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Video Game / The Station

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The Station is an Environmental Narrative Game, developed by a Canadian team also calling themselves The Station. It was funded on Kickstarter in December 2016, and released on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC through Steam on February 19th, 2018.

It is set far enough into the future for Faster Than Light travel to have become commonplace, which eventually led to the discovery of an exoplanet with clear evidence of sentient alien life on it. Unfortunately, that evidence consisted of unmistakable signs of a large war, large enough to be detected from afar, which tempered hopes of a peaceful first contact. The titular research station, the Espial, was sent into their planet's orbit with a three-man crew in order to covertly observe the events on the surface. However, four days before the end of its mission, contact was lost with the Espial; worse is that the stealth systems onboard malfunctioned as well, exposing the station to the planet's inhabitants. The player, an unnamed recon officer, is sent to the station to establish what's going on and hopefully rescue the crew, before the alien leaders on the planet get the time to react and down the station or worse.


Not to be confused with The Final Station (which is about trains and a Zombie Apocalypse), or with Environmental Station Alpha (which is set inside an enclosed habitat on Earth.)

Note: This is a rather short game, so while some spoilers have been marked, reading the page before playing can nevertheless substantially affect your experience of the work!

Tropes present in The Station:

  • Artificial Limbs: You find numerous schematics for artificial limbs and other bodily attachments, with a focus on the "linear actuator" "reinforced shoulder" and "augmented tricep".
  • Augmented Reality: Most of the information about what happened on the ship is discovered through the augmented reality add-ons, which can range from simple text notes to longer audio logs. Moreover, your own inventory and mission log is represented as an AR displays that hovers in front of you in real time, never obscuring the entire screen in a separate window like most examples.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Right when you begin wondering about why some audio logs are even around (such as one where Silas and Aiden fess up to some unauthorized modifications, and would have no reason to record themselves doing so), you find out the answer in Mila's room in the form of a product box for Dylar Orp log device. According to its description, it is worn over the ear and constantly measures brain chemistry, hormonal levels and heart rate, and then automatically records an audio log in AR for others to access in the future whenever it establishes "a moment of cognitive or emotional significance".
    • Then, you also find an "Ease-Air Freshener" in her room, which scans your biological metrics, determines that you are stressed, and automatically releases a calming scent.
    • And then, there's an example that's already Truth in Television for many. Approaching Mila's exercise bike will bring up the AR prompt asking "Mila" if everything's OK, since she missed yesterday's scheduled workout.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Espial is "spike" in the Basque language spoken in a region of Spain. A Red Herring, as the protagonist and the crewmembers are aliens, while the planet they are studying is Earth.
    • Then, bioluminescent fish found in one of the Espial's aquaria (and apparently discovered in the northern hemisphere reefs sometime in the future) is named Ignis Somnia, which is Latin for sleeping fire.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Downplayed. On one hand, it's definitely common, and you were able to jump from whenever you were right towards the station in a few seconds with no issues. On the other hand, this doesn't work too well on larger vessels like the Espial - a note on the Maintenance Line's terminal states that the electromagnetic radiation leak fried most of their spare parts.
  • Cat Scare: Getting into the Engineering control room has the rotating chair suddenly move towards you fast, complete with a Scare Chord...only to turn out to be a static maintenance robot once the chair turns out. A nearby AR message reveals that this was a prank set up by Aiden and that it already frightened Silas to the point of ruining his shirt.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Elias Volante, Axiom's supervisor of the Espial mission, is an archetypal example. In particular, he's been the one who pushed the crew to kidnap and dissect a member of Psy Prime's sentient species, as the only way to recoup the apparently exorbitant cost of the mission was to "exceed the expectations of stakeholders" by "demonstrating a degree of control".
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Here's Mila writing about the species:
    It's the disconnected and fragmented nature of the species that I find myself drawn to understanding. We can identify geographically based super clans formed in all quadrants of the planet, and the species fights viciously to defend their cultural identity. They almost look to create arbitrary division between themselves, despite the fact that from my preliminary tests, they are 100% identical in nearly every way. It's sibling rivalry on a planet-wide scale.
    • The Reveal makes it even more pointed, as she was literally talking about humans all along.
    • C-SAD illness is described in terms extremely similar to HIV/AIDS, though unlike them, it is purely hereditary (though the initial carrier had to have undergone the botched ECHO gene therapy to get it in the first place) and is not contagious.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: You discover one from Silas to Mila at the end of the game.
  • Dysfunction Junction: The Espial is crewed by three people, two of whom are going through a bad break-up, with one also struggling with her father's legacy to boot. The remaining person behaves like the biggest jerk of the three, but does so to conceal the all-consuming concerns over his strapped finances and the expensive treatment needed for his daughter, due to the C-SAD condition that he also carries.
  • Escape Pod: The Espial has several. The three crewmembers all try and fail to get there as the onslaught takes their toll. Mila making it the closest, dying in front of you right as she opened its door, letting you get inside and escape back to your planet, right before the station self-destructs.
  • Everything Is An I Pod In The Future: The power overrides on he Espial are large touchscreen panels where you just need to slide in a certain manner.
  • Featureless Protagonist: The unbroken first person perspective means you never see the player character, as they are meant to be an audience insert with no story of their own to distract from that of the ship and its crew.
    • First-Person Ghost: You also don't see any part of your body either.
    • The All-Concealing "I": And this helps obscure that the protagonist is actually an alien, albeit a very humanoid one. You don't fully learn of this until you finally encounter Mila's body, and look at her naturally purple skin, while her dying message warns the rest of the species to keep away from Earth and humans.
  • Follow in My Footsteps: Discussed by Mila in an audio log. A broken TV screen and equally broken touchscreen tablet nearby indicates that it was automatically recorded after the device detected an emotional spike.
    There's no real achievement possible for the daughter of a hero. I don't wish to seem ungrateful, but...It's getting cold in the shadow you cast on me, Father.
  • For Science!: The first augmented reality audio log you discover is of the Espial's science officer, Silas Haze, voicing this very sentiment to bat away any criticism.
    Silas Haze: "To the critics of this mission, I say it's not sufficient you voice your concerns of danger or ethics. If you are against progress in this moment, you must acknowledge that our very understandings of biology, chemistry, physics even religion are thrown into question. And you stand in our way."
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: The full name of the C-SAD disease carried by Aiden and afflicting his daughter is eventually revealed as "chromosomal splicing alteration defect", and is explicitly a by-product of a failed gene therapy named ECHO. According to a magazine describing this information, 160 million lives were lost over 20 years because of it.
  • Glory Seeker: Mila discusses this in another of her personal logs.
    "A mentor once told me that within every great leader is a person of strength. But what is strength without honor? And what is honor without glory?"
  • Golden Mean Fallacy: After the alien species' planet was first discovered, the main political debate was between either finally contacting them, or staying well away because they are engaged in a world war that can even be detected with telescopes, and so are unlikely to treat them any better than their own species. The compromise of sending the titular station, however, both failed to be stealthy after the Espial got damaged in a collision (possibly with a rogue satellite), and made for a very poor first contact impression as well.
    Proof that we were spying on a potentially hostile alien civilization now floats helplessly above them.
  • Green-Skinned Space Babe: Mila Lexa dies right as you finally reach her, just as she opened the escape pod door. When looking at her face you finally get the glimpse of your own species - you essentially have the same appearance as that of a human, but possess a purple skin.
  • Hard on Soft Science: Being a mechanic, Aiden invokes this to biology, of all things. Though, it's intended to complement his Jerk with a Heart of Gold characterization rather than be taken seriously.
    Silas Haze: Most of the systems in the science wing can't start until we are in lower orbit - are the calculations complete?
    Aiden Vyse: Orbital mechanics is one of the more unforgiving types of engineering, Silas. It's not as simple as playing with the test tubes and dirt.
  • Heroic Mime: The protagonist never utters a sound.
  • Holographic Terminal: The regularly present Axiom terminals are circular holograms that expand out with "Mail", "Messages" and "Notes" semi-circles when interacted with. More conventional touchscreen panels are sometimes used as well, though.
  • Human Aliens: Silas' notes eventually reveal that the species on Psy Prime is very similar, to the point he contemplates the two species being "planted" on their respective planets by the same creator, or even that they are the same species that had undergone divergent evolution. Then, it's revealed "Psy Prime" is Earth, and it's the protagonist, the Espial crewmembers and the rest of their species that are aliens, with purple skin being practically the only difference between them and humans.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The true goals of the Espial mission fall into this, once you get through the PR speak. When you find a print-out of the message sent to the mission's Axiom supervisor from the senate chairmen, all of his talking points have his clarifications written over them in pen. Thus "Observe the language, cultural and social structures of the Psy Prime's dominant species" is boiled down to "How can we kill them?", and "Study the geological and biochemical composition of the planet Psy Prime" to "What's of value on their planet?", while "Research the technological capabilities of the dominant species of Psy Prime with the specific focus on the ability to reach and detect our planet" is simply the salient "Can we fight back?"
    • The flawed people on board the Espial are also hardly paragons of virtue when it comes to their attitude towards the species they are researching. While Silas is the most sympathetic, telling Aiden that they might stop being "savage" the way humans once did (which Aiden receives with skepticism), Mila just doesn't care. A workplace injury report written by her about Silas cutting his hand is so completely focused on showing him in the worst possible light out of spite that you may even miss what preceded it - Silas dissecting a "sample" they retrieved from the surface, with the materials around confirming that they had somehow kidnapped and dissected a living, sentient being from that planet.
    • The ending inverts this, as it's revealed that the planet studied was the Earth all along, while you and the crewmembers were members of the alien species. Nevertheless, the trope still applies, as the humans in this world have already irreparably screwed up the Earth through World War III, to the point that Silas describes the planet's civilization as being in its death spiral.
  • Insecurity Camera: Invoked in a recorded conversation between Silas and Aiden, where the former asks him to build something, and when the latter asks where he could possibly hide such construction efforts from the cameras, he tells him of a blind spot in their coverage in the upper deck hallway. This was simply a nest of beds and pillows for them to get together once she had forgiven him.
  • Insult to Rocks: When approaching the lounge door that got stuck and needs to be opened, you find the AR notes left by Mia and Aiden when grappling with the same problem, and making insulting comparisons with the other person in process.
    Mila Lexa: Aiden, in an ideal world doors would open. It seems both you and this station don't work as well as expected.
    Aiden Vyse: It's an old station. I doubt you'll age as gracefully, Captain. If the door won't open, just turn off the power override.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In a private note, Silas says that they are standing in the eye of the storm and muses that "each word written privately might one day be subject to the eyes of untold numbers". However, he considers it a burden too heavy for anyone to bear.
  • Manual Override: The Lounge door that won't open at first is eventually opened by overriding its power source. To be fair, the override was on the inside of the lounge, and the Espial was always designed as a civilian rather than military or police ship.
  • NGO Superpower: The Espial belongs to the Axiom Space Agency, which is a combination of these according to promotional materials. It's implied it was rich enough to bribe enough senators to swing the vote get their mission approved. However, Axiom didn't design the ship - that was the work of Saito Industries, which is also mentioned very frequently. Other entities are mentioned in passing, such as the Caedmon Consortium.
  • My Skull Runneth Over: Invoked on the cover of "Business & Culture" magazine found on a coffee table, which has "Protecting yourself from over-stimulation in our technology-driven culture" as one of its front page headlines.
  • Panspermia: When you finally get access to Silas' room, he speculates that a third species must have planted life on all planets due to the similarity between Psy Prime's species and themselves, and because the distance of millions of light years is too great for the undirected panspermia to have occurred. The species you are playing as is indeed very similar to humans, with the purple skin color and lower tolerance to acid seemingly being the only differences.
  • Retirony: You can find Aiden's calendar in the Maintenance office that crosses off days till Daddy's home. He had only 4 days left before the incident. He ends up being the first crew member to die.
  • The Reveal: You were the aliens all along. "Psy Prime" is actually Earth, and the "civil war" that drew the Espial's attention in the first place was World War 3.
  • Secret Relationship: Mila and Silas were in one for 6 years, keeping it secret because of the obvious issues in chain of command. When their Axiom supervisor learns that they are involved shortly before the mission launch, he plans to remove one of them from the ship to restore mission integrity, but Silas manages to convince him that this was simply a "brief infatuation" and their relationship is now strictly professional. Mila is absolutely furious once she learns of this, writing "Is this what 6 years were worth to you?" Pointedly, you find that she's crossed out celebrating their anniversary from her to-do list, and you only ever find one log of a conversation between her and Silas, compared to the numerous logs of the conversations between Mila and Aiden, or Silas and Aiden. This implied that they took pains not to speak to each other throughout the whole mission.
    • It is revealed that Silas lied to the supervisor precisely so that they wouldn't get split up, but got too successful at it. He was trying to make it up with her all along, but died before that became possible.
  • Space Is Noisy: Averted. When you go into a depressurized hangar that is pure vacuum by now, there's no sound there save for the archived recordings you hear through the AR interface.
  • Stealth in Space: An exhibit in the viewing room A explains that the titular station was completely undetectable because of its Noctae shield blocking active sensing (to the point a test shield exhibit completely silences anything inside it, not that this is needed in space) and four Light-Wrap Generator pillars cloaking it in three dimensions. However, this complicated tech had shut down along with the rest of the station's systems when the incident occurred.
  • Streaming Stars: The intro caps off with a classic cockpit view of your character's ship accelerating in order to reach the titular station, complete with this effect.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Mila messages their mission organizer at Axiom about the allegations that some of the senators who voted to approve their mission were bribed, he responds with "1. Probably, it's the Senate 2. Not by anyone from Axiom. 3. Worry about the things you are paid to."
  • Taking You with Me: First, Aiden stayed behind in the hangar to hold off the human boarding party, and eventually depressurized the airlock when it failed. Then, Mila activated the self-destruct sequence on the Espial when all else failed, dying just before reaching the escape pod, but still giving you enough time to use it and to hear her final message.
  • Tractor Beam: When you need to retrieve components from the maintenance storage pods, a robot arm does it with such a beam.
  • Tron Lines: Here, it's used for quality assurance: the voltage regulator component you need to place into a maintenance robot to get it to work glows purple in the dark in the dark through such lines if it works. Thus, when you get a large, old crate of these regulators, you first turn off the lights, and then select one of the few regulators that's not defective, since the rest were damaged by the unexpected electromagnetic radiation spike during the warp jump.
  • Unnecessarily Creepy Robot: There are both the spidery maintenance bots that are even named MAD-EX33, and the larger four-armed maintenance robots that are even creepier. However, it's a Red Herring, as they never go hostile or disobey orders in any way.
  • Wham Line: The final spoken line of the game. While it comes immediately after The Reveal, it nevertheless solidifies its impact.
    Mila Lexa: "Forget the humans. Forget the Earth. You can't let them find us."
  • Wham Shot: The end of the game brings to in quick succession, before and after the Wham Line. First, you finally see the face of Mila Lexa, which is clearly alien, and reveals that both you, the other two characters, and the species you are part of and work for are all alien as well. Then, The final shot of the planet as your escape pod blasts is very clearly Earth, with the Espial in particular clearly hovering right above Central America, letting us see both South America, and the North, which is pockmarked with enormous nuclear craters.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer…: Invoked by the note on Aiden's computer where he reminds himself not to forget his locker passcode: "When everything looks like a nail, you'll always need a..."
  • Where There's a Will, There's a Sticky Note: Downplayed. Right before he got killed fighting off the aliens in the Espial's hangar, Aiden wrote his updated will in a message on the terminal there, leaving all of his possessions to his daughter Keyna with Thera as her guardian, directed to use their value to pay for her C-SAD treatments.
  • With This Herring: Apparently, the Espial was already an old station that already suffered from issues like malfunctioning doors, which raises the question as to why possibly the most important expedition in the history of mankind couldn't get something newer.
    • Mila Lexa, the captain, brings this up in a personal log herself. "Seldom acknowledged is how much a captain's fate is tied to the success or failure of their ship. With a vessel as wonderfully maintained as the Espial, you might almost believe this mission wasn't that important."
  • World War III: The ending reveals that "Psy Prime" is actually Earth, and as your escape pod zooms out, it becomes clear that the ship was parked over the Americas. The only notable difference is that North America is scorched with enormous burn marks all over it. Combined with Silas' earlier speech about "the Swan Song of their civilization", it becomes clear that a nuclear war had just occurred.