Developer: Fullbright Publisher: Fullbright
I like a good story in my video games. It has come so far that I will avoid spending time on a great game if the story does not interest me (I’m sorry, Divinity: Original Sin). Story driven games have taken up most of my focus over the last years especially the shorter ones, as a bite-sized game just works better for adult living. Tacoma is made by the incredibly talented crew at Fullbright and it’s only their second game, the first one being Gone Home – a game that I totally recommend for people with interest in a story-driven mystery.
Tacoma does a lot of the same things Gone home did but is that enough? I will avoid spoiling stuff happening after the initial intro of the game.
What is Tacoma about?
The year is 2088 and mankind have begun populating space stations outside of Earth. In fact, we have a freaking vacation resort on the moon owned by the Venturis Corporation. Tacoma is one of their orbital space stations which function as a Lunar Transfer Station, a link between Earth and the moon for transferring cargo. Onboard we have an AI, named after a Nordic god, ODIN to control the facility and make sure everything works smoothly.
As AI is a very real and very present thing in this time and age companies have been bound by the law, The Human Oversight Accord, to have real, living people to oversee and help the AIs. On Tacoma, that means we have six people living close to each other together with ODIN – Station administrator E.V. St James, operations specialist Clive Siddiqi, network specialist Natali Kuroshenko, mechanical engineer Roberta “Bert” Williams, medic Sareh Hasmadi, and botanist Andrew Dagyab.
When the game starts all six of the crew has disappeared following the station being hit by a meteor and Venturis has sent you, in the feet of Amy Ferrier to recover the AI data and the mainframe of ODIN the AI. On arrival, you are equipped with an augmented reality system, that makes you able to experience situations that have happened prior to present day.
The game lets you figure out what has happened aboard the Tacoma station through investigation and interaction with the past.
The Gameplay of Tacoma
Let’s not beat around the bush here; Tacoma is a walking simulator just like Gone Home. However, their approach to the genre has evolved since their first game. You do walk (Or move in zero gravity in certain places) from one part of Tacoma station to another, but when you reach a new place you get to interact with the past in a way more player involving fashion than Gone Home’s narrator voice at certain checkpoints.
You get a sort of “play bar” like we know them from Youtube videos where you can play, pause, rewind and fast forward the things happening in front of you. Perhaps the people are split up into two different rooms, so you want to interact with the first crowd first, rewind and play it again in the other room to get the full story. Maybe you see a character walking off from the others and want to follow him or her afterward to see what the person does.
This means that Tacoma does offer more interaction and control over the story than Gone Home did, but Tacoma also feels more linear. In Gone Home, you had this huge house to roam, where certain parts were blocked off with locked doors that you had to find the key for to progress. Never the less it felt more open and free to explore. In Tacoma the game tells you where to go explore and where to go after you are done. It’s not a big deal but I found it a bit of a step back, game design-wise.
Should you play Tacoma?
If you enjoyed the likes of Gone Home, Firewatch, Dear Esther, Everbody’s Gone To The Rapture, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (…), you will also like Tacoma. The game is 3 hours of great storytelling in an interesting setting with superb dialogue. I played it a late Friday evening instead of watching a movie and I got totally hooked until the end.
However, if you do not enjoy the mentioned games Tacoma will most likely not be for you. The game has a slow pace with a lot of repetition and idle listening. You could argue that 3 hours of gameplay is a bit expensive for €20 compared to many other indie titles.
For me, would I recommend it? Would I play it again? Yes and yes!