This isn't the first time they came. Their pods have crashed to Earth before, and their shadowy forms have hunted our people. That time, we won. This time, we weren't so lucky. You're no savior in The Final Station, you're just a humble train operator, transporting important cargo all across the dystopian wasteland. However, just because you're not on a grand quest to save the damned world doesn't mean you don't get to see the best and worst that the apocalypse has to offer at your many stops.
As you may have gathered, The Final Station isn't a power fantasy of any sort. Sure, you get a pistol and a shotgun, but you'd be surprised just how quickly the lead supply runs dry. In my forty-five minute long demo, I probably only had roughly twenty bullets in my inventory at max, and I spent quite a bit of time on a panicked rush to scavenge more ammunition from the many lootable containers.
Having access to bullets doesn't necessarily mean you will instantly win any given encounter. Whatever came out of those pods is relentless, and it's common to open a door and find four or so of the shadow creatures barreling towards you. While your guns may deal quite a bit of damage, the enemies can soak up punishment if you neglect to go for a headshot. On top of that, halfway through the demo, I started encountering new enemy types such as average shamblers decked out in riot gear or ones that combust - forcing you to change up your approach drastically before dropping them with a well-placed bullet or thrown crate.
However, it's not the enemies that put me on the ropes - it's their visibility. Despite the game being sidescrolling, you have no idea what's behind any door before you swing it open. You might find those extra shotgun shells you desperately crave, it's also just as likely that you'll be thrust into a combat situation.
When you're not blasting away at enemies during a level, it's easy to get caught up in the atmosphere. The lack of music mixed with the foreboding ambient noises helps paint the game's hopeless tone, and the environments are littered with notes, newspaper clippings and chat logs to give you a look at the day to day life of people just as the monsters returned. It's rare for a 2D game to get me truly immersed, but I was glued to my screen from the moment the train pulled into the first station.
Once you get the access code on each station, you can move onto the train segments, which is a mixture of story segments and micromanaging the needs of both your train and its passengers. NPCs you've saved from the stations will discuss their (usually less than pleasant) thoughts on the world and the future, helping to build both the world and the dreary atmosphere. While they talk, it's your job to flip switches and adjust power levels to keep your train operational - as every second passed is another tick to the hunger meter of your passengers.
Passengers have a tendency to get very hungry very quickly, and it's on you to make sure that you've gathered enough resources in the levels to feed them properly. While I managed to complete the demo with all passengers safely intact, I imagine things won't go so well if you let that bar run out. That's not just story speaking either, as my arrival at the safe haven at the chapter's end had each surviving passenger gift me with resources.
My demo took me through the first (and shortest) chapter of The Final Station, and it should speak volumes that I was genuinely disappointed when the screen faded to black. My time with The Final Station was short, but it had to be one of the most thoroughly engrossing hours of gameplay I've experienced all year. If the full game can keep the momentum going, then I think we might be looking at a real hit.
The Final Station was previewed on Steam with a copy provided by the developer.