The Station originated as a Kickstarter with a modest budget and realistic goals. It helped that they had a team, which had worked on various AAA titles before this. They surpassed their original goal of 10,000 CAD and ended with 15,000 CAD(roughly 7.5 lakhs INR) and some change. Unlike some other studios however, The Station has made it to an official release. But does this abandoned spacecraft horror/thriller keep you on the edge of your seat. Let’s find out.
The Station is a first-person exploration puzzle game developed and published by the game’s namesake, The Station. The game was released for Xbox One, PS 4, and PC on Feb 20 2018. The game is also available for PS and PC VR.
Story & Narrative
The Station starts off with an interesting premise even though the immediate scenario is something you have seen earlier in multiple space-based horror dramas, an abandoned and dysfunctional spaceship. This time the quiet and erry spaceship is orbiting an alien civilization in midst of a civil war while humanity decides whether they want to contact them or not. Initially in stealth, you are sent in as a repair guy and an investigator to find out why the ship is now out of hiding and where the hell is their crew. The story taps in and reverses the popular trope of Earth being monitored by aliens, and what would happen if one of their monitoring ships had an accident.
The narrative is told through various Audio and text logs that you collect as you explore the station, and try to bring it back to life. There is some decent voiceover which not only details the events of the ship but also explores the relationships of the crew members and paints a picture of the ecosystem in place of the time when the game takes place. The amount of work that has gone into both recording and localization is impressive for a game on such a shoestring budget and such a small team. But credit should be given to the team at The Station for recognizing what is the core aspect of their game, and have polished it pretty well.
Graphics, Sound & Performance
This polish also shows off in the graphics, sound and the overall atmosphere that The Station create. Think Dead Space but without the necromorphs. Not that this feeling never creeps up on you while you are playing the game. The Station builds up tension as you explore the space station. You are isolated, in dimly lit narrow corridors and seemingly not alone. There were some genuinely creepy moments in the game that made me pause, and assure myself that I am not playing System Shock (without the mechanics of course).
The graphics too are great. There are even some shots which can boast of photo-realism. But its the sound (or lack of it) that adds to the drama of the station the most. The sheer silence of being in the space disturbed by the repetitive whizzing of machines compliments the cold steel emptiness that The Station tries to create.
The Station is a not a long game. Clocking in just over 2 hours (Just a tad under 3 if you are easing into it), its well paced so that the narrative never becomes too long or too complicated. The game thankfully, places most story related collectibles in easy reach and you can round up even the optional ones pretty easily without a lot of searching.
Of course, story collectables are not the only interactable objects in the game. There are a lot of things which you can pick up and observe at close quarters, some of them not really critical to game. A mechanic which is a clear indication of the fact that the game was made with VR in mind. Another one that drives the nail home is the fact that once you let go of the object it falls down to the floor, another VR gimmick. The same doesn’t happen with the story related tablets though, and that kind of broke my immersion a little bit. I would have preferred if those objects either disappeared or had fallen down to the floor like the others if only to remind me that I have already been here.
This exploration is dotted with easy to medium puzzles, nothing to write home about but mostly there to switch up the monotony of walking around opening rooms and listening to monologues. The puzzles themselves work ok, and rarely frustrate you.
The Station categorically falls into the Walking Simulator genre. Not unlike What Remains Of Edith Finch, Kholat, Dear Ester and Firewatch, the game creates an excellent world for you to explore with puzzles so that you don’t forget that you are playing a game. Its a game tailormade for VR buffs though, and might be worth picking up if you would like to expand your VR library. People with twitchy fingers however should stay away.