initial time with the game, but it doesn’t take long before you get used to the routine. You know what kind of enemies you’re going to face off against and it becomes clear how to find the codes required in locales to progress your journey, so the variety of the adventure does wane a bit after the first hour or so. It should only take around four hours to complete The Final Station though, so fortunately it never starts to feel boring – just expect to see everything it really has to offer quite quickly.
The combat itself works well enough, with a nice variety of zombies for you to take down and some decent weapons to use against them. Initially they could be a little intimidating, especially with armoured and exploding zombies to look out for, though as you progress through the game and get better weapons and more ammo, it can start to feel a lot less daunting. Progressing through the game certainly sees the threat level drop a bit, and whilst the initial scurries through dangerous locations could be tense, they can feel a bit like a formality during the game’s later hours when you’re better equipped.
It’s not just a case of exploring these dangerous locales though – you’re the train’s conductor after all, so you’ve got to make sure it’s in ship-shape and that the passengers are well looked after. This is where some of the tough choices come into play; your resources are finite, so you’ve got to decide how you allocate them and who you actually give them to. Some of these resources you’ll actually need to keep for yourself too, especially when you’re exploring the dangerous environment. You’ve got the freedom to decide all of this and in truth there’s no right or wrong way to approach it. Just know that your actions have consequences, and since the passengers of the train are your main source of income, keeping them happy (and alive) will be vital to your success.
What I really liked about The Final Station was just how unique the whole premise felt. The survival aspects of the gameplay and the man-management have been done before plenty of times before, but the way it’s blended into this dangerous and mysterious train journey felt very distinct. Maybe the addition of zombies isn’t so unique mind, but hey, they work well within the dire setup of the game, so who’s complaining?
Visually, The Final Station utilises an almost cute pixel art presentation; given the dark vibe of the game and its apocalypse-hit world (that’s quite similar to The Last of Us) you’d think it wouldn’t fit, yet it manages to nail the harrowing vibe perfectly. There’s a clever mixture of a dark aesthetic with splashes of colour too, which really helps the world come to life whilst still feeling like this downtrodden and awful place.