Developer: The Station
Publisher: The Station
Release Date: Out Now
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux
It can be a little difficult to talk about a narrative-driven ‘walking simulator’ – I mean, you don’t want to give away too much about the story because of spoilers, but then there’s not always a whole lot else to talk about outside of it. They’re hardly action-packed affairs, but typically games where you’ve got to uncover the mysteries of each tale yourself through exploration.
It’s exactly the same with The Station, the newly released sci-fi ‘walking simulator’ that has you uncover the mystery of a seemingly abandoned space station. Unlike similar games in the genre though, it pushes the player to think a bit more by including a series of neat little puzzles to compliment all of the exploring.
In The Station, humanity has discovered a strange alien civilization and have sent an undetectable space station out to examine it. With just a three-man crew, the station is tasked with figuring out how exactly the aliens function, what they believe in, and if it’d be possible to have a peaceful relationship with them. However, when contact is lost with the station, you’re sent in to try and discover what’s gone wrong.
Not knowing what exactly is going on is what’ll keep you the most intrigued when playing The Station. When you first arrive, there aren’t really any obvious signs that something has gone terribly wrong; every so often though, you’ll hear a strange noise or explosion, read a strange note, or even see a flickering shadow that reminds you that something just isn’t right. You’ll certainly be left on edge wondering what’s going on, and much like titles like Gone Home before it, you’ll be left guessing as to where the story is going right until the very end.
As you explore the station, read through people’s journals and e-mails, listen to audio logs, and go through everyone’s belongings, you’ll begin to put the pieces together as to what’s happened. There’s a real mystery to be uncovered and there’s a whole lot more going on in the station than is initially suggested, but it’s up to you to uncover it all. Of course, you could just coast through and do as little exploration as possible, but where’s the fun in that?
Admittedly, the final pay-off with the ending came from nowhere and was a little disappointing compared to what I’d built up in my mind, but I still had fun uncovering all of The Station’s little secrets.
Besides the exploration, you’ll often find yourself having to solve some simple puzzles. This was one of my favourite aspects of the game, especially since similar games in the genre have typically steered away from them and focused more on simply telling a story. It ensured nothing ever felt dull, and that all the moments of reading or examining items were broken up with segments where the players could really get involved. You won’t face anything too enigmatic or complicated, but each puzzle is well-designed, clever, and adds a fun touch to proceedings where the player actually has to put their mind to work.
The Station is an attractive game, with the space station itself full of nice little details and feeling just like… well… a space station. It was hard to feel too blown away by it though; perhaps I’ve played too many sci-fi video games, but it’s hard to get impressed by the same futuristic sights that I’ve seen time and time again. Don’t get me wrong – The Station is definitely pretty to look at and some of the views out into space are impressive, but don’t expect to see anything overly unique.
It’s worth mentioning that the game suffered from the occasional framerate hiccup. These issues don’t ruin the game by any means and in fairness they come and go quite quickly, but their presence was an unusual one given that the game is hardly a graphical or gameplay intensive one.
The Station should only take you around two hours to complete, though that time may vary depending on how much exploration you take part in. There’s plenty to discover throughout the game – some of it useless and some it linked to the plot – but how much you’ll see (and how much time you spend with the game) will come down to how much exploration and tinkering about you want to do. Whichever way you approach it, The Station feels long enough to keep you intrigued without it starting to drag its feet.