Xbox Indie Spotlight: Last Stop

By Heidi Nicholas,
What happens when the lives of a high-schooler, a businesswoman, and a single dad become intertwined in supernatural shenanigans? Well... we don't know, because Last Stop isn't out yet. However, here's everything we do know about the upcoming adventure game, with help from developer Variable State's co-founders and directors, Jonathan Burroughs and Terry Kenny.

What is Last Stop?

Last Stop is a single-player third-person adventure game in development from Variable State. Described as an “anthology drama,” it ties together the stories of three different characters whose lives interconnect after experiencing a “supernatural crisis.”

When does Last Stop launch?

Last Stop was recently given a new July release window, although a specific date hasn’t yet been confirmed.

last stop story gameplay

What’s it about?

A good question — the Last Stop trailers alone give the impression that it hurtles through a number of themes and events at breakneck speed — so, first, the specifics: the three characters we’ll be playing as are Donna, a high school kid, John, a single dad, and Meena, an intense professional. Over on the Last Stop site we get a little more detail about each of these characters, and how their daily concerns cause them to become entangled in supernatural shenanigans. Donna goes looking for adventure due to feeling stifled at home, when she and her two friends, Becky and Vivek, somehow become “unexpected kidnappers in a game of amateur detective gone wrong.” Single father John is envious of the carefree life of his bachelor neighbour. This, too, causes him to become enmeshed in supernatural craziness, as “when the pair unwittingly fall foul of a vengeful stranger, a cursed artefact threatens to transform their lives forever.” Meena is up for a promotion at work, but “something ancient stirs in the basement beneath her workplace.” Intrigued? Us too, so we reached out to Variable State co-founders and directors Terry Kenny and Jonathan Burroughs for more info. “I think characters with secrets are fun to watch (and hopefully play) as they tend to speak one way but act another,” says Kenny, while Burroughs adds, “I think it’s part of city life that you come into contact with so many people who you only experience in a fleeting or superficial way, but who are living wildly varied lives which are totally unknowable to you. I think part of the inspiration for Last Stop was taking that simple truth and running with it, imagining wildly fantastical lives for people who on the face of it were just ordinary Londoners.”

Last Stop June release window

One of Last Stop’s taglines is that it’s about “how magic can be found in the mundane.” According to Kenny and Burroughs, this is a key theme. “I was keen to have the main stories be relatable and everyday but with some element of intrigue even before the supernatural twist,” says Kenny. “The combination of the mundane with the fantastic makes things a lot easier to ingest and I find it easier to empathize with people's individual personal drama as opposed to large existential threats.” Burroughs adds, “It was always appealing that our main cast of characters would be very grounded and relatable. That they’d be going about routines which would be familiar to all of us. And that it would be a shared supernatural event which brought these characters’ already strained lives into immediate jeopardy and provided the dramatic starting point for their stories.”

The three main stories will differ in tone, with Kenny noting that they go “in some very interesting directions,” and Burroughs adding that the three protagonists are “quite varied in their temperaments.” Initially, Variable State was considering four main stories instead of three, but Burroughs says four "would have been stretching ourselves thin,” while three characters “felt like the right number for the level of polish we wanted to achieve.” He does, however, add that Last Stop hints at the idea that other characters are having similar experiences to our protagonists, saying, “London’s a big place and Last Stop’s scope extends far beyond just the city.”

Last Stop

How does Last Stop play?

Last Stop is a story-rich game with a focus on dialogue choices and narrative immersion. “There is very much a set story to follow, and so the characters' dialogue choices are there to offer the player a chance to learn more about the character or roleplay them in the way they prefer,” explains Kenny. “There are also a number of fun dialogue moments when the players are expected to lie their way through a tough situation or are reminded of a dialogue choice they made earlier. There are sections of the game where the player has a set path to follow and some more obvious areas where exploration is key.” Burroughs adds that you’ll occasionally come across minigames or exploration options, but that “the majority of the gameplay is making dialogue choices and experiencing the story… Last Stop is first and foremost a story experience.”

last stop story gameplay

Variable State’s mystery adventure title, Virginia, launched back in 2016, and Kenny says Last Stop was initially similar “in tone and setting.” He adds that both games share a story-first approach, but that the team was “keen to try out new things, and the addition of dialogue and switching from the first person camera obviously makes it differ a lot in appearance and tone.” Burroughs describes Last Stop as “the next logical step beyond Virginia — at least in terms of how the game is constructed, if not thematically. With Virginia we were interested in a large ensemble story which incorporated real-time cinematic editing, of the kind we were inspired by in Brendon Chung’s game Thirty Flights of Loving. Based on our experience working with a large cast of fully animated characters, with interactive music, with real-time cinematic editing, we were interested in exploring interactive dialogue, camerawork and cinematography and the idea of multiple overlapping storylines.”

What’s the Last Stop game world like?

Although it was initially planned to take place in the US, Last Stop is now set in present-day London. “I liked the idea that in a city with as many hidden nooks and crannies and as much history as London, that in amongst the ordinary there was the potential for magic and strangeness, hiding in plain sight or just beyond our grasp,” says Burroughs. From the trailers, and the fact that the game focuses on “mundane” details of the daily life of its characters, it looks like we’ll see them in their usual habitats — at work, at home, and just going about their London lives.

last stop story gameplay

Any news on Last Stop achievements?

“Achievement design is always great fun,” says Burroughs. “On a game like Last Stop, it’s a delight to find ways that the achievements can tease out details of the story whilst also providing an engaging and fair challenge for achievement hunters of different abilities. My hope is that it’s a great experience unlocking all the achievements available and in the course of doing so you’ll probe a bit deeper into our characters and their world.”

Since Last Stop is a story-driven game with a heavy focus on player choice, we wondered how this might be reflected in the achievements, and whether achievement hunters might need to do several playthroughs to complete the game. “Based on the current design, if you went in knowing the unlock steps for each achievement, it is technically possible to unlock all achievements in a single playthrough, with no need to do repeat playthroughs,” Burroughs says. “In practice that would be challenging, as some achievements are skill-based, some require you to be pretty familiar with how the interactive dialogue trees play out.” However, there will be a chapter select system available after you’ve completed the game, which will “allow achievement hunters to jump to different parts of the game and let them really focus on 100%-ing Last Stop. My recommendation,” Burroughs continues, “would be to immerse yourself in the experience for your first playthrough and then use the chapter select to work on any remaining achievements with full knowledge of the story.”

last stop story gameplay

In our complete guide to Xbox exclusives for 2021, we suggested Last Stop might be ideal for fans of Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy, Tell Me Why, and The Stanley Parable — the first for its story-rich focus, the second for its emphasis on dialogue and player choice, and the last mostly for its unique sense of utter weirdness. What do you think? Is Last Stop on your radar? Let us know what you think in the comments!
Heidi Nicholas
Written by Heidi Nicholas
Hey, I'm Heidi! I've been a staff writer for TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies since 2019. I love open-worlders, RPGs, and fantasy games, am obsessed with tea, and forever loyal to The Witcher 3 and Red Dead 2.