Do you sit at home wondering why no one has ever made a game that combines the ingenuity of a train simulator with the all-out fun of blasting away hordes of zombies? I knew you did, which is why I have great news. Do My Best Games has brought their 2016 opus The Final Station and its follow-up DLC The Only Traitor in a combined offering to the Nintendo Switch. I know I sound like I’m being sarcastic, but as random as that pairing may be, it all works exceptionally well to create a rather engrossing post-apocalyptic journey.
The Final Station Review [Nintendo Switch]
It’s been quite a while since the Visitation brought death and destruction to all. Mysterious canisters of no known worldly origin crashed landed on Earth, releasing a viral toxin that turns people into mindless zombies. In The Last Station, you take control of the train operator who travels across a dying world in search of supplies, passengers, and perhaps the salvation of all mankind. As you go from station to station, you must piece together what happened and wonder if another Visitation would or could happen again.
The story of The Last Station is told through a narrative environment. Notes, text messages, letters, and books from those no longer alive attempt to fill you in on what exactly happened over a hundred years earlier. This combined with conversations with the living, help to paint a picture of everything that has, is, and will occur. It’s a great way to unveil how the world came to be, but I did at times find it slightly confusing and hard to piece together.
After beating the game in under four hours, I was still a little hazy on what exactly happened, what the Visitation was, and who or what was behind it. You’re led to believe it was an alien attack from countless light-years away using advanced tech to send the poison gas to Earth. By the time the game ended, I wasn’t quite sure if this was the case. Whether it was manmade or extraterrestrial, that’s for you to decide.
As stated above, there are two distinct aspects to this game. On the one hand, you must operate the train as it goes from abandoned station to abandoned station. While travelling, the train operator (you) must make sure the equipment doesn’t break down and the passengers (whom you rescue), don’t die in transport. Various components of the train start to break down in route, and you must act fast to counteract the faulty parts. It’s not difficult, but if you’re tending to sick or dying passengers, you might not realize the train is about to go offline. Ignore the train issues long enough and the whole thing just stops in its tracks. The longer you take to get moving, the higher the odds someone will die.
Speaking of dying passengers, you need to pay attention to their health and hunger meters. Once either meter reaches the bottom, times up and they die. Each passenger you successfully bring back to a shelter will yield money and other necessary items. Furthermore, the more passengers you bring home safely, the more achievements you unlock. This is simply for those who love achievements, but it has no bearing on the actual content of the game.
There is a crafting element to the game as well, which you will need to utilize in order to make more medicine and ammunition. You often find food and medkits at the stations, but if you’ve run out while travelling to a new destination, you can craft more while in transit. The medkits can be used on your own wounds or for your sick passengers. When it comes to food, only those seeking refuge on the train will require it, but it’s found sparingly so use food kits wisely.
Once the train reaches a station, it’s your job to go exploring in order to find more equipment, passengers, and most importantly, the code needed to reach the next station. That last part sounds confusing, but I assure you it’s not very difficult. Armed with a handgun and your fists at first, eventually, you find a shotgun and a rifle to aid in your protection.
The station designs are rather creepy and add to the dark ambience of a zombie outbreak. You never know what’s behind a door or lurking inside a bathroom stall. Yes, the game is obviously using retro designs, but it effortlessly creates anxiety and apprehension. The graphics aren’t going to sell everyone, but the game isn’t supposed to be Resident Evil. It’s simplistic, but exceptionally well done. By taking away all the modern advances, Do My Best Games is allowed to focus on the story, and that’s what really matters.
The main quest contains four types of zombies. Fast animal-like, slow and traditional, armoured, and explosive. The first two can easily be beaten, but don’t underestimate them. The armoured ones take an extra step, but once you knock off their helmet, a single shot to the head does the trick. The explosive zombies are the ones you really need to watch out for. A single bullet will ignite them, but you better run, or they’ll take you and everything out around them. Using the pyro zombies to your advantage in clearing a room works quite well.
In terms of difficulty, I would say it’s on the lower scale of things. Throughout the experience, I typically punched enemies to death eighty-five percent of the time versus using a weapon. Between low amounts of ammo and the fact that they’re taken down without much effort, it just seemed easier that way. I would have liked a little more of a challenge, but I am by no means saying the game was a breeze.
Finding passengers is optional throughout the game. You can easily search for supplies, get the next code and move on, but then you won’t earn any money to buy more supplies down the road (and you won’t get those achievements I spoke about earlier). Plus, it’s fun to explore the stations in their entirety, and you won’t get all the pieces to the apocalyptic puzzle if you don’t.
The music in the game adds to the dystopian feel. It’s a planet long in the throes of death, and that’s the exact feeling I got through the music. I don’t feel enough people take the time to really listen to the subtlety of the notes in the background, but for me, it puts me in this world and holds on as I navigate my way. Slap on some good headphones and you’ll have an amazing auditory experience.
Switch owners are lucky enough to have both the main game and the DLC content The Only Traitor. In this, you play a man driving across the wasteland, looking for the last remaining shelter, picking up passengers along the way. You’ll revisit some of the places from before, and learn more about what happened to this world. There are new types of zombies (the acid spitting one was a treat), which I was very happy to see. Seeing as how you drive a sweet muscle car, there is only room for one passenger. As you discover new people, you must decide if you want to take or leave them based on the stats provided. It’s great the devs included this content for free, as it extends what would have been a rather short experience.
Storytelling is an art that has spanned ions, and when one comes across a compelling narrative, it’s a breath of fresh air. The Final Station isn’t graphically superior to anything, it’s rather short, and its simplicity is apparent from the get-go, but what it lacks in sophistication, it heavily makes up for with story. To be honest, I’m still not a hundred percent sure what exactly did and will happen, but my curiosity is overwhelming.