It was Summer 2016, and I had just finished Gone Home, a story-rich walking simulator set in the mid 90’s. You play as Kaitlin Greenbriar, a young woman who has just come home from her trip abroad in Europe. After going into the title with zero knowledge of the story, I came out with a new favorite game. The graphics, mechanics, and story were compelling enough to have me beat the game in two sittings.
I couldn’t get enough, though, and I was eager to learn more about what Fullbright was developing next. It was then that I stumbled upon their next game, Tacoma. Set in the year 2088, Tacoma focuses on a group of crew members that have come into contact with something far scarier than aliens: being left out in the middle of nowhere, where your chance of surviving outside of the station would be little to none.
This is where you come in: an agent named Amy, who was sent from Earth, your goal in the game is to find out what happened to the six crew members of this Venturis-owned space station, but the Venturis company only wants you to rescue the AI and data that still remain within the now-unmanned astro-station. As you work your way through the ship, you must collect audio diaries from the last days to uncover what went down, while abiding by your boss’ commands.
After meeting each crew member and looking at flash memories, you find that maybe what was happening was no accident at all. Maybe they weren’t supposed to survive in the first place. Their parent company didn’t have their best interest, and only saw them as just a set of numbers. Without saying too much, this dramatic revelation was one of my favorite aspects of the game.
Not Enough Time for More than Enough Characters
While the plot of Tacoma’s story seems compelling, there were a few things the game lacks. The basic outlines for the characters are great, but there’s much more that could have been done to amplify the connection between the player and the characters. Unlike Gone Home, Tacoma has quite a few forgettable characters, and I honestly had to look up the player-character’s name (albeit, this could be just me not being that attentive.)
My favorite aspects of Tacoma include the mechanics, which are similar to Gone Home, and the idea of the crew member’s “ghosts” playing out the scenes that were on the audio files. These ghosts are reminiscent of how the characters and stories of Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture came to light.
While I loved Tacoma’s LGBT relationship, this was probably the most memorable connection from the game for me, as I feel they focused the most on these two. If the game were longer, I could have developed a deeper connection with the other crew members. After all, there’s only so much backstory you can put in two hours worth of gameplay when you have a main objective to take care of.
The Venturis Corporation and American Greed
As stated, Tacoma delivers around 120 minutes of gameplay (unless you’re very explorative) where you invest a decent amount in each character’s story, retrieved from a recorder during the “last hours” – only for the ending to be rushed where the A.I are “saved” by The Venturis Corporation. I say “saved” in quotations because of what actually goes down.
Utilizing identical core mechanics and a graphically similar experience between Gone Home, I expected a tad more out of Tacoma, especially since the game took around 2.5-years to complete, and was originally set for release in 2016. With how story-rich Gone Home was, Tacoma provides an “okay” filler experience that only slightly helped me get my fix for the genre that I love so much.
In fact, the reason Tacoma was delayed a year was because the developers didn’t believe it was delivering on the emotional aspect. My thoughts are that if they were to give themselves a bit of room to extend the game, it could have made a greater emotional impact. Give Tacoma a play, and notice that the first 8 minutes of gameplay are a bit different than what was shown in 2015 on Polygon.
- Great graphics, audio, voice acting
- Compelling idea behind game
- Interesting zero gravity elements that gives a break from walking
- Too short for a story-rich adventure with 6 members to learn about
- Story is quite linear
- No puzzles, pretty basic gameplay
Most of the issues with Tacoma are because of the time constraint, and the glut of characters jammed within. That being said, the graphics and the voice acting are fantastic, while the overall idea of evil overlord corporations putting the lives of others at risk is gasp-worthy.
While it’s not my favorite game, Tacoma is easy to recommend to those who are fans of the story-rich, exploration genre who want to stay away from combat or anxiety-inducing gameplay.