Chunky pixel graphics may be a bit overused these days, but the visuals of tinyBuild's upcoming The Final Station do a fantastic job of miscommunicating how much it means business.
At its heart, The Final Station goes for the same survival horror vibe as Resident Evil, albeit with much more forgiving checkpoints. It's an experience in which no single resource can be taken for granted; a fact I learned the hard way roughly 20 minutes into my first playthrough. After noticing how quickly zombies fell to my bullets, I relied on gunfire as a main tactic—then found myself painted into a corner as soon as my ammo dried up. As with Resident Evil, running exists as a viable tactic, but one that can only get you so far.
While the story present in this beta version of The Final Station takes the form of placeholder text, the premise makes itself pretty clear. Each of The Final Station's stages are divided into two distinct styles of play. In the combat/exploration section, you're tasked with finding a survivor, grabbing available supplies, surviving the enemies in your path, and escaping with a four-digit code that lets your train move on to the next station. And the second leg of every level takes place within the train itself, where you undergo a sort of Diner Dash-style act of plate spinning that involves monitoring and adjusting your engine's power levels, as well as addressing the food and health concerns of your passengers with resources found earlier.
While your interactions with the world amount to some very simple commands—punch, open, and shoot—The Final Station is designed to keep you thinking hard about every encounter. After a bit of experimentation, I learned that the slower zombies could go down in about four punches, which saves precious ammo so long as you have enough space behind you to lure them into a gradual death by fist. The faster zombies, who take running swipes at you, make for a more bullet-worthy foe, as do the helmet-clad undead, who need their headgear removed via melee attacks before you can deliver that all-important headshot. And throughout its levels, The Final Station constantly makes you rethink your strategies by providing a different mix of these opponents across different kinds of terrain.
The Final Station's levels flow in what feels like a pretty natural loop. Most of the time, the code needed to finish the level can be found behind a locked door at the beginning, which forces you to soldier through to the end and work your way back by using a series of shortcuts. Resources have a way of trickling in at an incredibly slow rate, to the point where I restarted a level a few times for wasting three or four too many bullets. At the same time, though, this high-stakes atmosphere can lead to some pretty rewarding moments when you're not just scraping by with a single clip to your name—and some especially painful ones when you're forced to use medical supplies that would be better off spent on your passengers.
Even in this early state, I'm genuinely impressed by the amount of complexity The Final Station builds out of some fairly simple parts. Instead of weighing down the focus on survival with a crafting system, its reliance on fairly simple offensive options lets you tackle situations in a more immediate way, while still giving you lots to think about. While it's easy for indie games to get lost in the daily Steam shuffle, The Final Station is definitely one to keep your eye on when it launches later this summer.