Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
Reviewed on Xbox One X.
What would happen if contact was made with an alien civilisation? This is what The Station, a first-person, sci-fi mystery game, attempts to portray. It is a concept approached by many different stories from across media, but this game does at least provide a more unique take on the subject matter. The 2-3 hour game takes you on a story full of personal narratives, eerie isolation and subtle environmental storytelling that provides a genuinely intriguing experience. Some technical failings and stumbles in execution did hamper my time somewhat, stopping the game from being truly great.
You are told that an alien civilisation is discovered on a distant planet. Not much is known about them, therefore, a supposedly undetectable space station, called The Espial, is sent out to orbit the planet and monitor. This station is automated, where only three people were sent on it to carry out investigations and research. However, after some time this station goes dark and it is up to you to uncover what has happened and if there are any survivors.
Overall, the story and its mysterious aspects are generally done well. While exploring, you will uncover audio tapes that provide fragmented narratives to help flesh out the personalities of and life on the station for the three characters. Uncovering most, if not all of these audio files is crucial to your understanding of the situation of Aiden, Silas and Mila. The voice acting is decent, however it can feel a bit stilted in certain situations. Learning more about the personal moments and inner conflict and thoughts that these characters experienced is truly engrossing and adds much to the overall narrative. Alongside audio tapes, you will read a number of letters and other written notes to continue to provide more context. This is nothing new and a staple to indie games likes this.
Exploring The Espial is enjoyable, ambient music and audio, coupled with the nature of the story, truly works in crafting an eerie atmosphere. This is not a horror game by any means, however, careful and subtle effects and the very station itself work well in boasting that unsettling feeling that someone is always watching you. I will say that there was a single jumpscare that was so effective, because of the absence of them everywhere else in the game, save for a few minor moments. The brilliant thing is, that this scare actually has some story context nearby that did make me laugh.
There are also a handful of puzzles scattered around which help to break up the pace and provide something more interesting to do than simply walking around reading and listening to story exposition. They are never too difficult and abstract to solve, often using clues in the environment to help you work out the solution. In fact, I wish there was a few more puzzles, as this would really help to extend the game and make more use of the various rooms across the station.
The game being pretty short is an issue that extends to the story. There are a number of subplots that are alluded to in the letters, audio tapes and environmental storytelling. However, there often isn’t enough there and it ends up feeling like these were forgotten about, such as the relationships between the three characters and a shady corporation that had potential indirect roles to play in the station going dark. When the story really starts picking up and getting interesting, it ends. The big twist was partially obvious if you were paying attention to the subtle hints, yet certain aspects, such as the design of the space suits of the three characters doesn’t really make sense when the twist is revealed. This causes the ending to stumble leaving you confused and unsatisfied.
Technical issue plague the experience, where even on the Xbox One X, the frame rate regularly has major slowdown, which is surprising for a game like this where not much happens on screen. This is more strange considering that there is no X enhancements, meaning it runs at a lower resolution and it isn’t exactly graphically impressive. For a game that really wants to immerse you in its atmosphere and narrative, consistent technical issues can really take you out of the experience.
In the end, The Station is a mystery/exploration game that has so much promise, with an intriguing narrative, great atmosphere and adequate personal narrative threads. However, it often stumbles at key points, where a longer runtime would allow for a more expanded and fleshed out story, so that its various subplots could reach their full potential. This is made worse by consistent technical issues that pulls you out of the immersion, alongside a unique twist that doesn’t completely deserve the shock value and payoff it wants.
Score = 5.5/10
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