Tacoma Review

Richard Walker

Having blazed itself a bit of a trail with the environmental storytelling of Gone Home, Fullbright is back doing what it does best with Tacoma, another game in the same vein, set aboard the space station of the same name. You play as contractor Amy Ferrier, tasked with recovering the facility's valuable ODIN AI for the Venturis Corporation, and as you explore the vessel's corridors and various rooms, you'll set about learning what happened to the Tacoma's mysteriously absent crew.

Like Gone Home, Tacoma's story unravels through the numerous discarded notes and everyday detritus you'll find across the space station, while animated and fully voiced AR recordings of the crew reveal what they were up to and the events that transpired to prompt your mission. Each character is richly drawn, with their own detailed history to uncover if you take the time to dig beyond the surface and do a bit (or rather, quite a lot) of light reading.

The crux of Tacoma's story is revealed through the aforementioned AR sequences, which you're able to pause, rewind and fast-forward, as the crew's six members move to and fro amid an unfolding crisis in the wake of 'Obsolescence Day'. And as these AR records play out before your eyes, you can access a character's AR desktop at certain junctures for messages, audio logs and other data that helps fill in the narrative. Understanding each person and their roles is an interesting process, aided by their distinct personalities and their recognisable colour and shape, whether it's tall, yellow engineer Clive or short, red network specialist Nat.

Then there's the atmosphere and sense of place conjured by the space station itself, divided into three distinct sectors – Personnel, Biomechanical and Engineering. Tacoma's drama unravels across a variety of vacated chambers peppered with abandoned objects that have their own story to tell, and going the extra mile to explore means you'll learn more about the crew and what became of them.

Recovering the recordings preserved by the station's ODIN AI, you'll walk through an intensifying situation that gradually comes to a head, fulfilling the role of observer, watching characters interact with one another, moving about independently, carrying out their routines or responding to the events as they develop. It's an interesting and unique way of delivering an interactive narrative that's different to what Fullbright innovated in Gone Home, even if the game doesn't feel quite as groundbreaking.

Learning more about the crew and their relationships is all part and parcel of Tacoma, and while a lot of the game involved watching and gradually discovering the truth, you're anything but passive as an observer, as you're actively piecing things together and uncovering vital information during each character interaction. It's consistently engaging, especially if you're prepared to put in the extra legwork to flesh out the characters, rather than speeding from one scene to the next.

Tacoma is a more linear affair than Gone Home, each of its sectors unlocking as you progress, ensuring you're fed the story in a mostly chronological order. There's plenty of intrigue at work aboard the good ship Tacoma and you're free to explore at your own pace, absorbing as much or as little as you want. There's a layered narrative at work here and it's worth venturing into every hidden corner of the Tacoma to find out more.

You could conceivably breeze through Tacoma in a couple of hours, but as anyone who's played the likes of Fullbright's Gone Home, or games like Dear Esther or What Remains of Edith Finch will know, that's not the ideal way to approach an experience like this. As such, if you're not a fan of Gone Home and its 'walking sim' ilk, you're not going to much enjoy Tacoma either. On Xbox One, the game also suffers from a fairly choppy frame rate at times, especially as you enter a new area, though thankfully these issues aren't crippling and eventually settle as the game wears on.

An engrossing sci-fi yarn Tacoma is a game that rewards you for putting in the extra time to get to know its complex cast of characters, while exploring the station itself, you'll get a feel for its geography, making it feel like a real place. Or at least as real as a fictional sci-fi setting can be. Evoking a strange sense of melancholy in its empty spaces, amid the echoes of moments that have already transpired, Tacoma conjures an interesting story, even if it doesn't quite have the same impact that Gone Home had.

Tacoma

Another smart entry into the interactive narrative adventure/walking sim genre, Tacoma is a sci-fi story that's engaging from beginning to end. To state the obvious, if you dig this kind of game, then you're going to love Tacoma too.

Form widget
80%
Audio
80%

The voice performances are excellent without exception and the music suits the mood perfectly. Great stuff.

Visuals
70%

The art design and animation is strong, but the frame rate on Xbox One lets the side down.

Playability
80%

Straightforward and streamlined, rewinding and fast-forwarding through AR recordings enables you to absorb the story at your own pace.

Delivery
80%

Like many a walking sim before it, Tacoma is short but sweet. Explore every nook and cranny, and you'll get a lot more out of it.

Achievements
70%

A list that encourages you to delve a little deeper and scratch beneath Tacoma's surface to discover some hidden secrets and Easter eggs. Does exactly what an achievement list should do.

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