Tacoma Review

The storytelling genre of “walking simulators” has come a long way since 2013’s Gone Home. It seems that we get at least a couple new ones every month, some are great and some not so much. With Tacoma, Fullbright reminds us why they were the pioneers of the genre, and they  continue to propel it further with another rich and charming experience. Taking a grand departure from Gone Home’s exploration of the mundane, Tacoma is as much a science fiction story as it is a look at people’s personal lives and relationships.

It may not be for everyone, and the $20 price point might be a little steep, but If it sounds your kind of thing then you’re in for an engrossing and rewarding journey.

Tacoma is available on Steam and Xbox One for $19.99.


As for as the overall story of Tacoma goes, it’s relatively straightforward. You are Amy Ferrier, a subcontractor sent to the Tacoma Space Station to retrieve AI hardware and records. The game opens with you arriving at the station, and you aren’t given very many specific details. Get in, retrieve the AI, get out. There are no monsters, no aliens waiting to kill you, and this certainly isn’t Alien: Isolation.

It’s approach to its narrative is quite interesting, however. You’re exploring Lunar Base Tacoma after everything’s gone wrong and the crew has abandoned the ship. You only ever see the 6-man crew as faceless holograms wandering through the different parts of the ship, carrying out their jobs and chatting away. It’s how Tacoma manages to make you form an attachment to these characters, despite them never actually being there, that is so impressive.

Your only experience with the crew comes from augmented reality recordings. These are found throughout the ship, range from a minute to 5-6 minutes, and often take place across multiple rooms. You can pause, fast-forward and rewind a recording to fully experience everything going on. To get everything out of a single recording, you’ll be doing a lot of running around to listen to each person’s conversations. These conversations, as well as examining the crew member’s AR desktops to see whatever tabs or emails they had open, give you an insight into the personal lives and relationships of the crew. The crew members are brought to life brilliantly through these recordings, in spite of their extremely minimalist look. This is mainly thanks to the amazing voice performances of every character, which illustrate the faceless character’s emotions excellently.

tacoma AR recording

Environmental Storytelling

Tacoma doesn’t tell you everything. It skips out on certain information, and in fact much of the data you come across is corrupted to some degree. But it doesn’t need to. The game does an excellent job with its environmental storytelling, and there’s actually probably more to learn about the characters from the things you come across than from the conversations you listen to.

For example, one of the first AR recordings you come across is the crew preparing a party before the ship is suddenly hit by an unknown object, causing the oxygen to begin to leak. The recording is from three days prior to your arrival and you can see that the party preparations were never completed. The fear and panic of the crew becomes immediately clear from the mess throughout the room, where the crew clearly abandoned everything. You also learn a lot from the crew simply by what they left behind. Exploring each crew member’s cabin gives you plenty of insight into their lives and mindsets. It also gives you the rare opportunity to see the crew members alone in AR recordings that are brief but often incredibly revealing.

tacoma gameplay

AI Crew Member and Corporate/Political Intrigue

The crew members each have their own layered depth, but there’s also the ship’s AI, Odin. Odin is something of a mystery though, and even the crew seem to not fully understand him. He has a kind of warm presence to him, but at the same time he can seem to be cold and disconnected. It’s hard to get a read on him, mainly because you cannot access his personal thoughts or logs. It’s difficult to understand his motives, or perhaps his “orders” more appropriately, but trying to figure him out based solely on his interactions with the crew and the conversations about him between crew members is quite compelling. Through his relationship with crew member Sareh, you get an idea of how an AI fits into the governance of a corporation, as well as the near-future society.

There’s plenty of backstory that fleshes out the world of Tacoma. Emails and IMs slowly unravel the reality of the situation. The short of it is basically that there are groups rallying for fully-automated space stations and workers that have set up unions to protect their jobs. The interactions between these groups, and the opposing ideas they hold, are interesting to explore and there’s a lot to glean about the state of the world. The problem is, however, that these issues seem very important but also feel very disconnected to what’s going on aboard the ship. None of the crew ever mention or discuss it even though it directly affects them.

Although most of Tacoma is well-fleshed out and explored, this is the only part that feels somewhat disconnected. It also feels like it could have been concluded a little better, with perhaps more impact on the smaller character stories that are so well-executed.



Ultimately, Tacoma is a compelling experience that explores the lives of a small crew within an engaging science fiction backdrop. The characters are rich and layered and are brought to life with fantastic voice performances. Exploring every inch of the ship is fun and rewarding, and Fullbright’s environmental storytelling is absolutely top notch. Although the grander story, the issues of political and corporate bodies and the fight for human worker’s rights, feels a little disconnected from the more personal stories, it hardly hindered an otherwise rich, satisfying and highly unique experience.