The Kickstater campaign can be used for many things. From gathering money to help the sick pay their medicals, to helping people fund their education, to helping the creative and imaginative creators of the world fund their products in art, television, film and video games. Over the years the crowd funding service has gone on to fund many great games which include FTL, Superhot and Shovel Knight which helped gave this way of creating games legitimacy, leading more and more developers to give it a try. The latest example to make its way to me is The Station, a Kickstarter funded First Person/Sci-Fi/Murder Mystery game created by a team of veteran developers working out of Vancouver, Canada. Finishing its campaign with over 5000 Canadian Dollars over its goal with one insanely devoted backer donating over CA$2500, rewarding that person with creative sessions with the team as well as a cooked breakfast from them, a deluxe VR copy, access to testing, a copy of the script, a pancake party, getting their name in the game and a credit as Associate Producer, Backer and concept artist AMONG OTHER THINGS! This just went to show the kid of potential this title is capable of. The Station as a whole offers certifiably chilling experience with stimulating puzzles and a minimalist but harrowing story that slowly reveal itself as you progress, all in the space of a pretty short playtime.
In The Station you play as a Recon Specialist sent to uncover a mystery of three Scientists who have gone incommunicado on a space station while coming into contact with other sentient life. However, as they did they soon realise that this race of Aliens are in a state of civil war which is around the time that the team go silent. You are tasked in finding out what has happened to this research team, if they are dead or alive and what exactly happened on this space station. It’s the mystery that really drives this game and the fact that the story gains more and more momentum as you discover more about the team’s findings, their personal relationships and unveiling the events that lead to their disappearance that really urges you to keep playing. And the conclusion that it ultimately leads up to acts as somewhat of an ambiguous powder keg that could be interpreted in a number of different ways.
The Space Station Espial’s interior and exterior is equal parts Enterprise, Sevastopol and Thunderbird 5 but still holds an ominous presence as you approach it at the beginning of the game with its impressive sci fi style and massive size. And for the most part the same can be said for the inside of it too, which features some impressive visuals brimming with futuristic technology that would satisfy any Trekkie or Alien fan and intense atmosphere which comes down to the path of destruction that you explore, the eerie lighting and the strange feeling that you are not alone in this space station. This is only amplified by finding fire suppressors on standby in the rooms and corridors and addition of a run button that gives you a feeling of unease. However, due to the short game span the inside of The Espial just doesn’t feel as big as the outside, as a whole it features a pretty small map. Despite this the surroundings of The Station are still pretty easy on the eyes and there are some places that really make want to in VR, particularly the glass floors that make you feel like you’re suspending in the endless void of space. Sadly, as I was making my way through unsettling environment I experienced a few frame rate drops which took me out of the experience, but this remedied by the sounds of malfunctioning hardware, distant explosions and calls for help, and the droning of the synthesiser heavy soundtrack really helps to pile on the ambience and the dark tone of this title.
With its gameplay, The Station has you discovering what happened to the three researchers through uncovering clues and audio logs that detail their findings and exactly what happened when they came across this alien species, which as I said earlier makes the game pretty exhilarating. But another thing that there is plenty of is puzzles, as you wander round the corridors and in the to the different rooms you come across certain puzzles (kinda like the Crystal Maze!) but as the developers have said they wanted the whole space station to feel like one big puzzle, and much to their credit they have achieved this. The puzzles you are faced stimulate the mind and requite some thought however there doesn’t seem to be a difficulty curve to them. The Station also goes for a realistic approach when it comes to this mechanics which works in some places and falls a little short in others, the Augmented Reality Menu takes a futuristic approach to an in-game menu screen and making your choices from it by your playable characters sight is a good touch and picking up items feels clunky and unnatural.