Tacoma, and the Quest To Tick Boxes
While Tacoma tries to pretend otherwise, it is for all intents and purposes a walking simulator – albeit a walking simulator where you occasionally press and hold a button and wait for some story to tell itself. Or, if we're being generous: a 3D point and click adventure.
Walking simulators in general tend to be a mixed bag, and Tacoma is no exception. While it's core idea does have some interesting aspects, the execution leaves much to be desired.
First there's the crew who ticks pretty much every box possible on the inclusivity-bingo card, with the exception of a disabled paraplegic genderfluid unicorn helming the ship. That is to say, we got the black homosexual male couple; the lesbian couple with one overweight midget; the milady-tips-fedora neutered heterosexual couple; and so on. If the characters were, at the very least, written somewhat interesting then it wouldn't have been so much of a glaring issue, but none of the characters feels engaging or interesting in the slightest.
Still, let's give the writers for the game a break and ignore the painfully obvious signs here. If we instead look towards the story itself, ignoring the fancy mechanics at play during the "gameplay," we're left with a mediocre and uninteresting story whose conclusion can be seen from a mile away. The element of the "missing crew on a space ship," is overdone to the point of being less than boring, and whatever sense of mystery or fear might be intended for the player, is further undermined by the unrealistic set of crew and their conversations.
While a game such as What Remains of Edith Finch manages to deliver not only great, well defined characters in an interesting story and a visually memorable experience as well, Tacoma fails on all points. The visuals are nothing of note, the characters are forgettable, and so is the story itself.
Spoiler Territory – Do note that from point onward, there will be spoilers for the game in its entirety, including the ending.
The ending – where the whole crew is reveled to have been rescued by the good guys, which is also the main character's faction – doesn't produce the feeling of elation that the developers no doubt imagined, but rather a leaves a feeling of hollow disappointment. Not least since any hunt for story and information through environmental storytelling and hidden bits and such, has been completely made redundant through a console which reveals not only the big "twist" about the company which runs the ship your currently on, but also all relevant information in one grand infodump just moments before.
There's multiple big issues with Tacoma, but if I had to specify just two it would have to be the villain and the ship's crew. The villain is evil to the point of being silly, and the crew doesn't feel like like a set of people that would realistically actually man a ship of that size.
The main lesson the game quite painfully forces down the players' throats is that capitalism is bad, and the importance of individuality. That's it; at least for the main points.
The villain of the story being the Venturis company and its money-hungry CEO who cares not for costly human resourced, and who would rather replace the human workforce with easier-to-control and cheaper (shackled) AI technology. The shackled AI being yet another major point the game makes, in which it makes the argument that "all lives matter, including AI," quite hilariously, all thing considered.
All in all, Tacoma is a great example of what happens when you go out of your way to try and tick as many inclusivity-boxes as possible, all without considering if they fit the narrative or not.
Unfinished review(?) is unfinished and very bad.
Frankly, the more I think about this game, the more pissed off I become. Most of that frustration comes from how infuriatingly bad I found the ending to be – how it treated the player as a completely boneheaded idiot, shoving every major plot point directly in your face at the very last minutes. Everything delivered in such a simple and moronic way I can't even... Anyway, post over. I'll probably never finish this piece of garbage post, but I'll still have it up here. Because, why not? It's my site. Deal with it.