When Hype Kills

The newest trailer for Cyberpunk 2077 released this week. Leading to increased talks around the internet about its potential to be one of the greatest games of all time. Hype for the game is sky high and for good reason. It does look good. At least from what I’ve seen. I still haven’t seen the latest trailer. There’s a good reason for that.

Hype is a wonderful thing. The feeling of getting giddy over the upcoming release of a new title in any medium can put anyone into a strange child-like wonder. But it does have its limits and we’ve all been burned by hype in the past. Sometimes hype has a detrimental effect on how the end product is received.

Let’s go back to 2016, and the release of No Man’s Sky. This game was highly anticipated at release. Hello Games had promised a universe teeming with life, but could only deliver a speck of what was promised. No Man’s Sky was panned by critics and players alike for its repetitive gameplay, boring procedurally generated planets and missing features. No Man’s Sky and Hello Games fell victim to the hype beast.

Of course, you could say the impossible promises made by Sean Murray of Hello Games is what killed the launch of No Man’s Sky and to an extent you’d be right. Those promises are what created the hype. But I believe that hype is what really did it in.

I think about it this way. If No Man’s Sky was released without the media attention. Without the appearance on the Late Night show. Without the internet building a gargantuan hypeball. It would have been a neat little experiment in procedural generation; a simple indie game among many. Of course this doesn’t come with the glory that the hype beast can bring, but it doesn’t come with the infamy either.

No Man’s Sky does have a happy ending at least. Last I heard, Hello Games really knocked it out of the park with their response to criticisms and turned No Man’s Sky into something worthy of praise. But it does come as a cautionary tale, at least for me. I try not to hype myself up for things. Cautious optimism is my mantra. I try to avoid watching too much promotional material or let the thing occupy too much space in my mind. That way, a game, a movie or a book will at least meet my expectations. I hate having my expectations crushed.

I hope Cyperpunk 2077 will live up to the hype. It certainly has a lot.

The Final Station isn’t what I thought it would be

And that’s a good thing

I don’t get a lot of time to play games these days, or write, or work on this website; life just gets in the way. But this week I managed to squeeze out some time to play a game I’ve had sitting in my Switch wishlist for some time: The Final Station. Let me tell you, I went into this game expecting a vastly different experience than the one I got, and I was pleasantly surprised.

The Final Station is a side-scrolling shooter with some train simulator elements tacked on. You play a train driver who is charged with delivering a special package in a world that is experiencing something called the ‘Second Visitation’. I mean, a zombie apocalypse by any other name…

Along the journey, you have to stop at various stations. At them your train is locked into place until you can find the code to release it again, forcing you to explore areas overrun with zombies. This is where I was surprised. I hadn’t done any research on The Final Station besides looking at the store page, so I went into the game expecting a neat little rogue-lite in an interesting world. What I found instead was a fairly linear side-scroller with some survival horror elements. To be honest, at first, I was disappointed. I’ve never really been a huge fan of side-scrollers and generally stay away from them, but The Final Station left me surprised. I found myself enjoying the challenge of making my way through the levels, trying to conserve ammo and find supplies, but also not being totally screwed if I ever made a mistake. Unlike in a roguelike, where death could and would end that particular run, The Final Station allows you to replay checkpoints and levels at your leisure. This took away quite a bit of the stress of each level and allowed me to play in a far riskier way than I would have otherwise. It was less about finding supplies to keep the survivors on the train alive and more about puzzling my way through each level to move onto the next. The premise of the trains is really just dressing for a fairly well-made side-scroller. This is where the issues arise.

The Final Station plays well. It features a variety of enemies that take different ways to kill. You have your standard zombies that take three shots to the body, or a single shot to the head to kill. You have your quick ones and your big ones and your armoured ones. All of them present their own dangers and challenges. The Final Station doesn’t lose points for its linearity, at least not for me. It loses points for the train sections. Most of the train ride is spent fixing a single broken part over and over again while watching your survivors food and health meters. Besides the fact that a different part of the train breaks down on each run, there’s no variety to it. It’s as though the developers had grander plans for the train sections but never really implemented them. To me, it makes more sense to have multiple parts of the train break during a train section to create a sense of panic and urgency, but it really just comes across as boring. And with the survivors, I get the feeling that I was just supposed to min-max their health and food to keep them alive. It would have been nice to have some hard choices to make instead. Do I save the scientist over the unemployed guy because one is better for our society or do I treat everyone as equals? I never really got to make those decisions because the situation never really came up and the only rewards for saving survivors was money and ammo. I think it would have been interesting to see that sort of thing play out instead.

Ultimately though, The Final Station is a good little side-scroller that I enjoyed. And to be honest, it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to play something long enough that I can review it, so hooray for that.

3.5 / 5