The only preparation I had before my journey aboard The Station was a short trailer that gave an uneasy feeling and sets up your mission exploring the space station Espial quite well. While my journey was short and glitches were never hard to come by, the experience was an enjoyable one that left me wanting more.
The Station is set on-board the space station Espial, which sits lonely above a newly discovered alien planet, which also happens to be at war with itself. Due to the hostility of the alien civilisation, a minimal crew of three aboard the hidden space station is sent to research and observe the alien civilisation from afar. At some point during the mission something goes wrong aboard the station and communication goes dark, forcing you to swoop in and unravel the mystery. Not only will you learn about the crew and what happened to them, but you’ll also discover what their research on the alien civilisation and planet below uncovered and how it relates to the fate of the crew. The game has a good mix of discovery, romance, mystery and plot twists which kept me engrossed from the start to the somewhat abrupt finish.
Sherlock in space
The Station is a puzzle-filled walking sim, with the story being told through various items you find throughout your investigation of the eerily empty station. Emails and audio logs are scattered throughout the environment, as well as some very clever and well implemented social media-like chat bubbles that show conversations between the crew members. All of these things not only help you understand what took place on the station but also help you get to know the small crew of three that you are trying to locate.
Almost every drawer can be opened, and many items can be picked up and investigated up close. While this level of interaction is fantastic, the vast majority of these locations hold no items and no story information whatsoever. Not rewarding the player for exploring every nook and cranny is a big miss for a game of this style and will result in some players giving up on exploring later on in the game.
Puzzles play a huge part in The Station. Some come in the form of predictable ‘insert battery here’ puzzles, but there is also some intuitive puzzle goodness that had me impressed. One example was a puzzle that had me looking for missing parts to repair a maintenance robot. The parts required were impossible to identify with the naked eye. I had to shut down power to the entire room and search in the dark for specific parts that were glowing to get the robot operational again. Puzzles like this are not only intuitive but also give the player a better sense of achievement when completing them, I just wish there were more of them.
The Station’s visuals draw you in
Sadly, my exploration of the Espial Space Station was not without its hiccups. I encountered an audio bug throughout where the audio would stall once every five minutes or so. I also had various visual glitches including all of the walls suddenly disappearing and some items not loading into the environment correctly. I also ran into some framerate drops, and while these issues weren’t game breaking, a game of this size that is Pro enhanced should be running a lot smoother. That is not to say The Station doesn’t look and sound fantastic when everything is working correctly.
The sound design especially stood out for me, with most of the game containing no music, leaving you feeling alone, uneasy and on edge with the constant groaning of the station sounding like a large ship at sea moving in the waves. Every little out of place sound you hear will have you cautiously investigating the source.
The game has a bloom effect that adds some nice colour and pop to the environment, although it’s worth noting I had to turn this visual setting off on two occasions as they prevented me from completing a puzzle, the bloom effect on this occasion turned intricate puzzle pieces into white blobs that could not be identified.
If Prey was a walking sim
When the credits rolled backed by a well-chosen and fitting song, part of me was left wanting more. But even though I was left with unanswered questions and wanting closure, the game has next to no replay value You could easily collect everything in one playthrough, which can be wrapped up in around two hours. I understand it’s important for a walking sim not to overstay its welcome, but I feel like The Station could have easily held my attention for another hour or so, especially for its $20 AUD price tag.
Despite the glitches and the game’s premature ending I did enjoy my time with The Station. If you’re a fan of space and sci-fi should you check this out? Yes. Should you pay full price? No. The sci-fi elements, the feeling of discovery and unravelling the mystery of what happened aboard the Espial had me invested, but the length of the game and numerous glitches I encountered definitely hampered my enjoyment.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro / Review code supplied by publisher