I still don’t know how I feel about Snowpiercer. After the fantastic and chilling premise wears off, its blemishes are made bare, truly tying in to the concept that maybe, after a point, the world isn’t worth saving. But before you get a chance to ponder all that, you’ll be intrigued and guessing from start to finish. Much like that film, The Final Station is a great concept with a lot of bright moments, but the follow-through is lacking in some areas.
The Final Station‘s story is told through clever use of setpieces, dialogue, and atmosphere—almost always providing the player with some form of input. The world has fallen victim to a terrible virus, which has infected much of the populace and caused them to mutate into feral ghoul-like creatures that look straight out of a Miyazaki film. Taking up the mantle of a conductor, you’ll be personably responsible for the lives of your passengers and constantly putting yourself in harm’s way with limited resources. It’s a large cross to bear, that’s for sure.
I like the commitment to minimalism especially. Instead of just outright telling players all this, it’s left to for them to infer it from radio messages, emails, and literature, most of which is optional. Even the intro is stylish, as you kind of just get up for work like it’s a normal day before realizing the horrors that lie before you. This semi-rote method bleeds through to the gameplay loop though, which leads to a straining experience in more ways than one.
The chief aspect is survival, viewed through the lens of a 2D platformer of sorts (though you cannot jump) with a basic aiming reticle and the ability to use environmental weapons like chairs or other pieces of furniture. The idea is that the more you scavenge at checkpoints the more you’ll bring back to help your passengers, at the risk of dying outright to the infected yourself. It’s not all open-ended however, as progress is literally gated by “blockers,” which impede your trip until you locate the combination code to get to the next station and repeat the process anew.
The more interesting half of the game is in train management. Just like a Sim game (albeit on a very micro scale), you’ll need to tend to your people, feeding them or providing medical attention as needed. If they make it to their destination you’ll net a ton of cash, which can be used at trading posts to buy more gear. You’ll have to juggle all this as your train gets bigger, more demands factor in, and the vehicle gets more complicated after adding in ventilation systems, lights, and a lot more. It’s fun running back and forth keeping people topped off with food, and equally hectic when the air is shut off, suffocating everyone on the train.
If their hunger meter drops and their health depletes they’re dead, and you’ll only earn a fraction of your bounty by looting their corpse. It’s harrowing the first several times, but since Station hardly ever gives you a reason to care about your crew you never really feel the impact.
The Final Station ends up being a linear game in the end (I dispelled the illusion of choice by playing it again and finding not much changed), but this short train is worth riding at least once. Combining light simulation aspects that only get better over time with a survival mode with diminishing returns is an interesting concept that shouldn’t be ignored.