The Station (PS4) Review
Release Date: February 20, 2018
Developer/Publisher: The Station Game
Platform: PS4 (Reviewed), Steam, Xbox One/Windows 10
What if, in the exploration of space, an alien species was found? It's all over the place in media, but what would really happen? Now, imagine that you find this species in the midst of violent war? Would you simply try to make contact, research and discover, or leave them alone? This is the question that leads the adventurers in The Station to originally begin their adventure. A team of three is sent in a cloaked station to orbit the planet, but communication is lost. Another crew member is sent to try to figure out what happened, and this is where your adventure begins.
The Station falls into the "walking simulator" genre, though it does a good job of making an honest feeling of existential dread. Upon arrival at the station, very little of the station is active, and it's up to you to find how to activate the lights, doors, and safety systems to dig deeper into the station and figure out what happened that caused their communication to abruptly end.
In terms of gameplay, The Station is very straightforward. You begin in a room, and figuring out the puzzle to the room opens another section. While there may be a few separate areas, you will eventually learn what you need to do to open the next area, or fall into some story-related bits. Memories are stored in 3D holograms around the station, allowing you to see and hear the steps that led to the disconnect. Puzzles are subtle, perhaps too subtle at times, but feel exciting when you finally get the steps down. For example (without spoiling a puzzle) at one point you have to repair something. You have to dig to find out the particular things you need, and then figure out WHERE they are, and then you might have to figure out HOW to get them out of their spot in the first place. Some of the puzzles can be frustrating, such as finding a spot in a grid that uses symbols instead of a basic A-1/B-2 style grid. Story wise, even things like this are explained in the end, but the path to get through them is rough.
The story is intriguing and keeps you enthralled to the end. There is a major plot point that completely changed my review score for the game in a good way, but it also twists me because it feels like a lot of the things that came before aren't useful as they make you believe. Certain bits make no sense, such as why, when a new civilization is found, is a giant station built and sent with a whopping crew of three that had been socially conflicted in the past, or a station that feels like an old farm pickup in that you can't have two particular things powered up at the same time.
I have two complaints about the game. Hopefully the first they will fix in patches, and that's general glitches. Through my play time I had two game-crashing glitches, which weren't helped by the fact that the game has no auto-save in place, so if you are a player that doesn't save after every achievement, you might find yourself losing a lot of time. There are a lot of doors to open, and I'd say one in five of them "locked" me. You press a button to grab and open/close. You then let go of the button to go on with life. Well, that one in five would act like I was constantly holding the button. I would try to move left, right, forward, back, and just be flapping a door open and closed. I would panic, thinking how long ago I'd saved, thinking I'd have to force a reset. I'd eventually get unstuck frantically hitting buttons, but one of them resulted in a forced reset, and that was my first hour of playing the game and having to start over.
Complaint number two is brevity. I know it's a $15 game, but I sat down the first time to get a feel for the game to begin my review and beat it. Just as the story got interesting it was over. I get the "point" the developer is trying to make, but it really could have gone on from there. Two hours in and the game was over, and I was three simple trophies from platinum. The fact that the game crashed immediately following the credits, preventing me from seeing post-game content with it being a half hour from my last save prevented me from looking to see if there was any post-game content. That didn't do much to impress me on the technological aspect of the game.
As I said, though, the story is intriguing, and makes me want more. The big plot point makes the game worth going through at least once, though there won't be much more to do in a second playthrough. If you want an intriguing story, I strongly suggest the game, though I'd probably pay attention to updates and see if they do some bug fixing to prevent loss of progress on uncontrollable changes. In it's current condition, it's really only recommended for gamers who are huge sci-fi or walking sim fans, but with a little polish, perhaps an expansion one day, The Station could be turned into an intriguing cinematic game or even be transcribed into a great movie script.
-Great story with a wonderful twist
-The jarring bits make it feel like more than a "walking simulator" even without literal risk of failure
-No autosave is odd for something that literally is pushing through checkpoints to hear a story
-Lost time with uncontrollable glitches and broken door mechanics
-Short. Potential for more, but that's all you get.
Special thanks to the developers for providing a code for review.