One of the games I found under my Steam Christmas tree was The Final Station, a bleak game that sees you try to drive the last running train through to its destination. When it comes to trains, I’m the most unlucky person on the planet. Suffering through Great Western Railway has made me see trains in general as a horror experience, so when it comes to having a horror game set on a train, I was wondering if it was endorsed by Great Western Railway themselves.
Black blobs aren’t normally something I’d be afraid of. In fact, World of Goo did a very good job of making me think they were incredibly cute. With The Final Station, that all changed. You’re introduced to human-shaped black blobs pretty early on in the game, and they’re terrifying. There are a few different enemies that you come across during the game, and they are each challenging in their own ways. There are standard fare zombies that take a bullet well, but punching them hard sees them off. Then you have the armoured ones, which again just take a punch and then a well aimed headshot – simple. You’ve also got some exploding ones that are a bit more challenging, but as long as you’re quick you can see them off no problem. The scary ones are the little ones. Every time there was a small blob racing around, my heart went into overdrive and I lost all composure. They’re rapid and love taking massive chomps out of you, and every time they got close I pissed all my ammo over them. The sense of relief of seeing them die was almost overwhelming, and I have no idea how the developer made a small black blob so intimidating.
Even though the environments are bleak, they look fantastic and the artists capture the situation well. The Final Station utilises a lot of wonderful techniques to bring the dreariness and terror to the fore. From the battered and bruised civilians lying around to the pathetic fallacy of the rain and darkness surrounding you, everything is tailored to make you worry. Which is exactly what you’ll do, straight away. While the buildings and even the main player character sticks mainly to grey-scale, the backgrounds and other characters are wonderfully drawn. There are some stunning background images that you’ll pass through on your train that are really well worth the price of the ticket alone. The artists really have to be commended for creating such a bleak foreground with a gorgeous background.
Much like riding on a train, once you’re finished, you don’t really need to experience it again. There’s almost no variance in gameplays, save for who you can keep alive on your trains and how much eavesdropping you can do. You can certainly glean adequate information from posters and computer terminals in the game, meaning there isn’t enough to call you back. I definitely enjoyed playing through, but it was one of the first times I finished a game and thought “Well, I’m done.”. It is a little disappointing that the replay value is close to nil, as I did enjoy the game mechanics in general.
Having said that, I can definitely see one reason why players would revisit The Final Station. As I said, eavesdropping is key to learning more about the world, and you can only do it on your train. This is all well and good, but you’re often prevented from doing it. Your train has some interesting quirks, that canonically, definitely make sense. Every now and then, a part of your train will need a bit of maintenance. That’s fairly simple, and the mini-games aren’t challenging at all. It’s just that it does harm your ability to gather information about what has happened to the world. Missing out on these key interactions because you have to pull a lever down is definitely one of the least enjoyable parts of this game.
The Final Station is definitely a good, fun game that walks the tightrope of scariness and enjoyability quite well. For your money, you could probably get a longer-lasting game, as The Final Station only clocks in at around six hours. Like a good book, however, it is definitely worth the price. It is engaging, especially if you’re able to stand around your passengers for extended periods. A bit of a shame about the replay value, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the Final Station.