Welcome to the Lunar Transfer Station Tacoma in the year 2088! This orbital station owned by the Venturis Corporation is located in Earth’s L1 Lagrange Point and acts as a cargo transfer point between Earth and Venturis’ Zenith Lunar Resort on the Moon. Your job is to locate and reclaim AI data from each of Tacoma’s sectors as well as to retrieve the physical processing module of ODIN, the station’s AI…
Developer: Fullbright Publisher: Fullbright Genre: Walking Simulator, Adventure, Story Rich, Sci-Fi, LGBTQIA+ Release Date: August 2nd, 2017 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One Copy was purchased.
Today’s review is about Tacoma, an exploration game slash walking simulator set in the not-so-distant future where companies like Carnival, Hilton, Venturis Corp and Amazon are having a great influence on society in addition to being responsible for space travel to Jupiter, the Moon, and other places. Just three days ago, an accident caused the Tacoma Station’s communication array and oxygen tanks to be destroyed, leaving the crew in grave danger. It is your job to restore its AI but since the data transfer takes so long, you may as well snoop around in the crew’s belongings, rooms and offices, and take a look at the records displaying the story of how they handled this precarious situation and what exactly transpired here.
Thrilling, Exciting, Eery, yet beautiful!
The Station’s crew used an augmented reality interface accessed through the ARware that you’ll be utilising, too. Through it, all of your movement, conversation and actions are recorded, just like the crews. While you wander through Tacoma, you may find data that can be restored by you to experience the recordings of specific moments, set a few days, months or hours ago, documenting the crew’s situation. This recording can be played and paused and you may even fast forward or go back in time to follow along as the various characters in the game move to different rooms, access AI panels or open doors. What I truly loved is how you essentially can watch the game through the lens of a third party. You piece the story together by rummaging through the crew’s belongings and reading through documents. You learn more about the members, their backstory, their problems, and their prevailing situation as time goes on,… and after I played through the game, I ended up believing that I have known the characters for a long time.
This is partly due to the extraordinary voice acting that is part of this fabulous game by the Gone Home developers! The characters may appear as abstract figures due to the augmented reality interface but they are brought to life in their happiest and their darkest moments. The crew itself is a diverse and partially queer group of people from all sorts of backgrounds. My favourite characters were probably the station’s medic Sareh Hasmadi (voiced by Eva La Dare), the botanist Andrew Dagyab (voiced by Greg Chun), as well as the Station’s AI ODIN (“Operational Data Interface Network”, voiced by Carl Lumbly). They grew to me and I was down when they were down, I was delighted when they were happy, and I just loved this ride to bits. At the same time, you can also spectate the crew’s relationships and bonds… and it’s amazing, really, especially with how much space there is for speculation at times until you get the reveal eventually.
You uncover more, the more you explore.
Yes, this may be a walking simulator, which is why you’re set on a path from one side of the ship to the next, but I’d agree that you’re very free in your movement. In theory, you could mingle with none of the crew’s stuff but it’s fun to investigate everything and it created some great experiences for me as a player when I found out what exactly happened on September 2n, 2085, three years before the events, without getting into too much detail. The interface of the recordings lets you know when crew members open their interface in the medical bay or at the botanist’s place, resulting in a relatively easy to navigate experience overall, and while the timeline is not chronological, in terms of the recordings, you can slowly piece it all together just fine, in my opinion, by reading through the crew’s files, their documents, and exploring other (at times, secret) areas. How much you find out and how much you get to hear all depends on how much you explore… and exploration is something that this game does well as it awards you with small easter eggs, the Station’s cat, or the information that you needed to fix that hypothesis you had.
The most satisfying part of Tacoma apart from the voice acting and the storyline is the immersive gameplay. The people at Fullbright built a whole space station that is realistic and that can be seen cycling, spinning and working while you explore it and it feels real whenever you look out of the windows. The sun is setting and rising. The machinery can be heard, and while it feels a bit eery at times, I found it genuinely great to see the attentiveness to detail in this Sci-Fi game with this well-built setting and all the background information that you get. The developers put plenty of thoughts into how this station functions and works. To get to different sections of the Station, you’ll need to use a magnetic elevator for instance and while you go through it, you don’t see a loading screen but instead a little ad for Venturis’ vacation resort in space while the elevator goes down. To open your augmented reality interface, your character has to use sign language because… you know… nobody hears you in space and stuff… which is legitimate, I guess. At the same time, there are so many rooms that are wonderfully decorated with many things that you can interact with, from a pool table to an actual kitchen…
It feels as if the Station is telling a story of its own.
Honestly, I cherished my playthrough of Tacoma, from start to finish. The atmosphere is great (no pun here), the story commenced a bit slow but hooked me very swiftly, the ending was great after four and a half hours, and I haven’t even gotten to all the secrets yet as there is still at least one room that I couldn’t find the key for! Similarly, I have yet to play the game with the dev commentary turned on… and the music is great and there are so many things that I want to mention but I can’t because it would spoil you…
My recommendation here is for you to play it yourself! Tacoma looks stunning. I found it marvellous. I can highly recommend this non-violent game to all fans of Sci-Fi games or games with a focus on narration and exploration!