Did you find Tacoma Disappointing? (Spoilers for Tacoma and Gone Home)

It has been over a week since I finished Tacoma and I am surprised at how disappointed I still feel. I hadn’t really seen any footage of Tacoma since its initial reveal so I wasn’t really going in with high expectations. While trying to figure out why I’m as disappointed I surprisingly kept going back to my time with Gone Home. I say surprisingly because while I liked Gone Home it wasn’t one of my favorites games ever, and the stories and 90s nostalgia didn’t connect with me like it did others, but I really enjoyed the process of discovering the stories in Gone Home and I think that is where Tacoma lost me.

Starting with the setup in Gone Home the main character is trying to figure out why happened to her family and the ominous letter on the front from her sister does an effective job of making you want to explore and connecting you to people who lived there. While exploring the house is mostly a guided experience to discovery the right information at the right time, it’s still open enough to feel like you aren’t just doing the same thing over and over again. Tacoma loses that.

At the start, you are presented as a contractor sent to recover AI Data in three different areas and the process to do that is the same every time (go to area put data collector in wall, then explore the room on the left or the room on the right while data is collected). This repetitive process makes the game feel like you are killing time watching videos while waiting for work files to download. The linearity of the space station mixed with having most of the interesting information always be on the characters AR bodies made the exploration part of Tacoma feel tedious and boring.

I should also mention that I didn’t really find any of the characters in Tacoma all that interesting, outside of maybe Sareh and Odin who kind of felt like the only characters who had arcs or at least had the most complete ones. The rest had moments, and everyone was well acted, but the story was over before I could really feel invested in them as characters.

*side note I never believed either game would end with discovering dead bodies, but I was surprised at the amount of people who thought Sam committed suicide in the attic.

*another side note Having a shout out to Roberta Williams was cool, but also felt off like naming a character Bill Gates or Steve Jobs would.

Anyway, sorry that this has become a rambling mess, but I haven’t seen much discussion about Tacoma and wanted to see other opinions of the game.

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Disappointing is a strong word, but I definitely didn’t get as much out of it as I did Gone Home. Gone Home felt like a story that couldn’t be told any other way, Tacoma’s story is fairly standard sci-fi fare with a fantastic narrative conceit. Still though, that conceit is fantastic and I think should be used by them again/used by someone else.

On the whole though, I still enjoyed the experience.

To be clear I wasn’t trying to equivocate disappointing with bad. I didn’t regret my time with Tacoma and I’ve been bummed that it is seemingly getting passed by.

I agree that I would like to see the how Tacoma’s method of story telling would translate to bigger games. Mass Effect Andromeda tried something similar at parts, but it wasn’t nearly as well done. I’d be interested to see how it works when its implemented as a pace changer in a larger game.

I finished last weekend and been mulling over it for awhile.

I really loved Gone Home but found Tacoma to be pretty mundane and didn’t illicit any kind of emotion from me. It left me entirely cold.

My main real issue with it is that the entire experience feels super bare-bones. I don’t necessarily mean that from the perspective of ‘oh it’s just a walking simulator’. Instead, that’s compared to other walking simulators. The Tacoma just felt empty and devoid if any character and the little things you pick up and look at didn’t provide much insight into the characters. Gone Home was dense with so much lore and things to find that gave you a lot to think about. I didn’t get that from Tacoma.

What’s there to experience fell flat to me. It tells a very simple sci-fi cyberpunk-ish story and does all of the things you expect. In an attempt to subvert a trope Tacoma slides right into another, just as common, trope. So it’s not a surprise when it’s revealed, just a shrug. And the events that take place have little weight. The entire thing tracks on a steady line and doesn’t peak or valley much, you watch the things happen and then they happen, then the story ends. Shrug.

I don’t think the increase in character count did this game any good. Gone Home succeeded because it dived deep on a few characters, specifically the sister. Tacoma has more characters in the spotlight - but doesn’t spend as much time with them and doesn’t give the player nearly enough to invest in them. Tacoma represents the characters as colored silhouettes and it’s kinda funny because I feel like they’re about that much depth to them.

Maybe I’m a bit harsh here… but when I finished it I really didn’t feel like I got anything out of it.

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This is almost exactly how I felt after I was done. I’m slightly more positive on it, because I enjoyed the story stuff with the doctor, even though I wish it could have been explored further.

Thinking about it, I wouldn’t mind if the Ace Attorney games used a similar system in some of the investigation parts of those games.

I’m one of the handful in the camp that actually liked it a little more than Gone Home, though I consider both to be fantastic stories. I think Tacoma did more with the medium, the diegetic interaction with the storytelling as opposed to Sam’s voice-over narration gave Amy more of a character to me than Katie. I enjoyed the core mechanic of pausing, rewinding, watching these scenes from different angles and putting together all of the pieces as they played out.

Broadly, I would also say I found the story more engaging. Gone Home is relatable to me as an LGBT person not much younger than Sam, with a taste for the same music and some nostalgia for the same aesthetics. But it’s a pretty simple story, it lacked the closure I desired (mainly because of Katie’s lack of involvement in the story, as opposed to Amy’s), and - personal bias - I just like anti-capitalist science fiction. Though I didn’t think Tacoma was going to go sour, there was enough tension there to be engaging for the three or so hours it took me to finish the game, but the question of Odin’s allegiance and Amy’s place in the story was something I didn’t know for sure until the final few rooms of the game.

I had this real, visceral relief and joy when Amy got back on her ship and confirmed that she was part of the AI Liberation Front. By that point, I was pretty sure she was, but getting that confirmation felt great.

Also, riot grrrl is good fun but Tacoma has a Nnedi Okorafor reference, which gets way more pop culture points from me.

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Tacoma wasn’t as emotionally engaging as Gone Home for me. And part of that may be the less personal story. Rather than focusing on a single person this time it’s a group of people. So we end up with vignettes or short stories that illustrate the universe, which combined with the environmental storytelling creates a well realized game.

But all of that story is about the characters who aren’t there. There’s nothing to give the player character any defining features or background beyond what you know from the little bits of dialogue with Minny the ships AI, the interactions with the Ventrus company, and your own choices. But none of that leads well to the end, which makes it a bit disconcerting.

That said maybe I missed something. But I don’t think I did.

I think that the story may have been better served if it had some interaction between Amy and Odin between the AR parts. I think it would have helped better define Amy and could have worked to increase the tension.

I never really thought about this comparison outside of the story setup and I’m not sure where I fall.

Amy having more spoken lines and some interaction with NPCs definitely helps her character, but I liked how you get glimpse of Katie from how her parents and Sam address her or her reactions to some objects. I think overall with Katie I was allowed to fill in the blanks more with her character and that Gone Home did a good job of giving you enough pieces to do so. While with Tacoma I felt Amy didn’t get as many chances to react and that by the end, no matter who she was working with, she came off as person just doing her job.

Yes, but not sure why. I’m not saying that your (I mean everyone who posted before me) arguments are invalid, but I can see everything basically the same, but in a better (for me) game. There is enough exploration and puzzles, enough and not too much characters, enough interesting world building (USSREU? tell me more!). Structure is fine, mystery is engaging, AR manipulation is actually awesome, AI is a good character too. Less personal story? Sure, but I can be engaged in sci-fi Big Idea/disaster story too.

And yet, the game left me, well, maybe not cold, but lukewarm. At some point, devs rebuilt it to some degree. Maybe something got lost in a process.

Or maybe we just getting fatigued by very good “walking simulators”, so just decent one is not enough anymore.

This is my greatest hope for Tacoma. Prey had a section, inspired by Gone Home, that I enjoyed more then Gone Home itself. Maybe Tacoma will inspire another game a similar way.

The last thing I’ll say on this is they really should have considered another name. Tacoma search results were either about the truck or the city. Searching “Tacoma game” would give me results on a minor league baseball team. It looks like its improved since then, but still…