The RPS Advent Calendar, Dec 17th

RPS-calendar-17th

What’s behind door number seventeen? Why, it’s a little more conversation, a little less action

It’s Tacoma!

Brendan: An argument: Tacoma is better than Gone Home. The space station setting is more interesting than a middle-class house, the characters are better portrayed, and it gives the player more to do than nosy around, reading old notes. Part of this comes down to the way it rethinks audio diaries. You don’t just hit play and listen as you carry on rummaging through the bins. You get a holographic representation of the crew, pacing and walking and moving around the station. To listen in on one conversation, you have to follow whoever’s talking. To fill in the gaps and characters you missed, you have to rewind the holo-log, then follow someone else.

It’s neat and simple. And while I think the ending is entirely fluffed (although I can’t say why without spoilers) it remains one of the best space jaunts of the year and my favourite of the environmental story-telling gang so far, packed full of tiny details. By contrast, the rambling story of Firewatch and genre red herrings of Gone Home always felt to me like a lack of focus. With Tacoma, Fullbright have lasered in on what makes a good walkabout.

Katharine: I confess, I never much liked Gone Home, and I was expecting to feel largely the same way about Tacoma. How wrong I was. While its clinical, sci-fi setting might not be as immediately appealing or approachable as Gone Home’s spooky old mansion, it’s the subtler details tucked away inside its plentiful nooks and crannies that really make Tacoma worth celebrating.

Gone Home was a little too artfully arranged for my liking, but each of Tacoma’s crew quarters feel thoroughly lived in – a welcome contrast to the stark corridors and functional work spaces you’ll visit in between – and getting to watch these characters’ personal lives slowly bleed into their public working personas is absolutely fascinating. To give an early example, you might discover that one of the missing crew mates has been reading (rather endearingly) a book on ‘banter for the inspired social climber’ in his personal AR desktop to help him settle in with this new group of strangers, and you can see the results of this play out in the reconstructed conversations you’ll discover throughout the rest of the game. It’s a brilliant meshing of the game’s various exploration objectives, and it wasn’t long before I found each crew member’s individual story to be just as compelling as the central mystery. And that ending. Oh, that ending! Absolutely superb.

Head back to the calendar to open the door to another of 2017’s best games.

10 Comments

  1. malkav11 says:

    One of my favorite games of the year. The AR stuff is absolutely inspired. It does feel a little slight to me – I would happily have played more. But that’s certainly better than the alternative of coming away feeling like the game should have ended before it did.

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    subdog says:

    Tacoma was pleasant enough, but was too brief and too small to build tension. Its “big reveal” was fully expected, and it lacked all of the spooky unease of Gone Home.

    Exploring a space station where “something went wrong” is a well worn and beloved subgenre, but Tacoma felt like the all of its danger and mystery had been sanded down to something safe and cushy.

    Edit: This opinion was definitely formed after also playing Prey and Event0 around the same time as Tacoma.

  3. Servicemaster says:

    I loved Tacoma but it was just Prey minus gameplay and action. Alright that’s unfair, I think Tacoma is a fine, Pro-Union art piece and when I say Pro-Union I mean just about every type of union you can think of: marriage, workers, physical, mental. It is a love letter to love letters.

    Prey, however, is the best case for empathy I have ever seen. I rate my games on how many times my jaw drops which would mean Nier would have to be my first GOTY, then Prey, then Everything, then Nioh, then Tacoma. It is cuteness taken form.

  4. Martijn says:

    Gone Home was dragged down for me by the false leads and the cliched plot, but still I enjoyed it quite a bit. I just like exploring and looking in drawers and cupboards; currently I’m really enjoying Scanner Sombre.

    So I bought Tacoma when it was 50% off recently, but it crashes all the time. From what little I’ve seen the production values are much better than Gone Home’s and the audio clips are a definitive improvement over reading notes. I really like how much consideration has been given to creating a space station as it might actually be constructed and operated.

  5. Risingson says:

    * Adds to list of games to buy for Christmas *

  6. Ben King says:

    There were many parts of Tacoma that I loved- the Doctor’s story in particular, as well as one crewman’s desperate efforts to keep their financial head above water after switching employers, and another’s quest to secure a future for their children in an economy running on corporate loyalty and company script. But i was not wild about the overarching narrative, and simply could not get into the player character’s story- too little too late in the game, but i was glad to get all of the threads wrapped up in the end. For much of the story I felt a little unclear as to the depth of the characters’ troubles. it wasn’t until 3/4 of the way through that I realized the significance of their peril and felt real worry. I still had a great time, and loved following the holograms around, but Gone Home was a more effective story for me. I’m really looking forward to Fullbright’s future work still.

  7. Oasx says:

    I liked Tacoma, but i would have liked it to be an hour or so longer. It just felt a tad too short.

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    phuzz says:

    The only reason Tacoma isn’t my waling-around-and-being-nosey-about-other-people’s-lives simulator is because of Edith Finch, but it’s a solid second place, and does improve on Gone Home in almost every way.
    The ending did feel slightly like it came from nowhere, even though there were enough hints that I found it easy to predict, is that makes sense.
    Fullbright do know how to make characters that I find interesting and engaging.

  9. Servicemaster says:

    I’ll say here what I said in my steam review:

    Don’t fuck with Unions.

  10. parsley says:

    Oh, I loved this one! I agree, I liked it better than Gone Home. I keep thinking back to the game’s little details, like the blue nail polish in the doctor’s quarters or the collapsed shelf in the janitor’s closet (and the memory showing how that happened). I liked wandering between crew members and exploring the intricacies of their lives, and I really cared about everyone on that ship by the end. I just wish it’d been a bit longer.