Narrative exploration games have been finding new ways to grow and evolve on the PS4, thanks to extremely talented developers and brilliant ideas. One such developer is Fullbright, who created the award-winning title Gone Home. Now, their follow-up game, Tacoma, is out on PS4.
In this new title, you play as a contractor assigned to the Tacoma space station by the Venturis corporation. Your task is to enter the abandoned station, retrieve AI data, and return everything to Venturis. It seems simple, but the truth is far more complicated. Does this game manage to find a unique new way to tell its tale? Read on to find out.
A Future Where Everything is Recorded
Tacoma takes place in the year 2088. Massive corporations have taken over every aspect of society. Space tourism and artificial intelligence are a part of everyday life in this world, and the majority of people work for at least one of these companies.
You play as Amy Ferrier, a contractor hired by the Venturis corporation to download recording data from the station, along with a physical processing module for the ship’s onboard A.I. One of the things people agree to when they work on the Tacoma station is constant recording.
As a result, every aspect of the crew’s life can be viewed using an augmented reality playback. This allows a contractor like Amy to see everything that happened inside of the station, prior to the incident that left it abandoned.
Using this clever storytelling mechanic, Tacoma offers the player a complex and interwoven tale. Each of the areas has its own self-contained stories that you can view and interact with.
The characters on the ship are extremely well written, with defined personalities and interesting motivations. These feel like real people, and it doesn’t take long before you come attached to them.
Whether it’s a burgeoning relationship, a dream for a better future, or the hope that they will see family again, each of these people will very quickly become someone you care about. As a silent observer, you can freely move between characters during a scene, which empowers you to see the same events from several different angles.
It all feels organic and realistic. In fact, there were even times that I felt bad for essentially prying into these people’s personal life. They were just recordings, sure, but the authenticity of it made every moment, no matter how large or small, feel real and personal.
While they start out as separate characters, they soon begin to intertwine in a very organic way. You’ll soon find out about relationships between members of the crew, which further reveals their hopes and dreams.
Despite only being a few hours long, it’s a testament to the quality of the writing that these characters shine as bright as they do. Even the onboard A.I, Odin, has a personality all his own. Of course, great characters can only carry this game so far.
The storyline itself unfolds at a nice pace, spending time developing characters and the overarching conflict, before transitioning into a final act that is both shocking and exciting. I wish it had been a little longer, but I loved every minute of Tacoma’s story. Proof that the developers at Fullbright still have plenty of stories to tell.
Explore The Story on Your Terms
Tacoma is somewhat linear in that it guides you from one section of the station to another, but otherwise, how you experience the story is entirely up to you. When you locate an AR recording and hit the play button, holographic representations of the characters appear and begin going about their daily lives at that moment.
They will interact with one another, move to other rooms, and even enter areas you can’t follow. You will need to watch each recording multiple times to see all the different angles, but you can choose how you approach each one, with the ability to pause, rewind, or fast forward at your leisure.
It’s an awesome way to tell a story, one that gives the player power to see the events how they wish. During set points in each recording, you can also pause it and open the personal desktop of crew members.
Here you can see their emails, messages, and other elements that add to their overall personalities and individual stories. There are a few moments of light puzzle solving, but otherwise, the experience mostly revolves around viewing the story from every possible angle.
It’s a bit more interaction than we’re used to seeing in these types of narrative adventures. I can’t imagine it was easy to develop a game where multiple conversations and events are happening in the same space simultaneously, but it paid off in spades here.
I don’t really have any complaints from a gameplay perspective. In fact, I hope more games employ this level of freedom in how you experience a story.
Smooth and Sleek Visuals
Tacoma is a great looking game that pops with color and has a smooth, streamlined style that I really enjoyed. The AR holograms that represent each crew member don’t have any specific facial features, but the top-notch voice acting lets the emotion come through without any issue.
The inclusion of a commentary mode in the PS4 is an awesome touch, especially for someone like me who enjoys behind the scenes looks at my favorite games. This extra mode alone gives you a reason to play it a second time.
Yes, it could have been longer, and perhaps there was room for more interactivity, but the experience as a whole in Tacoma was excellent for me. It told a great story in a unique way, while also offering a bonus commentary mode that adds additional insight into the brilliant minds behind this game.
If you enjoy narrative adventures, or you are one of the many people who loved Gone Home, Tacoma is an essential experience to have in your collection.
Final Score: 9.0/10
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 5/15/18
A copy of Tacoma was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes