Review – Tacoma
There’s been no shortage of praise for Fullbright’s latest title, Tacoma. There are lots of glowing reviews calling it “innovative,” “groundbreaking,” “emotional,” and so on. Despite my slight negative preconceptions towards the “walking simulator” genre, I always try to jump into a new one with an open mind, as every now and then I enjoy a few games such as The Stanly Parable, SOMA, and P.T. Maybe I’d like it for the setting, maybe I’d like it for the story. Who knows?
Well, I have sad news for you, my beloved readers.
Tacoma is boring.
Oh my goodness, was it boring.
Tacoma is simple to summarize. It is, yet again, a walking simulator with nearly no actual gameplay or interactivity whatsoever. You guide your character throughout the Tacoma space station, and all you need to do, no exaggeration, is listen to conversations. That’s it. No game interactivity, no puzzles (besides half a dozen lock combinations in which you are practically given the solutions), no moments of tension. Your main objective is to find older transmissions of a crew comprised of half a dozen people, watch the story unfold, then move on to the next transmission.
Watching those augmented reality transmissions is a much more tedious task than you would imagine, due to the fact that the game doesn’t have actual character models. Every single transmission features colorful non-textured holograms, each one representing one of the six unfortunate souls stuck in the space station before your arrival. Sadly, that didn’t feel like some sort of stylish decision or artistic representation for me: it truly felt like that the developers couldn’t be bothered to render actual human models in the game. It’s quite hard to actually care about the characters when they’re not properly onscreen. Sure, the voice actors do their absolute best by delivering excellent performances, but they are sadly attached to a lackluster script and you honestly can’t be bothered to care that much for them, no thanks to the lack of physical representation.
Things don’t get better when talking about Tacoma‘s “controls” and gameplay. Your character walks in a very slow pace, which is annoying, but thankfully the space station isn’t that big, therefore you don’t feel frustrated about not being able to go from A to B in a decent pace. One bigger problem, however, is the overall VR-friendly interface, in a non-VR game. Everything in Tacoma is made with VR in mind, from the classic small reticle you use in order to focus on objects to the fact all menus are shown onscreen just like some sort of AR feature, in which you can freely move the camera while on the menus. It’s quite hard to describe it in words, but anyone who has ever played a VR game will understand. Then again, Tacoma is not a VR game, which begs the question as to why such a gameplay style was ultimately implemented.
The biggest offender in Tacoma, however, is its story. Oh my, what a dull story. Somehow they’ve managed to make a space station catastrophe story uninteresting, and this all lies in the fact there’s never a single moment of tension throughout the game, not only because you’re never in a risky situation, but because every single moment of tension our six “main heroes” go through is quickly solved. Every single plot point in Tacoma is incredibly abrupt and poorly developed. The game itself is also ridiculously short: the moment one very interesting plot point finally happened, my AI companion told me my job had been completed and I could already go back to my ship. That was less than two hours into the game. Bear in mind, I took a restroom break and another break to get a can of Coke in the fridge, and it still took me only two hours to beat the damn thing, one hour and fifty-nine minutes, to be more precise.
In the end, Tacoma turned out to be yet another art game in which the developers focused more on the art aspect than the game one. There is little to do in it, little to explore, no puzzles, no tension, nothing. It’s a totally misplaced audio book.
In my never-ending journey to look for other walking simulators I’d actually enjoy, Tacoma definitely didn’t make the cut. Just like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and What Remains of Edith Finch before it, it’s a stupidly short visual experience with little to no interaction or player input, which would have been more fit for a virtual reality movie or anything else other than a game. Did I also mention it costs nearly 20 bucks for around 2 hours of “gameplay?”
Reviewed on Xbox One.
Tacoma is also available on PC.