Instead we get little challenges that allow us some time to think and mull over, before the light bulb flickers, a solution is found, and we can stay nicely blanketed in the story, free from the chill air of reality.
A small space station drifts lifelessly above an alien planet. The onboard systems are down, its cloaking device rendered useless. Communication to the crew of three, gone silent.
Far below, civil war ploughs its cruel furrow across an alien planet. The answer to the age-old question, “Are we alone in the universe?” has been answered with the discovery of a planet harbouring life. Life that is hellbent on the destruction of one another.
Above, the silent hulk of the floundering space station carries on a sea of stars, sent from Earth, unnoticed by those with eyes for the war…so far.
And so begins, The Station, a sci-fi mystery set aboard a stranded space station, above a planet inhabited by warmongering aliens, with an absent, possibly deceased, crew, and little knowledge of what lies ahead. And they’re sending you in alone. And unarmed.
To be honest though, it’s all good. You see the actual core of the action within this beautifully atmospheric little mystery romp through space is about discovery, not conflict. And, it’s a very enjoyable, if slightly brief, trip.
The real sweet spot this game hit came from its ability to allow me to lose myself within the slowly unravelling story and brooding undercurrent that bring The Station to life. From the moment my spacecraft docked with the distressed space station, and the classic airlock hiss filled the air, all notions of calm were replaced by a genuine feeling of unease and intrigue. The interior of the ship was surprisingly large, and this for myself added some real weight to the feeling of being alone and isolated as I walked cautiously in to the unknown.
Taking baby steps through the deserted craft, I found there were points of information to gather. Represented by glowing orbs of light, these were generally recorded messages from the missing crew and instantly offered an insight into the characters that lived side by side up here, the relationships, the clashes, and the issues they shared. As a storytelling device it isn’t a new idea, but it is tried and tested, and proves a strong tool for further immersion within the story. Ever since Bioshock I always loved the use of pre-recorded messages echoing out as a means to develop plot and build atmosphere, and although The Station doesn’t hit those heights, the tool still proved its value.
As with any first-person mystery worth its weight, The Station has a good array of puzzles to challenge the grey matter. The general idea is that we need as a player to get into Room A, but to do so we must first uncover a hidden code, or power down an area of the ship, or collect some item or other from a different room first. It’s all fairly basic and doesn’t really prove taxing, but this is great in a story-driven game such as The Station, because importantly, it also never brings the momentum to a grinding halt. At no point during my play-through did I fend of the twin demons of frustration and rage, which is always a bonus as I hate that pair. Instead we get little challenges that allow us some time to think and mull over, before the light bulb flickers, a solution is found, and we can stay nicely blanketed in the story, free from the chill air of reality.
The main thing that truly shines here takes me back to the first point. The Station is one of those games that is less about the action of playing, and more about the telling of a story. To work, said story has to be strong enough that a player overlooks the fact that not a great deal of actual classic video game play is taking place. That is very much the case here. Despite the majority of my time with this game being spent walking between rooms or picking up items, the plot offered enough intrigue that any lack of action never really registered, instead I was keen to see what lay around the next turn in the road. And it’s this mystery, and the desire to know the truth that carries the game. Where similar story heavy titles such as those produced by Telltale Games, play heavy on character and emotion, The Station, is all about the need to know, and this generated enough fuel to carry me to the final page in the tale, with little concern over just how much walking I was doing to get there.
What’s Not So Good?
The Station is far from a perfect game. It is littered with some really good moments and blessed with a decent story, but it has its flaws too. The biggest gripe I think most people will have with the game comes from its runtime. From start to finish on my first play through I clocked in somewhere slightly north of two hours. That was with exploration of every nook and cranny, and the occasional pause to admire the scenery thrown in. In terms of a game with little to no replayability, this is a very short stay. When the final curtain comes down it does so with a real pang of regret. This is in part because the realisation dawns that you might never play The Station again now all its secrets are uncovered, but also because the scope for a larger story is evident, it just hasn’t happened.
Graphically the game is pretty run of the mill. There are no points that wowed me, but it isn’t really a game that needs to be too flash in the looks department, so this is only a very minor negative point. There might be the odd second or two that the slightly last gen looks pull you out of the space station and remind you it’s a video game, but these moments are rare across the short play time.
Where’s The Appeal?
The reality with The Station is that regardless of how good it is, it will still be a game that splits opinion clean down the middle. The reasons for this are that I believe it takes a certain kind of player to truly get the most from what’s on offer here. The sort who is happy to almost take a back seat and let the game do its thing in telling you a story. If you can relax for a couple of hours and simply let the tale wash over you, whilst occasionally taxing the brain on some simple puzzle elements, then The Station is time very well spent. Otherwise it might fall a little flat.
The story moves along at a good pace thanks to plenty of plot builders dotted about the place, and it layers on the intrigue thick as it goes. I found myself hooked in almost instantly. If you are a sucker for a decent tale then there is some value within this little gem. I also enjoy puzzling, but not when I’m left at a complete loss as to what to do next, thankfully The Station is gentle in the puzzling department and never brings the flow to a grinding halt.
The sci-fi setting will prove a draw for many too, but for myself as not a particularly big sci-fi nut, the bigger pull was from the precarious set-up. The fact the station had gone silent and was drifting above an aggressive alien planet really built the tension, and as we know all too well, the not knowing what lies ahead is far scarier than actual knowledge of the threat. The Station produces such an air beautifully.
The Station is an excellent little journey through an engaging deep space mystery. It pulled me in to the story instantly and kept me gripped until the credits rolled. However, it would be wise to pay some mind to how this game will fit for yourself. I personally don’t have a problem paying for a game that delivers a couple of hours of engrossing story driven play, before then moving along to the next game without looking back, but that is the extent of this title, and I know for many it won’t be enough to see them part with some of their hard earned cash, and I completely understand that. The Station is brief in its stay, but for me it did enough to justify the visit.