The Station Review

By Mark Delaney, 6 months ago
If a game can reasonably be considered a "walking simulator," that usually means it at least prides itself on an interesting and original story worth the relaxed or even barely-there gameplay. At this moment, fans of the genre can point to over a dozen games that have taken the formula and done something memorable with it, spanning all sorts of topics over the last half-decade or more. Many more genre games have come up short in this quest due to a story that misses the mark. Where you land with The Station will largely depend on its final scene. Science fiction fans will consider it all too familiar, while others may find it very memorable indeed.

Developed and published by The Station GameDeveloped and published by The Station Game

The Station opens with a classic sci-fi premise: alien life has been discovered elsewhere in the galaxy. Rather than reach out immediately, diplomats and government leaders around the world deliberate and debate the best course of action. Such a conversation is exactly like the one being had in real life, only we haven't discovered any extraterrestrials yet. Some agree it's prudent to establish an amicable relationship, while others warn of the aliens' ongoing civil war, declaring it unsafe to reach out to an obviously hostile civilization. A compromise is made and a three-person team of scientists is sent on board a stealth space station floating through space not far from this new planet and its seemingly dangerous inhabitants. When that team goes quiet and the space station goes dark, players are tasked as the investigator sent to unravel the mystery of what happened.

From here the game plays out like a classic narrative adventure title. By finding audio logs, written diaries, and context clues, you piece together exactly where the three-person team went. You'll need to scan all of the specific areas to find the figurative keys to unlock later sections. All the while, you'll learn about the crew's personal lives, the state of the science project, and details on the alien lifeforms as they've been examined thus far.

Each of the three crew members is well characterized in the hour-long game, and the game does an admirable job selling its atmosphere. As the space station exhibits evidence of a present danger not just to the missing-in-action crew but to you as well, it even brings a touch of horror to the experience. On top of that, the few puzzles that are involved are well executed, demanding players be very detail oriented.

Scan the area for context clues well enough and you'll see where it's going disappointingly soon.Scan the area for context clues well enough and you'll see where it's going disappointingly soon.

In almost every way, The Station is a good genre title that doesn't break new ground, but neither does it disappoint. In one crucial way, it just may leave you wanting, however. The ending of the game paints the entire experience in a new light. Sadly, what's meant to be a major reveal is telegraphed too strongly and too often to the extent that any frequenter of sci-fi will probably see it coming. The story being told on the Espial space station is one seen so often before in science fiction, as long ago as The Twilight Zone in the 1960s.

Even with a derivative, borderline-plagiaristic ending, it might have made for a fun reveal had the developer hidden it well. Anyone who inspects the environments closely will instead probably correctly predict the final scene just a few minutes into the game. If you see it coming, what's left in the story is its philosophical content, but in this way, it too makes the same points as stories that have come before it that told similar or even nearly identical stories. If you are caught by surprise, it would surely make for a much more fun finale.

The Station is sure to be a popular game on TA regardless of its failings to deliver an original tale. That's because you can earn the full 1000 Gamerscore in about one hour without a guide and in about 20 minutes with a guide. Several achievements are missable, but just like the ending, these opportunities are telegraphed rather blatantly most of the time. If you're afraid to play it twice and spend a whopping 90 minutes on the game, we already have several great full walkthroughs on site, found in various achievement solutions on the game's hub page. Pick your favorite and give yourself a half hour to run through it.

Check out our Best Xbox Adventure Games Available in 2018 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

How much you enjoy The Station will come down to how soon you see its ending coming, as it's likely you will see it earlier than intended by the developer. In that case, you may still take away a memorable experience from the game, if you can forgive its derivative tale and enjoy it as a narrative adventure mystery with a bit to say about our role in the universe. It doesn't show or say anything that other science fiction tales haven't shown or told already, but if you're relatively new to the genre or don't mind rehashing previous themes, The Station is worth its short stay.
3 / 5
Positives
  • A fun sci-fi mystery if you don't see it coming...
  • Atmospheric setting
  • Few but fun puzzles
Negatives
  • ...A rehash of been-there-done-that themes and plot if you do see it coming
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent one hour on board the Espial, predicting the final scene about 15 minutes into the game, unfortunately. He gathered all 11 achievements for 1000 Gamerscore. An Xbox One copy was provided by the ID@Xbox team for the purposes of this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He's the Editorial Manager on TA, loves story-first games, and is one of three voices on the TA Playlist podcast. Outside of games he likes biking, sci-fi, the NFL, and spending time with his fiancée and son. He almost never writes in the third person.