After the game's content expansion DLC, The Only Traitor, tinyBuild's The Final Station is a perfect work in a genre of game that is pretty lacking in representation. How many story-driven shooters have you seen that are built around trains? Few, I'd imagine. And it's not just that a train is the setting for The Final Station it literally is the game. Every aspect of this comes down to the fact that you are running around, shooting people, while on a train that is pretty much careening toward death. And it is goddamn wonderful.
Sure, you aren't on the train all the time, but it is the literal driving force of this game. I'd apologize, but the bad train puns will probably continue. The main focus here is absolutely the story. You wouldn't think it for a train security sim, but this one will have you invested, I promise. For me, the biggest driving force of a game has always been the story. Sure, if the gameplay is garbage, I won't enjoy it, but I'll put up with a lot for a good story. And The Final Station has that. More importantly, it has a good story, satisfying gameplay, and a very elegant execution.
Without giving too much away, you play as a railway operator. And your basic job is to get your train to it's final destination, no matter what. On the way you have to maintain your train, and your passengers, by feeding them and giving them medkits when necessary. You've also got to balance out the train's energy outputs manually. Otherwise it will just shut down on you.
Meanwhile, every stop you make, things start to get stranger. It starts slowly, in the first town you get a sense like there might be something underway from a few occasional comments that you might overhear, but other than that, it's pretty much alright. Then you make it to the second town, and now there are no trains headed south but yours, all other trains are halted, there's a heavy police presence, and if you go the right way through the underground tunnels, you can even come across what looks like a government coverup. And from there, things steadily get worse. The background world building of the disjointed opening sequence that features shadowy zombie-like figures chasing you through underground tunnels and the conversations you overhear and read on open computers really helps set the proper "something is not right!" tone. That feeling like something's about to happen, that dread, builds up slowly. But it is damn effective.
The combat itself is so basic, it's perfect. You click, and that's where you've fired. The trick is figuring out the timing and planning needed to clear the area, and once you get that down, you're golden. Everything else is handled with an easy 'E' or 'R' key stroke, and use of the arrow keys to move. It is dreadfully simple, but that's the beauty of it. It all becomes effortless until all you're doing is living your best train operator life.
The Final Station has that incredible quality of making you feel like you're living the action. It's not easy to do, but the development team have managed it here, and it is glorious.
The graphics are pretty highly stylized, but, it's a tinyBuild game. I don't think I've every played a tinyBuild game that didn't have a pretty high style of art. And this sure as hell lives up to that legacy.
Criticisms of the game have been that it's too short for the price tag, and that will ultimately be something you have to determine on your own. Personally, I find it the exact right length, but then, it has a nice DLC pack now that happily lengthens the game in a pretty satisfying way for an extra $4.99. But then, the base game itself is $14.99. In a world of $65+ AAA releases, I'll happily shell out $14.99 for a game that's largest critique is "it's too short." Because that says a hell of a lot about the game, doesn't it? Players wanted it to be longer, and now we've got The Only Traitor which lengthens that experience. We got exactly what we asked for.
If you've got nothing else to do tonight, go buy The Final Station. You won't regret it.