Trains and zombies aren’t a couple of words that readily go together. You might not think that riding an iron horse through dying world of monsters seems like the most likely of scenarios, but in the case of The Final Station from Do My Best and tinyBuild Games, it turns out to be a match made in heaven. The Final Station challenges the player with scarcity and survival and weaves just enough context to make the world built around it interesting. It doesn’t always bring the goods it teases, but it keeps the situation tense and tight all the way down to the last stop.

The Final Station takes place in a fictional world sometime after an event call the First Visitation. Capsules appeared in the land and sprayed out a gas, infecting those around with a disease that made their orifices flood out inky, black liquid and made them ravenous monsters. The remnants of humanity survive in small settlements and shelters all connected by stretches of train tracks. In this world, you play a train conductor tasked with delivering very precious cargo, along with any passengers you can find, out of hellish wastes and between the relative safety of human sanctuaries.

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The Final Station splits most of its time between two core game styles. At each stop, you must disembark your train and collect a code that will allow your train to unlock from a blocking device. Each station serves as a level infested with various monsters. It’s your job to traverse each area, collect the code and make it back to your train alive, scavenging any supplies you can get and rescuing any survivors that will willingly join your company. You’ll find weapons, ammo, medkits and food scattered about, but always seemingly less than you need, forcing the player to conserve wherever possible. Some infected can be dodged and escaped from while others are terrifyingly relentless and far more threatening. Each station’s area is an atmospheric blend of twists and turns and choosing when to run and when to fight during your search keeps exploration delightfully intense.

When you have the precious block code and make it back to your train, the second major element comes into play. Aboard your train, you’re responsible for ensuring smooth operation and the health of any passengers you’ve collected. Each passenger has a food and health meter. If your passengers get too hungry their health will start to deplete. If their health depletes completely they die. Additionally, some passengers are injured and will bleed, periodically losing health until treated. Add this to various mechanical functions of your train, at least one of which must be attended during each trip.

Lose track of your train and its mechanical function will cause it to move more slowly, allowing your passenger’s health and food bars to deplete and suck up your resources that much more. Lose a passenger and you lose out on bonus money and supplies they would have awarded you with once out of harm’s way. The whole thing becomes a balancing act you must constantly attend until the next stop. It’s slightly repetitive, but it will keep you urgently busy the whole way through.

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There are several segments of the game where you finally make it to a major stop, letting all your surviving passengers off and collecting a bonus for each one. At these hubs, you can replenish medkits, food, ammo and weapon upgrades to prepare for the next trip. In addition, you end up taking on a major mission from each of these places, often in the form of special cargo with its own required mechanical care you’ll handle during train rides. Once you’ve searched and scavenged everything you can, you’re off on the next leg of your journey.

In addition to ravenously scavenging for everything not bolted down, you can talk to numerous people throughout the world and interact with certain notes and computers all of which supply some level of context to the state of the world. Likewise, if you’ve got a moment on-board your train, any passengers you have will carry on conversations. When monsters are attacking you and your train needs to be tended to, it can be difficult to spare the attention, but those who can take the time will be rewards with an ever expanding lore of the world. There’s even a message system that sometimes supplies communication between you and your fellow train conductors and supervisors. There are occasional dialogue choices during these moments, though everything seems to play out the same regardless of what you choose.

That leads up to what might be the biggest shortcoming of The Final Station. Much of what you see pushes a sort of multi-directional journey. You’ll make these dialogue choices, explore sprawling levels and save survivors, but regardless of what you do, the journey is linear and everything ends up at the same place. It feels like there are things in place that would have allowed for a little more player choice and direction. You even have a map that charts your specific course with a great deal of spots you don’t hit throughout the game. That said, we found that the journey played out the exact same, regardless of alternating decisions and actions we made between multiple playthroughs.

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The other thing worth mentioning is that while The Final Station is most certainly intense the whole way through, it’s not very long. In our playthroughs, we managed to finish the game in about four hours. It’s most certainly an enjoyable four hours that will keep you on the edge of your seat, but if the journey is the same each time, it loses out on some replay value on additional runs.

The Final Station is a considerably devilish adventure. The balance between keeping everyone you can alive, keeping a train rolling, exploring and scavenging overrun outposts and surviving long enough to get back to your train keeps the situation tight at practically all times. Entering each outpost instills a deep sense of dread as you move to open each new door to possible threats and finally making it to each human sanctuary to cash in on your cargo is the sweetest of reliefs. We wish the path branched more based on the visual and narrative aspects that tease it, but despite that, The Final Station does a pretty great job in hitting the good beats of classic survival horror style.

This review is based on a download of The Final Station provided by the publisher for PC.