BY DIAMOND ALTIERI: As a huge fan of Fullbright’s Gone Home, Tacoma has been on my radar since it released in 2017, but in the turbulent world of gaming where hundreds of titles are all fighting for your time and hard-earned cash, the title, unfortunately, fell to the bottom of my priority list; ultimately losing out to my obsession with Bungie’s Destiny which released its sequel within weeks of Tacoma coming to the scene.
Even though I initially passed on the game, it recently came back into view as one of the weekly free offerings from the Epic Games Store. Upon seeing the cover, all of my initial hype returned and I quickly grabbed a snack and soda, gearing up for an intense gaming session while it downloaded.
Starting up the game you are first greeted with a cinematic experience of docking with the space station Tacoma. During this introduction, you get your first look at the station from the outside, as well as learning the name of the specialist you will be embodying for the duration of the game, Amy Ferrier. Right from the beginning of the game, Fullbright lets you know that you are in for a visual feast.
If you ever played, Gone Home, you will feel right at, well, home as you freely explore the station and interact with every little thing. All the clutter on the desks is able to be picked up, examined, and put back (or thrown across the room if you are an agent of chaos). This type of nonlinear exploration has become one of the signature elements for the studio’s releases with both games featuring a complex hidden story that is up to the player to uncover.
I’ll go more into detail below on why this game has to be on your gaming bucket list.
Tacoma has ridiculous attention to detail.
As I mentioned before, every pen, scrap of paper, and spoon can be picked up and examined. My first playthrough of the game sucked me into the story and I ended up finishing the run without fully savoring the experience, so on my second run, I made sure that I took my time. I probably picked up every item in the station at least once just to see what I could do with it. In the lounge area of the personnel wing, you can help yourself to a functional game of darts or billiards. The studio put so much work into the assets assuming that the player would explore anything and everything, that even the ball return on the pool table works!
Even more astounding to me was the sticky party letters on the wall. You can remove the letters and put them back in whatever order you want, but move them too many times and you will hear the tape will eventually lose its stickiness and the letters will fall off the wall when trying to place it.
When Red Dead Redemption 2 came out, everyone was talking about the dynamic horse testicles, but I don’t hear anyone mentioning Fullbright’s hyper-realistic tape physics.
The story is seriously amazing.
If the developers spent so much time creating realistic tape, you can imagine how much detail went into the story and characters. I won’t spoil the story here as I seriously want you guys to try it out, but I can say that there is just something special about having to piece together the story yourself.
The main mechanics of the game have you exploring the environment for clues and replaying holo-logs to observe the crew members in their last days on the station. During the holograms, you can wander about and listen in on conversations that are happening simultaneously in different rooms and even look at their AR desktops in realtime as they use them. By reading their messages, exploring their offices, and observing their interactions with their crewmates you get to really understand each of the characters, their struggles, and even their future aspirations.
Fullbright are masters of giving you just enough information to fully understand what is going on without it feeling overwhelming. This means that even though the game has a lot of reading, I never felt bogged down by information overload and was able to glean the important topics in a matter of seconds. And trust me, when the story starts ramping up and getting intense, you’re going to want to read quickly so you can see what happens next.
The commentary mode is worth every second.
I am going to be honest here, usually I am the person that skips the “Special Features” on DVDs (are those still a thing, I don’t even know anymore) so I originally ignored the commentary mode. When I started writing this article, however, I knew I wanted to give it a try.
I was missing out!
The commentary mode is seamlessly integrated into the game, presenting itself as nodes that you can start and stop as you play the game normally. These nodes have messages left by the development team and shed some light on their favorite (and not so favorite) parts of the process. From how Margaret Catwood got her name, to original concept art these little blurbs made me appreciate the game even more.
Seeing intimate details of the development of a game and first-hand accounts of the cast and developers while enjoying the finished product is a chance you don’t get every day and is truly a rewarding experience.
TL;DR: If you like sci-fi games with exploration, strong narrative, self-paced progression, and can be completed in 1 or 2 casual sessions, this game is a must-have for you.