The Station Review – The Shorter the Better?
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Developer: The Station
Publisher: The Station
Release: 20th February 2018
Sometimes it´s very well possible to discover really interesting indie games with a refined look and concept, you completely oversaw until now. The Station is exactly one of those, discovered through a mere press release I was interested in no time. A sci-fi story-driven experience mixed with puzzles sounds like a known but still interesting concept.
In the near future humanity finally discovered what we search for decades, alien life forms. On a planet far away from earth, there´s a civilization unknown to man, so the natural thing to do is sending a space station to observe this strange species. Equipped with only three crew members though, humanity soon loses contact with them. Being forced to unravel the mystery a recon specialist is sent to the station.
Since The Station is an exploration-focused game, most parts of the story aren´t told in cutscenes but in audio logs. Mainly centred about discussing the personal backgrounds of each crew member, why they went on this mission and what they had to encounter during their observation. It´s actually a very interesting new way of story-telling, due to the fact nearly everything is told in audio diaries of those three, which slowly work together to create a coherent chain of events. Sadly, a journey to The Station only takes 2 hours or so at max, leading to a rather short, characterisation-less experience. Problems like the fact humans secretly spied on an alien race and tried to exploit them, in particular, aren´t discussed even close to enough. Without knowing anything about it, I still predicted the conclusion in an accurate way, there´s simply too few time to do the concepts justice.
On the other hand, the three crew members offer a surprising amount of depth. I can´t say too much as the game lives from them but the characterization done through their individual rooms is truly superb. They´re a mix of clichés and unique aspects crafted together in a neat way, able to deliver a satisfying drama. At the end, the impression of a short-coming story was nearly as strong as my love towards the exploration and personalities built on the way.
Part of why The Station is so immensely interesting to explore is because of the truly outstanding love of detail. In exchange for length, it offers rooms full of little objects, unique visual design, great looking futuristic interfaces, robots and countless other things. Entering a new area means another lightning style or design, not just more of the same. Maybe not the most realistic space station but one of the most beautiful and impressing ones of recent months. If only it would run slightly better without occasional frame hiccups, I would be able to completely fall in love.
In contrast to those complex designs, the gameplay consists of mostly the same basic combination puzzles. Even though they always look great, none of them is really complicated. For example, having to assemble a robot sounds cool but ultimately results in finding some scattered parts and having to remember a few symbols to find the right storage container. All of the three to four puzzles in the game, along with around one or two optional ones, aren´t particularly innovative nor challenging, fitting for the overall theme of The Station but also letting me wish for more. Especially the fact there´s no real threat, removing a lot of possible gameplay tension, letting the anti-climatic puzzles seem even more underwhelming.
At the end, The Station is far from being a perfect experience, suffering from a lacking main plot and mediocre gameplay. Yet, the sheer amount of detail, love and great character writing still make it worthwhile, if you´re willing to pay 15 bucks for 2-3 hours playtime that is.
[A Review Code was provided by The Station]