Written by Derrick Smith
Ever since it was first revealed, The Station has been this mysterious interactive experience of discovery, begging to be understood. Pull the camera back further and all you can seem to affirm is a stationary space vessel orbiting an unknown alien planet. However, upon a much closer diagnosis, there is a wealth of revelation which will broaden and challenge your understanding of moral law, surveillance and imperialism.
The Station is a truly fascinating experience, with a compelling theme. Like a well told short-novel, The Station evolves into a memorable tale, forcing you to ask questions long after the credits have rolled, which may cause you to return to the Espial space station for more investigation. We simply could not put the game down until we had our fill, even on our second playthrough.
As an overview, upon the detection of a sentient alien civilization/planet, which based on everything that can be understood before taking a closer investigative look, it is discovered that this new world’s way of life potentially challenges everything known about biology, chemistry, physics and religion. Determining that the rewards outweighed the risks, an undetectable space station called the Espial with a small three-man crew is deployed to research the alien culture in search of a means towards a peaceful relationship. Unfortunately, the space station mysteriously loses power, its stealth capabilities are no more and the three-man crew can no longer be contacted. You, a recon specialist is now sent in to investigate and uncover what has happened.
After hyper-speed space travel, you find youself aboard the Espial space station. With no one to welcome your arrival, players are quickly given their objective to locate the crew. As a recon specialist, your only tool is the Augmented Reality Menu, maintaing a map of the Espial, your inventory, found audio logs and current and completed objectives.
Considered the most technologically advanced space vessel ever to explore beyond the atmosphere, traversing the innards of the Espial reveals a highly advanced technical architecture with modern affluence. Players will also discover the name Axiom as the seemingly proud manufacturer of the Espial and all of its sophisticated on board gadgets. One such device is the Dylar Orp audio device, which allows crew members to record messages to be discovered later. Sort of like a high-tech Post-it, which can be left anywhere, these audio files among other identified resources are the building blocks of uncovering the personalities and whereabouts of the crew.
From here the occasional Augmented-Reality Conversation Cards are disclosed which allow the crew the ability to drop text in the real world space. One can understand how this could be of great interest as crew members could leave these AR conversations nears work stations as reminders and updates, as well as anywhere suitable for processes of considerable thought. In addition, the Axiom Communication Terminals, which work as an instant messaging, email and note taking terminal platform are found within crew members quarters, giving players even more depth of discovery of the crew. Consisting of a three-person crew the Espial members being two males and one female have their very own distinct signature. Their unique signature allows you to identify them within the ship.
As an intriguing dangling of the attractive carrot on a stick, almost every inch of the Espial reveals itself to be in relation to a bigger picture, driving you forward to uncover the fascinating truths, which are hidden in plain sight.
Early on you realize that the Espial is no longer undetectable as the stealth mode is out of commission, leaving the vessel in an exposed and orbited position of the alien planet, known as Psy Prime. Interestingly, while you discover the research being conducted by the crew of the Psy Prime planet life, you may begin to ask whether the inhabitants of this alien planet have something to do with the missing crew members and who is this mysterious character aboard the ship who seems to elude you at every turn?
While your main objective is to discover the whereabouts of the crew, players are also tasked with additional objectives like finding key cards, activating power sources, learning the map to discover key locales, as well as activating worker bots and so on. Impressively, the gameplay which is supported by straightforward interactions with an added layer of slight puzzle solving and exploration, is well complimented with alluring characters.
As you begin to piece together the lives of the crew members, you find yourself wanting to learn more about them on a more personal level. How is their relationship with one another and what are their motivations? Do they have families and what are their specific mission responsibilities, individually, and will I find clues leading to the discovery of how this highly advanced space station has gone silent? The attraction of these questions will keep you on your toes scouring crew quarters and uncovering locked and hidden rooms and storages.
While The Station is a brief ride, what is explored and hopefully unearthed is a surprising realization of imperative fascination. This small package offers so much to discovered and yet can be easily overlooked, and that would certainly be a mistake. Begging to played in VR, The Station is a smart and intelligent narrative that while it might be playing it quite safe in the gameplay department, is an unforgettable experience, pushing the progress of interactive story telling in video games.