Not every problem in games needs to be solved by shooting, stabbing or going very fast. Sometimes you just need to stop, listen and talk things over, like in Oxenfree and Tacoma, two lovely story-driven games that you can snag free right now and keep forever. Contemporary teen ghost story Oxenfree by Night School is the current fortnightly giveaway over on the Epic store, full of sass and supernatural weirdness. Sci-fi mystery Tacoma by Fullbright is a little more grounded and quiet, letting you explore the lives and recorded dialogues of a space station’s crew after some manner of space-disaster. Grab them on Epic and Humble respectively today.
It’s odd timing for both of these giveaways to happen at once, but they’re a great pair of games if you want to play something a little softer and less combative. They’re both games about dialogues, really. Oxenfree gives you branching conversation options plus the chance to interrupt characters (with occasional repercussions), while Tacoma is about passively picking apart complex chains of interactions between characters. Both are excellent at what they do.
Back when she was part of Team RPS, Pip reviewed Oxenfree and called it “an unexpected delight”. While full of supernatural spookiness, it’s not a scary game, per se. Unsettling, but there’s no jump scares or big monsters screaming in your face. The focus of the story is solely on the characters and how they react to the strange situation they’ve found themselves in and – not to spoil anything – does some clever things on a second play-through as you’re exploring alternate dialogue routes.
As an aside, once Oxenfree cycles out as Epic’s current free giveaway, the next in line is enormous line-doodling puzzle adventure The Witness. Worth a look for the copious brain-teasers, even if the banksy-level ‘made you think’ narrative is a bit irritating.
Pip reviewed Tacoma as well, and slapped one of our shiny gold RPS Recommended stickers on it. It’s a detective story, in essence, although not in a finger-pointing ‘whodunnit’ way, and more of an archaeological sense. Something went wrong aboard this derelict space station, forcing an evacuation. You’re tasked with finding out exactly what. You do this by walking around in first person, tracing the paths walked by recordings of the crew, listening to their interwoven dialogues, and occasionally poking around their abandoned personal effects.
There’s some puzzling here, but nothing high pressure or especially tough – it’s just a good sci-fi short story, told well. There’s some excellent, subtle world-building here, and it’s never just relayed to you in monologue form. Even as an outsider to its not-too-distant future of corporate space-travel, it’s not hard to feel like part of it all by the time the credits roll.