How would you react to the discovery of an advanced but violent alien civilisation in the midst of a civil war? That's the question that opens the pitch for sci-fi explore-o-puzzler The Station, and it's intriguing enough for me to want to check out the game based on that alone. You play as a recon specialist sent to investigate a supposedly undetectable surveillance station that's cut off communication, where you'll uncover what went down via the crew's AR logs. It's out now.
So, Tacoma with a focus on a inter-species ethics and questions about surveillance and the limits of moral authority? Yep, I'm on board.
It really does sound like it's borrowing liberally from Tacoma: the blurb mentions that "technology has gone through a digital revolution and conversations, notes and even computers are experienced in full Augmented Reality." I'm not complaining - Tacoma's combination of environmental knick-knacks and recorded conversations was an excellent way to weave a story, and I'm pleased to see another game follow in its footsteps.
There's a heavier focus on puzzling than in Tacoma, mind. "The secrets on-board the station will resist being uncovered and you must rely on your ability to identify and solve intuitive but subtle problems", says the blurb, adding that "The Station itself is a puzzle to be solved". I'm all for the side of puzzling that's about piecing together a story, though I do hope the mechanical puzzles alluded to there don't get in the way of that.
It's the promise that "what players discover will challenge their view of surveillance, imperialism and moral law" that interests me the most, and it would be a shame if those discoveries are on the other side of a door that I can't figure out how to open.
If this is your jam, so far I've seen the best explorations of these questions in books rather than games. The ethics of observing and influencing alien civilisations is at the heart of the Culture novels by Ian M. Banks, and the Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin has an interesting (if gloomy) take on how first contact might go. Oh, and if you're worried that the discovery of alien life would plunge the Earth into a state of panic and uncertainty, a recent study found that most people would actually be quite upbeat about the whole thing.
The Station came out yesterday on Steam for £11.39/$14.99/€14.99.