Tacoma Reviews

AuthorReview
Kinglink
193,171
Kinglink
TSA Score for this game: 158
Posted on 27 March 18 at 02:39
This review has 3 positive votes and 0 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Tacoma is the next game from the people who made Gone Home and while that seems reductive, it’s literally how they say it numerous times. Even the image on the top right of this page says it. Similar to how Into the Breach is “from the makers of FTL, Into the Breach”. It’s probably the best thing to do as this is another game by the makers of Gone Home and while there are some changes, it’s still going to tick many of the same types of points.

I haven’t played Gone home. I’ve heard enough about it and, honestly, it didn’t seem like the type of game I wanted to play. But Tacoma came to me in a recent Humble Bundle and I figured why not? For some reasons even though I’m not big into walking simulators, I seem to play a lot of walking simulators.

The story of Tacoma takes place on a satellite called the Venturis-owned Lunar Transfer Station Tacoma, which is just called Tacoma in the game. The Tacoma is an orbital structure where there are six inhabitants, each employed by Venturis to take care of the orbital station. There is a botanist (for air), a health officer, an AI technician, a (space) mechanic, an “operations engineer”, and the administrator, oh yes, and a cat.

When you reach the station you are tasked with downloading the AI, and as it’s downloading you run around and recover AR Fragments. I don’t know if this is required, but other than standing and staring at a very slow counter, the AR fragments are going to kill the time you’re tasked to wait. They also will show you why no one is around the station to greet you.

One clever trick the game plays is it lacks a hud in your shuttle. Once you walk into the next room, you’re given the tools to look for the AR fragments which develops the hud you see as part of the game. It’s a nice touch for world building and I love the technology they present in the game.

The AR fragments are 3D recreations of events. One early event, the only one I’ll go into detail for, is a when you see people celebrating “Obsolescence day” when they all gather around and have a party. It’d be easy to do this in 10 seconds but the game shows large time chunks. There are about 3-4 minutes in most of these AR fragments, but almost all of them include all six characters (And the cat). You’re able to fully explore the time and look at each character, watch what they’re doing, and figure out how to access more of the station (sometimes).

Each character usually has their own story or they are tied with another character, so to see everything you’re likely going to have to spend at least three times through each fragment, and it makes for an interesting mechanic. This is what they call a “multi-branching story”. It’s not really, it just requires watching the same scene a few times. Not a bad trick but it is still a trick. In addition, there are a ton of bonus data you can get while you recover each person’s screen.

The screen is the futuristic tablet/phone that a person can pull up and talk to the AI, and each time a character pulls it up they have four tabs that you can select. Quite often only two or three tabs are really used. It’s a shame the game doesn’t use the full screen each time, but I love the technology on display. It feels like something that definitely will happen the way we’re going with technology.

There’s also a desk with similar technology, each containing two pieces of intel that usually fills in some backstory for the characters. In fact, all the characters have some interesting information and thoughts at some point, which isn’t surprising because that’s the type of game this is.

There are also personal ARs in almost every crew quarters on the ship. These are…. Well, honestly, I find these to be disappointing. Almost all of them have no motion almost no talking and usually just a song playing. Their rooms are interesting because you get the personality of the people who live in them, and usually some letters or personal objects that let you know what type of people they are. They just don’t have very interesting ARs in them, which feels like a waste when you can get an inside look at the person.

The game mostly takes you through the station allowing you to see all the ARs if you explore, giving you a few very simple puzzles, mostly find the key, or find the code to open everything. There was only one object that was even hard for me to find, but I liked exploring spaces.

And then eventually you reach the end of the game and it ends. I’m not going to spoil too much here but that’s about all there is in the game. It is still a walking simulator like Gone Home. You pick up objects and look at it. The AR recreations are fantastic, and I really enjoyed seeing them, but it doesn’t add much to the formula or even give a real puzzle to the game.

At the start of the game it shows you a basketball hoop which you can throw a ball through within the first 5 minutes, sadly that’s almost all the real interactivity in the game, there’s one more achievement with a puzzle, but it’s mostly the same as all the puzzles of just finding the right objects and place them in the right area.

The one thing I really like is the exploration of the ship, it’s an interesting 3D place. It’s a shame there wasn’t more to do with it, but what there is when exploring the ARs that span entire areas are good.

To get back to the story, it’s quite an interesting story and told in a great way, except that it’s short. The devs call it compact, but it’s not, it’s just short 2-3 hours long.

And well... I’m going to get into some spoilerific territory here, if you want to go in fresh I recommend you play the game. If you’re not sure or didn’t like Gone Home, you might want to check this out.

Tacoma’s authors are… to put it nicely very liberal. The game has three couples that it talks about, and two are LBGT. I mention it because if someone is not comfortable with that, they’re probably not going to like this game. It’s not a major part but I feel it’s a bit shoved in your face at one point. Now it is not a problem for me, but I do take an exception because one of the relationships is a bit forced.

You see, the commentary is blunt. In fact, a lot of the storytelling is blunt, there are discussions of workers struggles. Some of it is done it in a way somewhat worthy of praise. Then in one of the final areas you just get hammered with “revelations” not even hints, but just blunt logs that tell you what actually happened. It’s a story that should have been nuanced that is instead delivered with very little tact, or even cleverness.

There’s also a piece at the last moment, which leaves a lot of questions open. Maybe we’ll see more in this universe but I get the feeling this is a one and done. A shame because there’s something I like about this universe.

Yet I had to discuss the story’s real shortcomings because as a writer who has written a few things, none published, the story here is a bit insulting. People talk about this team with reverence and while there’s a good story here, it just ends on some weak notes.

The game is good when it tries to do something different. I really liked how the station is presented and explored, and the story that happens is pretty good when it’s working.

It’s just a shame that the writing and delivery of the story just doesn't deliver the same level of quality consistently over 4 hours. A twenty dollar game for four hours should be a top of the line experience. Tacoma isn’t at that level and I don’t think it will get the same level of praise as Gone Home. However, if you liked Gone Home, you’re going to like this and even if you didn’t like Gone home and want a more sci-fi based story, you’ll get something good here. I just wish it was a little better.

If you enjoyed this review or want to see what other games I enjoyed you can find my curator page at this link. http://store.steampowered.com/curator/31803828-Kinglink-Revi... Give me a follow.
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Titanium Dragon
104,680
Titanium Dragon
TSA Score for this game: 158
Posted on 05 February 18 at 08:11
This review has 2 positive votes and 0 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Tacoma is a walking simulator set on a space station. You play as Amy Ferrier, an independent contractor for the Venturis Corporation, one of many corporations operating in the year 2088. Your job is to retrieve the AI off of the evacuated space station Tacoma. While the company reminds you that everything you see on board is confidential, it takes a *long* time for those data transfers to complete, so you might as well look around…

Made by the creators of Gone Home, this is not really a game. Rather, it is a linear story, told via the exploration of the space station, watching segments of the story unfold via the station’s 3D recording apparatus. You can move around and watch the scenes from several different perspectives, listening to various characters as they try to resolve the crisis on the space station, while their oxygen supply runs low, all the while getting guidance from ODIN, the space station’s AI.

The biggest flaw with Gone Home was its ending – the ending of that game was pretty jarring with the overall themes of the rest of the piece. Tacoma, conversely, works a lot better – you get to see all of the pieces of the plot falling together, and it becomes increasingly obvious as you keep making your way through the plot what is REALLY going on.

However, I still have to say they didn’t quite stick the landing. As a drama, this story does a lot better job of unfolding. However, it has one fairly critical flaw – while the characters throughout the story have a sense of agency, it feels like one of the crucial payoffs doesn’t have a lot of buildup to it. While the area where it comes up gives us some background on it, this is very late in the game, after the point at which it was plot critical, which is kind of annoying – while everything else was foreshadowed very well, that part wasn’t, and as a result, it diminishes the sense of agency there.

Still, I have to say that on the whole, the story DID work. The voice acting was on-point, the environments weren’t so big as to be tedious to explore while being large enough to give you some stuff to look at and feel like you were unravelling the plot, and I was overall content with the experience – at the very least, I was never really bored while playing, though the lack of a sprint button felt like a somewhat odd choice.

This is not a walking simulator that knocks it out of the park. But unlike many such experiences, it did at least feel decent to experience. While some people might decry it as being short – which it is, the game took me only in the realm of three and a half hours to 100% – it really didn’t want to be any longer than it was. The story was over by the end of it, and it would not have benefitted from being longer, and would have likely been boring to sit through.

Overall, this is something that you’re likely to be interested in if you like cyberpunk-type stories, about a future society dominated by uncaring megacorporations and AIs, albeit a much more subdued version thereof – rather than being overtly dystopian, the world feels much more rounded around the edges, and it is clear that the megacorps are far from omnipotent, rather being very much subject to the laws of society, albeit laws that they try to circumvent to their own advantage.

If you’re looking for an actual GAME, though, I’d say to avoid this; this is not a game in a very meaningful sense, despite a couple of very simple “puzzles” to unlock a few doors. This is a walking simulator heavily focused on story, and if you aren’t interested in wandering around inside a story that is unfolding around you without much interaction from you, this is not the product for you.

Note also that this IS very short; keep in mind that this is an experience under four hours long. I was fine with that - I got it as part of a bundle - but I can understand that some people might be put off by the $20 price tag, given it is more akin to going to watch a movie in a theater than it is to a game that you are likely to play over and over again.
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