Humanity has looked to the stars for centuries and wondered if we’re alone in the universe. It’s this desire that has inspired countless stories that feature aliens in some context, be it first contact or established allies and enemies. Thousands of scientists study the cosmos to understand it and even look for any evidence of life, be it bacterial or something much bigger. The thing we can’t predict is how first contact would play out and what the reactions from either side would be like.
The Station is an experience that takes one potential situation that could arise from making first contact, made through the discovery of an alien world that has advanced alien life on it. In fact, it has advanced to the point where its inhabitants are embroiled in a global civil war, but is also a civilisation that has yet to discovered life elsewhere. We are the little green men in this scenario, as the spacefaring race visiting and observing this alien civilisation. The game begins when a recon agent, the player, is sent to investigate what has happened to the crew of three on the Space Station Espial, who were sent to observe this other civilisation.
The Station is very much an exploration game where the aim is to piece together the fate of the crew and their motivations, which is done by reading letters, messages, and emails, as well as listening to the audio logs scattered around the various rooms. There are also some puzzles to solve which when completed unlock new sections of the station, shedding more light on what events have occurred.
The puzzles don’t vary too much in difficulty, but a few will require searching for clues in the environment to get the answer. Many of those come in the form of symbols which are then input into different interfaces, like a locker or computer, unveiling the next step on the journey towards the truth behind what happened. The Station is a rather short experience and will take around two to three hours to complete.
The presentation of the The Station is rather good. As soon as you board Espial there is a sense of unease in its dimly lit rooms, which is amplified by the silence of what should be an hub of activity. The station itself has been designed to look like somewhere that people lived and work in, with areas consisting of large bedrooms for each of the crew, a lounge area, medical bay, and conference room. In fact, while exploring Espial it doesn’t feel like you’re on a space station until you get to the engineering, bridge, or maintenance areas. Of course, you might also glance out of a window and see a planet take up a lot of the view.
Each area has been carefully designed so you can work out exactly where you are even if you don’t read the signs on the doors that you walk through. At first there is the chance of getting a bit lost, but the station is relatively small and navigating it is easy to learn. The main issues here though was that in some areas the framerate dropped considerably.
Adding to the atmosphere, you’ll hear machines going about their business, and the station making noises as things happen under the surface. There are times as well when bursts of music are used to up the tension, which is implemented well, however there seemed to be some feedback issue, with fuzziness when using the TV speakers and some popping when using headphones.
If you’re a fan of exploration titles then you should enjoy this. While The Station doesn’t reach the heights of some other titles in the genre, it is a good attempt and tells a slightly different story. Hopefully the audio and visual bugs can be ironed out, but The Station is an intriguing little mystery that has you guessing what happened to the crew on board right until the very end.
Version tested: PS4