The Station is a first-person, sci-fi walking simulator set aboard a space station (The Espial) floating among the stars of a seemingly foreign galaxy, powerless, rudderless and with its crew of three having apparently vanished. These researchers were sent to observe the ongoing civil war of an alien race to determine whether or not their civilization might be safe for humanity to contact. It is my job to investigate what exactly caused all communication to abruptly end.
By its very nature, The Station’s atmosphere of isolation is a little creepy as I am completely alone throughout, but it is not a horror game by any means, as the trailer blatantly suggests. There are a few uninspired jump scares and some potentially interesting moments of mystery, but the only thrills that I found were in solving the game’s clever puzzles, if that sounds thrilling to you.
At about two hours, the adventure boils down to a join-the-dots mystery where I collected tidbits of information through conveniently placed digital messages, e-mails and floating blue orbs of recorded dialogue. I found certain objects as a result of exploration and/or puzzle-solving and, incrementally, rooms that were initially inaccessible open up, allowing for the story to continue.
The Station is a beautiful game to look at and nicely presented overall. Though the actual station itself is rather small and sparsely designed, everything is clean and smooth. It is arguable that because the entire game is set in one location, the visual variety is quite lacking. Audio is all acceptably sharp and appropriate, though the voice-acting is less than stellar. The story, such as it is, does little to truly engage and the gameplay never evolves beyond the basics.
Nuts and Bolts
One point that would have probably cut my play-through time even more is how tricky it can be to know precisely where to go or what to do, despite the fact that it is a particularly linear experience. The game forced me to be hyper-observant in each room, and I can see that as a pro and a con.
Many games will cause items of interest to throb with light so that they are easily found but in The Station, nothing that is important stands out. You have to look carefully wherever you go, and some will find that frustrating and tedious, as most of the objects that can be interacted with are only good for picking up and nothing more.
Frequently, too, I saw computer screens and various objects that looked like they might hold a puzzle or button to press when in fact they were just set dressing. So if combing every inch of a room for clues is your bag, The Station may not impress you with its depth, but the pedantry of the search could be your idea of a good time. On the other hand, this kind of design mechanic could be accused of being a cheap method to pad out the run time.
And that’s not to say that I was bored, per se. The game is really short, but I would assert that it is as long as it ought to be for the amount of entertainment contained therein; it’s like a tech demo for something far meatier. With more money, the developers could have added much to flesh out the alien lore – it is unquestionably a premise with huge possibility – and the complicated relationships of the astronauts through livelier means, like actual video flashbacks of crew interaction as captured by the system’s CCTV.
In the end, it is impossible for me to outright recommend The Station. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my short time on The Espial, for what it was. It is a technically and creatively solid, pedestrian title with the highlight certainly being the well-constructed environmental puzzles. However, there’s nothing especially memorable here.
The Station is available via Steam.
Watch the official The Station trailer below: