The Station intrigued me when I first heard about it a few weeks ago. Upon entering their website, I was presented with an application form for a new job – it was to apply for their next journey into space as the site introduced the lucky crew who had been chosen this time around. I filled in the form, as you do, hoping I’ll get picked for the next position (I know…). Little things like that really help create hype around what is essentially a narrative-focused walking-simulator of sorts. On a side note, if you have time I do recommend checking out the website here: http://www.exploreaxiom.com/ as it’s quite interesting.
The Station has a mixture of walking, narrative, exploration and puzzle-solving which I feel is enough for people interested in all four of those genres, let’s find out why.
The Station‘s main focus is on the Espial space station which is manned by a team of explorers who are currently mid-mission, observing the planet below. The team knew the planet had life forms but they were tasked with the role of practically spying and observing them to see if they are friendly or hostile. Much to their dismay, the crew discover that the below planet is inhabited with life forms who are constantly at war with each other; however, they continue to study and observe in order to gain as much intel as they can.
Then, one day, the station goes silent – no reports were being sent back to base and no communications. This is where you come in – you have been sent by the space research corporation in order to find all three crew members, investigate what’s been going on and try and salvage their investment. Upon entering the station, you are greeted with a simple locked door and an eerie silence other than the occasional ambient sounds. As you wander around, interacting with most objects to find codes, reading notes, operating the lights, reading emails, and solving puzzles, you will occasionally see something out of the corner of your eye, see a shadow of a figure, constantly feel like you’re being watched, yet you don’t know who, or what is there with you.
As the game is a narrative-heavy game, it is technically possible to bypass a lot of the narrative and B-line to the end, but if you do so then you won’t understand the story – I recommend you interact with everything so you get the full experience out of the game.
As I touched on above, I would class this game under four genres, Walking-Simulation, Narrative, Exploration, and Puzzle – I’ll cover why I think this below:
This one is the obvious choice – you are walking around the space station and listening to the narrative being told to you. Think of games like Dear Esther, Gone Home, or even to an extent, SOMA if you turn on the ‘easy mode’. You can pick up most items, even though most items are pointless and don’t do anything yet you can rotate them around, look closely at them and spend as long as you want walking around this well-designed ship and looking at all of its tools and objects.
As well as the auto-narration you receive when you enter new areas, see something you shouldn’t or even just a noise or scream you hear in the distance, The Station has findable audio-logs which build upon the story. The vast majority of these are out in the open and easy to spot with their bright blue light in the dark, gloomy station corridors and rooms. Listening to these isn’t essential for the story but they will add more narrative to what happened via the voices of the crew members and their findings/last moments aboard the ship. If you finish the game and don’t get the trophy for listening to all of these then I implore you to go back and play it again to uncover them all so you get the full picture of what happened.
As above, some of the audio logs will require you to go out of your way to find them – not all of them, but one or two. So instead of following the scream, go the opposite direction and take a look around instead – there are no time limits and no sense of urgency so just take your time. There are a lot of things to discovery via exploring – I would say the main thing are the crew’s terminals which house their emails, notes and logs – again, these aren’t required to be read for anything, not even a trophy, but they build more of the story and gives you more of a background into what happened and what’s going on. You will also find random notes from their children, directives, personal notes to each other and more. To put it into perspective, the game can be beaten (including all trophies) in about 40 mins, yet my first playthrough was about 3-4 hours long.
The Station has some clever puzzles – as usual, I will be vague as I don’t want to give you any solutions. I felt the puzzles were really well done, from repairing a robot by using the criteria of a certain component in order to find a working one, to re-aligning a power-cell to a certain frequency in order for it to work in a machine. There isn’t a lot of puzzles but they are all easy enough to solve if you look around the area for clues and they do leave you with some form of satisfaction once you work out how to solve them. One thing I would say, as I always do, is to play this yourself, don’t look up guides and don’t read up how to do it just to get a fast completion – take your time, enjoy the game and work out the solutions yourself – see if you can work out the codes for the lockers without looking up what they should be.
Graphically the game looks really good – but it’s not without its flaws. The environment is very atmospheric and the whole aesthetic is like something out of an Aliens movie, however, the texture quality isn’t very high and I’m not 100% sure if the game is running above 1080p on the Pro or using any of the extra power. I say this because there are a few instances of framerate dips – they only last a few seconds, but they go down to a really low number, then straight back up again. The thing is – it happened in the same spot on both of my playthroughs so it may be due to something in the code at that particular moment more than anything else. I am a massive fan of the overall look and feel though.
Sound-wise, perfect. The ambient sounds, the screaming in the distance, the music building as danger approaches, the sudden bang of an explosion – they are all executed perfectly and they all sound great. Even the voice acting, which is really important in a narrative game, is spot on. It may not win any awards for the score and ambient sounds, but the team have created the perfect feeling of suspense, fear and unknown in the way they deliver both the audio and the visuals.
Trophies – This is a very, very easy game to 100%. There is no Platinum trophy, unfortunately, which I think is a big mistake – I’m not sure how a game can get a platinum, but if a game like Little Adventure on the Prairie can get one then The Station should have been allowed one as it would have helped it sell more copies due to the trophy hunters out there buying all the fast, easy platinum games. The trophies revolve around exploration, completing all the puzzles (including obtaining the clues on how to open the lockers), opening said lockers and listening to all the audio logs. As I touched on above – people have video guides online of them getting every trophy within 40 minutes, but just enjoy the game – play it on your own and just do a new run if you miss anything – you will enjoy it a lot more if you do.
The Station is a short game but one which has a lot of things to be desired. The game looks, sounds and plays great as you wander around uncovering the truth behind what’s going on and what happened to the crew. The story is well fleshed out and whole, it’s just there for you to find on your own and uncover as you go along – not everything is given to you on a plate and there isn’t a load of fluff packed in there for no reason. Highly recommended to everyone who loves a good story, exploration and some decent puzzles. Don’t let the short completion videos online put you off as going in with no prior knowledge will easily give you a 4-5 hours experience as you investigate with as much knowledge as your character.
- - Very atmospheric
- - Sound design is great
- - Some of the puzzles are really well done
- - Plenty to explore and uncover
- - Straight to the point - no padding with red herrings and fluff
- - A few framerate issues here and there
- - Loading is a little long in parts
- - Can be quite short if you choose to ignore the optional parts
- - No platinum trophy