Fullbright, a studio comprised of developers that once worked on the BioShock franchise, has made a name for itself by creating story-driven “walking simulators.” The studio’s latest game, Tacoma, carries on that tradition, though the game has some issues that hold it back from reaching the same heights as the critically-acclaimed Gone Home.
Since Fullbright is comprised of developers that once worked on the BioShock franchise, it’s not surprising that Tacoma‘s setting and atmosphere are reminiscent of that franchise. Exploring the Tacoma space station sometimes feels like visiting Rapture all over again, but with the shooting and RPG elements stripped out to focus on exploration and narrative.
Tacoma is about a woman named Amy who is sent on a mission to explore the Tacoma space station. The station’s crew seems to have disappeared, and Amy is tasked with learning about each crew member through AR scenes that are scattered throughout the station. Digging into Tacoma‘s narrative is also the main gameplay hook, as players can rewind, fast forward, and pause these scenes to discover secrets and gain access to hidden areas of the station.
The Tacoma space station is segmented into distinct areas full of interesting items and objects players can examine and interact with. Examining these clues is integral to learning what happened on the space station, but even when the answer seems obvious, Tacoma‘s narrative keeps players guessing. The game’s ending is especially surprising and clever, but don’t expect it to have the same emotional weight as Gone Home.
Perhaps part of the reason why Tacoma‘s story doesn’t seem to have the same emotional impact as Gone Home is because of its science-fiction setting. Gone Home‘s typical 1990’s American home was easy to relate to, and it lent itself well to a “walking simulator” type of experience. The characters in Tacoma still feel like real people, but they deal with problems that are hard to relate to, like super intelligent AI and other issues that we can’t explain without venturing into spoiler territory.
Tacoma may not be as emotionally gripping as Gone Home, but it’s still an interesting story nevertheless, and it will keep players engaged until the end. The end of the game, by the way, comes rather quickly, with Tacoma lasting only two to three hours at best. Those that want to just get to the end of the game as quickly as possible will be able to beat it even faster, though they will miss out on a lot of the most interesting revelations about the space station’s inhabitants.
It’s easy to just breeze through Tacoma, but it’s worth taking your time with the game, thoroughly searching each area, examining objects, and reading notes. The most entertaining aspect of Tacoma is learning more about the mystery of what happened to the crew and discovering secrets about their lives to better understand who they were as people. Doing so will get players more invested in the story and they will care more about the mystery at hand.
Tacoma mostly nails its gameplay and narrative, but the game suffers from some crippling technical problems on Xbox One, like crashing and other issues. The game often chugs while traveling from the hub to different parts of the space station, and Amy’s arm tends to clip through doors and objects. Since Tacoma is a game that is built around immersion and atmosphere, the latter is especially jarring and can take players right out of the experience.
One particularly frustrating glitch we encountered wouldn’t even let us start the game. After initially completing Tacoma and trying to start the game over to go after achievements, it wouldn’t let us get past the title screen, not recognizing when the A button was pressed. A quick Google search will confirm that we weren’t the only people to run into this bizarre issue, which is concerning. Luckily there are some ways around this and Fullbright is looking to patch the problem, but it’s worth noting that this rather glaring issue still hasn’t been fixed a week after the game’s launch.
Severe technical problems aside, anyone that’s a fan of “walking simulators” will likely enjoy Tacoma, but it won’t win over critics of the genre. The game’s technical problems on Xbox One are a real shame, especially since the game is console exclusive to Xbox One, but those looking to look past these issues will be treated to an engrossing and surprising story aboard the Tacoma space station.
Tacoma is available now for PC and Xbox One. Game Rant reviewed the game on Xbox One.