The creators of Gone Home are back with a narrative driven, futuristic space story, which retells the events around the fate of a crew of astronauts aboard the Tacoma space station. The entire experience is told via alternate reality recordings of the crew’s actions and conversations. It is definitely unlike anything you’ve ever played. The only game that comes anywhere close, that I can think of, would be Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.
You play as an agent of a corporation sent to investigate what happened on their space station, as well as retrieve the ships advanced AI that interacted with all aboard. Upon arrival on the Tacoma, you’ll find digital AR recordings of all those aboard that slowly unravel a gripping story of love, fear, perseverance, and deceit. These immersive recordings can be fast forwarded and rewound, which is required if you hope to uncover all the bits of stories as you’ll have to follow characters throughout the ship during each playback. This allows Tacoma to tell a deeper story than most games where the narrative just focuses on one main character. Here you get to see the thought process between characters before and after their conversations with others. Aside from watching these replays, players can also pause recordings to recall information being accessed by the characters on their futuristic computers. Usually, these come in the form of emails or text messages, which gives insight into their motivations and lives. Other activities include searching rooms for codes to unlock optional doors and lockers which are mostly there for completionists and achievement hunters.
Tacoma touches on real world relationships, unlike any video game I’ve played before. There is a married lesbian couple on board and a gay man who writes home to his husband and teenage son. You get to see the lesbian couple’s intimate moments of fear, love, and so forth, which is rarely represented in any popular media. You’ll see men that aren’t all about machismo, expressing emotions other than “let’s kill the bad guys and get revenge”, as seen in basically every other blockbuster title being released. And all of these moments are voiced by a clearly talented cast. This is some of the best voice acting I’ve ever experienced in a game, as it was engaging enough to keep me drawn in till the end.
If that sounds like ‘pandering’ to you, let me assure you video games almost exclusively pander to white men. (See: the protagonists of a majority of games out right now).
While I’ve gushed thus far, Tacoma has its faults. The game only lasted around three hours for me and that was with near 100% completion, which may turn some people off as it costs $21.99. That said, I paid more than that last night for my boyfriend and I to see The Dark Tower at an IMAX theatre, which had far weaker characters and only lasted about an hour and a half; so I didn’t mind the price tag versus length here. The Xbox One version only runs at 30 frames per second and often stutters during loading between areas. It isn’t really all that easy on the eyes when compared to videos of the PC version. There is no gravity in the main hub between areas and the controls are a bit wonky, to say the least. However, you aren’t forced to be there very much so it isn’t too much of a hassle to navigate.
If you liked Gone Home, you’ll probably love Tacoma. If you didn’t like Gone Home, you might like Tacoma as the story is much more laid out and in plain sight with goals given to you along the way. If you’re like me, you’ll happily support the game just for including a diverse cast of characters and having strong writing that evokes emotions aside from “kill the baddies”. Tacoma is anything but a “walking simulator” and is a game that deserves a place among the great narrative-driven titles to come out in recent years. Plus, who can pass up gays in space? Not this guy.