( This First Impressions are about the first two hours of Tacoma.)
Tacoma is a horror game with a villain that is unconventional. Tacoma isn’t your run of the mill horror game, there isn’t any jumpscares, monsters, or even combat- there’s basically no one on this station except for you. The plot of Tacoma is that you’re arriving, BioShock style, well after the events that take place prior to you getting there. Tacoma’s style of horror isn’t conventional or anything like Resident Evil 7, the horror is existential that offers you a glimpse of what the future in the real world might actually be like if we get too far ahead of ourselves and offers a glimpse to a reality that we’re slowly closing in on a dystopia where corporations have assumed all control of our lives.
The self-driving cars of today will make millions of jobs obsolete within a decade and this is slowly becoming fact. Tacoma isn’t science-fiction, it’s a warning to how the human race is slowly approaching this vision that is seen within Tacoma. It’s a warning shot. This horror that is seen within the game quickly transforms and crawls it’s way into the plot, you play as Amy Ferrier, an AI communications specialist who is subcontracting for a company and following an accident on Tacoma Station you’re called upon to retrieve said company’s A.I. You are reminded basically on the daily about your status as an employee of the company, both in the emails that pop up and the messages that are written. You are required to provide your own ship and you are to land on Tacoma Station and get to work, you are prohibited to talk to the A.I and anything else you find is sole property of the company that you are subcontracting for. The game takes place in 2088, and you’re basically awash and filled to the brim in corporate talk but when you read your Iphone’s or Samsung’s end-user agreement is a bore and nobody actually reads them, Tacoma uses this to cement who you are in a endless machine that keeps spinning and spinning.
All they want is the A.I and your contract doesn’t actually tell you anything else or the members onboard the station. You plug the retrieval computer into numerous terminals and you basically wait until it gets to a 100, and knowing you you will not wait so you have to explore the station. You’ll spend time exploring the station and pouring over these crewmember’s lives as they try to deal with the events that led up to their mysterious disappearance.
These AR sections where you discover and learn about these people’s lives are the bulk of the story and they’re almost like a book, where you want to keep on reading and turning each page. When you enter a room where a recording has been made, a push of a button will fill the room with people and each person is color-coded and labeled by their role onboard the Station. You can look through these videos by rewinding and fast forwarding through them and you’ll need too if you want to catch every detail of the story. Each of these crewmembers move through space and coming together into groups, breaking apart into pairs, or going into rooms by themselves. In order to keep track of everything, you’ll need to rewind and or often start the recording over and follow that person around each section just to see how the scene fits. Imagine this being like Detective Mode from the Arkham Trilogy and the Audio Diaries from BioShock / BioShock 2 but in living format, it’s great and it adds interactivity and space to what it would usually be which is an Audio Diary in the form of BioShock.
You’ll also use these living audio diaries to solve puzzles and the puzzles aren’t really that hard, they’re light and often optional so your progress isn’t stalled or something like that like most other games often do.
By watching these videos, you’ll get the basic premise of how things actually played out but you’ll miss alot of the story if you don’t look through these people’s personal belongings or glance at their emails. It’s in the small details that you’ll learn what actually happened to these people and learn about their backstory, gain small glimpses into their personal life, and find out on how they interact with each other in times of great stress or boredom. The writing is like Fullbright’s poignant and powerful debut with Gone Home back in 2013, it injects reality and a sense of humanity in a place where there isn’t any humans just except for you.
Even two hours in, there’s no denying that this game is a quiet and haunting examination of the human race and the path of we’re going and the examination of how corporations rule our lives. It offers something of a wakeup call to the human race, it offers a cautionary tale of how things can change.
Stay tuned for my review.