Tacoma analysis. Artificial voyeurism

Written by Kamran Haider

Fullbright Company, creators of the successful Gone Home, return after years of silence with a space adventure that puts us in the role of the person in charge of recovering the artificial intelligence of a space station where something has gone wrong in the last hours. But nothing is as it seems in this walking simulator with some interesting ideas to continue unleashing our inherent human curiosity. Analysis.

If there is a figure in the video game industry as incredibly relevant as little studied, that is Jordan Mechner. Remembered for the creation of Prince of Persia and its subsequent renewal with The Sands of Time, one of the obsessions of the American author was always time. And from his work, another video game stands out (with Karateka’s permission) that is not as mentioned as it should be: The Last Express. A graphic adventure that would now be branded as a walking simulator and that made use of time and space like no other video game has been able before or after. In it, the investigation of our protagonist placed him on board the last Orient Express of History, the train that made the route from Paris to Constantinople and the action was happening simultaneously whether we were present or not, so that we had to replay several times a game to find all the scenes and the answers to the mystery that was presented to us. A game, never better, ahead of its time.

Tacoma makes use of this resource, but with a twist that allows seeing all the perspectives during the same game. The new work of Fullbright is almost a hyper vitaminized evolution of the sensation of curiosity that the player has for collecting and reading every chink of information that is in its path, from notes, books and crumpled papers to emails, access codes, chats, and sound diaries. The turn comes with the introduction of Augmented Reality records, which allow us to see scenes that happened in the past, but in which the protagonists move freely, joining, separating and reuniting. Therefore, we will have to rewind as if it were a tape to follow the different paths that each crew member takes from this strange spaceship, to achieve a global vision of what has happened here.

Go in and go out

Like Amy Ferrier, we are assigned the contract to recover an Artificial Intelligence from a space station that has suffered a mishap and return it to its owners. Along the way, we must collect all the information on the events that have occurred in the last hours, which will allow us to know the intimate life of each of the station’s crew. An ideal situation to give free rein to our most recalcitrant voyeurism, to be able to enter the lives of these subjects as if we were an invisible entity, as well as to search their personal agendas and dependencies. Like Gone Home, Tacoma plays again with that kind of “violation of intimacy” that seems inherent in the human being and that makes us, plain and simple, put their noses where they don’t call us.

But unlike the studio’s debut opera, Tacoma does not achieve such a level of intensity or connection between the player and his characters. The protagonists’ lives attract our attention in the first place and are interpreted fabulously by their respective actors, but they do not finish taking off even if they have more screen time than some of Gone Home’s. And that with Tacoma, Fullbright has taken a timid step to something that the classic walking simulators have always fled: show humans on screen in pursuit of situations where the scene tells the story. Here, we will see a basic and colorful representation of each of the crew members through Augmented Reality, but never their real form beyond their accompanying photographs. It’s not as important as it may seem at the beginning since those responsible for giving voice to each of them do a great job in giving them life and personality. It is simply that, even though they are interesting, their stories are not so developed or manage to connect so much with the player. This happens in large part because Tacoma lasts almost the same as a Gone Home, but with a story that tries to address more characters and perspectives at the same time.Ferrier

Fullbright’s new work is almost a hypervitaminated evolution of the feeling of curiosity.

The circumstances around it and why we are in the space station will be the great thread of the plot, which has a lot to do with the Artificial Intelligence of the ship: Odin, an entity capable of managing all aspects of the station, with the supervision of the appropriate staff that evaluates their behavior patterns. Again, Fullbright touches on very interesting issues and conflicts with Tacoma, of which unfortunately we cannot speak freely without dangerously entering the spoiler field. But suffice it to say that perhaps the opportunity is lost here to present his message and reflect on him throughout the adventure, instead of leaving it as a climax and final turn.

There is not much else to do here except to investigate each corner well after a glimpse of more information and other less important tasks such as discovering the crew mascot in each of the scenes, playing darts or basketball in zero gravity and other less stimulating needs. We would not care if the main path they adorn was as enriching and special as Fullbright itself and many other studies have shown. But there is something that Tacoma fails to achieve. Something simple and difficult at the same time, losing the ability to excite or generate surprise in the player, without fully fulfilling the main objective of a game of the genre: connect both sides of the screen. Player and machine.

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Tacoma seeks through its science fiction story to show us a window to a realistic future, through the tool that best dominates its study: to attract the curiosity of the player. The result, however, although interesting, is not as round or deep as we would like or as we saw in his previous work. Perhaps by trying to tell a somewhat more complex story, with more protagonists and themes to reflect on, in the same duration.

  • Augmented reality scenes: a brilliant way to investigate what happened at the station
  • The interpretations of all the characters, with a great acting team
  • The story does not connect deeply with the player, sometimes due to lack of time
  • The structure of the game is repeated, losing surprise capacity

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Kamran Haider

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