Tacoma is The Fullbright Company’s newest game. After their previous release, Gone Home, fans of the “walking simulator” genre were very much looking forward to Tacoma.
After numerous delays, Tacoma released on August 2nd, 2017, a full three years after its initial announcement. What came from those three years is an incredibly solid game, with well done and unique gameplay mechanics, an interesting story, and a satisfying game from start to finish. But when looking at this game after playing Gone Home, you’ll find that it’s missing an emotional attachment that can be so vital in this genre of games.
Tacoma has you, a subcontractor for a large corporation, arriving at a space station which is empty for reasons made clear throughout the adventure. It is essentially a ghost ship except you have access to augmented reality sensors that when placed on your head allow you to see the previous inhabitants of the space ship in the final days of the mission. You’re essentially walking through memories as you can play, pause, rewind, or fast forward any memory you encounter. You are also able to view a person’s personal augmented reality computer screen when they are using it.
Seeing the character’s different bed rooms and computer screens gives a great insight into who they are. Their relationships, their reason for being there, plans for their future, all things that make them very human even though you are just seeing a colored wire frame of them yourself. The game does an excellent job of creating believable characters and opening them up to you in a unique way.
The mystery of what’s happened on the ship is interesting and profound, while not confusing or cluttered. A lot of this game feels like it is showing you the minimum pieces of information you need to know while still being precise and smart. You never feel bashed over the head by anything, leading to the feeling fans of this genre love, a sense of piecing it together yourself.
Comparing Tacoma to Gone Home
There are, however, two major points that feel like they’re missing. Emotional attachment to yourself or to the characters you are “interacting” with and it seems like it lacks the sense of place. Both of these are because I’ve played Gone Home and loved that game because of those two specific reasons. In Tacoma you are viewing events that already happened, everything is completely out of your control, whatever happens to these people happens and you’re just waiting to see it.
Whereas in Gone Home you were directly involved as a character in the story, you were scared when they were or confused or curious about them. You weren’t watching it from an outsider’s perspective. With the sense of space, in Tacoma you are visiting a space station with personal touches of people that you do not know, it is a fascinating and fresh environment, but it’s not familiar like the home in Gone Home. You get the sense that your character has done jobs like this many times, that this is just another space station that she is exploring and piecing together an incident because it is her job.
In Gone Home, you’re returning to your childhood home, and no one else is home. There was a sense of familiarity with the situation. It hit on all those feelings of having the lights turned off in a very familiar place but still rushing up the stairs so whatever is sneaking up behind you won’t be able to get you. Gone Home put the player in a situation that they knew from their own lives. It was emotional because it was accessible.
I wouldn’t say Tacoma is missing heart because you witness plenty of beautiful moments, but the problem is you are being presented them, not facing them yourself. Tacoma is a satisfying and good game, but I don’t know if it will emotionally stick with me as Gone Home has. It’s also $20 on Steam right now, and I beat the game in less than three hours. And it feels like less than three hours. But it also feels like a game that is worth $20. I’m not disappointed in my purchase, but you may want to wait for a price drop, which on steam is inevitable.