Tacoma is the latest video game by The Fullbright Company the studio responsible for Gone Home. Gone Home resonated with me on an emotional level not because of the story it told but because of how it told it. A story that set up expectation with fear and dread before becoming a story of hope. So, to follow up that, Tacoma has big shoes to fill. The reality is that it doesn’t. But it’s still a strong game worth playing. Find out more in our review.
Tacoma is a first person narrative experience or in the pejorative a walking simulator. You play Amy, a contractor who is exploring the empty space station of Tacoma. With the help of Augment Reality flashbacks, you begin to piece together a picture of what went wrong aboard the space station and what happened to its crew.
Inherent in this type of game is usually a mystery and how we, as players mechanically unravel that. In Gone Home this was done with notes and audio tapes and in something like Everybody’s Gone to Rapture it could be glowing balls of energy. Tacoma is a bit more like the latter and when entering certain parts of the ship you will be alerted to the fact that an AR memory is available. You can, watch this memory and rewind and fast forward it. Yet it’s not simply a recording but something that takes place in the actual physical space. Often these conversations will take place in a group and people will break away into separate conversations across different rooms (even locked ones.) You as Amy need to piece together what has been said often by scrubbing through a scene several times from different perspectives.
Tacoma holds to its science fiction premise with a very convincing aesthetic. It clearly takes cues from other influences for its aesthetics and I saw hints of Bioshock and 2001: A Space Odyssey in it. It’s all very cohesive and feels lived in too. Messy rooms, personal touches are littered throughout rooms and living areas. It’s detailed and filled with clues for the careful observer. The characters are weird stick models with actual body shapes. I believe the term is wireframe and have a ghostlike but oddly familiar quality as they float through the environment.
The reality of Tacoma is that you’re playing for the story. It’s worth noting that the voice acting is top notch filled with angst and dread at the impending doom, but also love and humour and more. In some ways, a doomed crew would have been enough for Tacoma and I found myself wanting more time with them. Yet Tacoma doesn’t end there and goes some fascinating and surprising places by the time it wraps around to its conclusion. It comes suddenly the ending and its premise but on reflection has been there all along just having its threads weaved together subtly. It’s not quite as personal as Gone Home but it’s far more ambitious.
Tacoma is a short experience and my run time was about an hour and forty-five minutes. I’m an explorer but not fanatical about picking up everything in the environment. So, run time might grow or shrink depending on how you play. Still it remains short and I found myself wanting more but not necessarily in the good sense. Like a great but small meal on a big plate, I found myself still hungry rather than satisfied. I felt there was more here without overstaying its welcome. It won’t sour but it will frustrate your time the game.
Tacoma Review Cheat Sheet:
Platform: Xbox One and PC
Overall, my time with Tacoma was riveting. I loved the story of the crew of Tacoma and was committed to seeing their story through to the end. The game’s sci fi premise and aesthetic allows for a compelling way of telling the crew’s well-acted story but also allows for a clever change in direction as the story closes. Still I found myself wanting more, much more. But still Tacoma should be played and talked about as it a great example of video game story telling.
+ Compelling story that is well acted.
+ Science fiction look is great and allows for bigger story beats.
+AR Story telling is a great visual way of exploring the back story.