It has been a long stretch of track since the last stop. Supplies are low; I’ve fed the last candy bar I could find to the hungry woman sitting in the front of the passenger car. I worry about the bandaged old man in the back of the car; will we have enough medkits for him to survive until the next shelter? I honestly don’t know. The train is in shambles. I do my best to keep the critical systems running, managing temperature, venting steam, and adjusting alignments as necessary to make it to the next station. Occasionally, I see another engineer online on our online chat. Opportunities to share information like this are few and far between, and often short. It seems that everything is falling apart. I just need to reach The Final Station.
This is The Final Station, an interesting puzzle survival platformer with time and resource management elements. Developed by Do My Best and published by growing favorite TinyBuild, The Final Station applies some new and interesting tweaks to the traditional zombie survival formula.
First and foremost is the role that Zed play in the world. Uncovered via snippets of gameplay, it becomes evident that this world has experienced the zombie hordes before, and found a way to survive. The major change seems to be walled cities, with the majority of overland travel handled by armored trains. Furthermore, a council has been convened, with the purpose of protecting the populace from the walking dead. Their choices regarding how to do this directly affect the gameplay of The Final Station.
The action begins a bit slowly in The Final Station. After a short in media res tutorial of sorts, the world begins to once again fall into chaos. The player happens to be testing a locomotive on the day the world ends again, thrusting them into the role of unlikely hero charged with moving cargo and refugees down the line in search of salvation. Heading down the tracks, you will be forced to stop at each station along the way due to a “security measure” put in place by the council prior to the latest outbreak.
Herein lies the mechanic that forms the basis for most of the game. Each station has a security lock that automatically stops your train and prevents you from leaving until a code is entered. Initially, you will receive these codes from the station managers. As the infection spreads, however, you will find yourself hazarding zombie-filled areas in hopes of securing the code from a survivor or by other means. You are held fast until this code can be secured and the security countermeasure is unlocked.
The search for the code is not the only goal you have at each station. Throughout these locations you will also scavenge for supplies. This includes weapons, ammo, food, and medical supplies. They can appear in lockers, bathroom cabinets, and secret areas spread through each level. Adequately refilling your stocks is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is keeping you, the conductor, on your feet, re-deading the dead, and seeking the code.
While keeping yourself armed, fed and healed is important, you will not be the only one making use of these items. While you explore each level you will also stumble upon other survivors at times. These grim holdouts will join you on the train, to be disembarked at the next safe location. Often, these folks will be hungry and hurt, and will require food and medical treatment from you if they hope to make it out alive.
Between each station, you will have a section of travel via rails on your locomotive. During this time, you will want to check on your passengers, feeding those who are hungry and healing those you can. This can create a number of difficult choices; do you heal the wounded, and leave yourself vulnerable? Or do you allow your passengers to expire? The tension this management creates is palpable, and will come to permeate most of your activities in the game, if you are anything like me.
Compounding the care of your passengers is the state of repair of your locomotive. There are a number of animated and interact-able areas on the train that will require your attention during each rail sequence. Failure to manage these mechanics can result in the death of your charges via dangers such as overheating. So, in addition to directly caring for each passenger, your will also need to manage the environment as a whole if you have any hope of succeeding. As your passenger compartment fills, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, particularly as your supplies dwindle.
We’ve talked at length now about the world and concepts of The Final Station. But what about the actual station exploration details? This portion of the game is somewhat traditional platforming, with the notable exception that there is no jump. Vertical traversal is accomplished through ladders alone. You’ll find and open doors and manholes to explore each area. Supplies, survivors, and zombies can be found everywhere.
Fighting shamblers applies a final layer of gameplay over what The Final Station has already offered. You are not some badass zombie killing machine. You will lose straight combat encounters if there are more than 2-3 walkers. While you will end many teeth gnashing abominations in your time, the encounters are largely the same – find enemies, and apply damage to them while steadily running backwards or “kiting” them. Oh sure, there will be times where you might be able to setup an ambush, or throw items or fire weapons from a high point to fight the dead. These instances, however, are the exception rather than the rule. A fair amount of damage is required to de-animate most of your enemies, and while you can accomplish this with fists, guns and throw-able objects will be your staple tools. Headshots result in quick kills and preserve your ammo. Thrown items often result in an auto-kill, and you will quickly form a habit of finding these objects as you explore.
When you pull all of these items together, the complete picture is something to behold. It is only once you have done all of these things that you realize exactly what The Final Station is all about – threat assessment and risk management. Simply put – you will be hard pressed to kill every zombie you find, scavenge all supplies, and rescue all survivors. The developers obviously had a keen understanding of this, and have applied both carrot and stick to both motivate you and have you considering all your options. Most of the levels feature a path that becomes circular, and continuing forward will often deposit you back at the train, with most collectibles secured. That said, many players will realize what I did – often, there simply is not enough of anything to go around. Can you afford to search that next room, with your medkits depleted and your health where it is at? Do you have enough food to feed everyone? How about time – can you do everything you need to during your next ride? These difficult questions go from being a low hum to a cacophonous roar over the course of the game, and may become a deal-breaker for the completionists out there.
All of these systems come together with a gallery of 8 bit art assets that really are the highlight of The Final Station. The sprites have character, the animations are smooth (albeit simple), but the real star here are the levels and backgrounds. Not only are these locations beautiful, but some clever use of camera work and obscuring scenery makes for some memorable moments that propel the story forward and amp up the tension.
All in all, The Final Station is a solid little risk management zombie survival adventure with some unique systems. The art is great, the gameplay is pretty decent, if stressful. If you are a zombie fan looking for a different experience, I suggest giving this a try. If you enjoy tense resource management, this is for you. If not, look elsewhere, as stress and success go hand in hand in The Final Station.
The Final Station can be purchased on Steam.
Note: This game was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.