In Tacoma, you take on the role of Amy Ferrier, a subcontractor who is tasked with retrieving AI hardware and records from the Tacoma space station. Though the six-person crew is gone, you’re able to recover short, augmented-reality recordings of their final days on the station, including their AR “desktops” and the tabs and emails they had open. Interacting with these recordings makes up the majority of your time investigating Tacoma; you’ll listen in on one conversation before rewinding and following different crewmembers through the same period of time, accessing their desktops to “complete” the recording.
Hearing their conversations and reading everything on their desktops is both intimate and lonely in a way that’s immediately compelling. One of the first recordings you find involves the crew setting up for a party before an object strikes the station, rupturing the oxygen tanks. It was captured three days before your arrival, which means you’re seeing the hologram outlines of the crew mime party preparations among the debris that followed. Trash and fallen decorations tell the story that the recording doesn’t: that the crew, worried and scared, left everything where it fell.
With only two days of oxygen left, many of the recordings involve the crew arguing, problem-solving, or comforting one another as their time starts to run out. Even without facial animations of any kind, it’s easy to interpret their emotions, mostly due to phenomenal voice acting from the cast. But to really understand the crew’s dynamics, you have to poke around their emails and IMs, the books and keepsakes in their bunks, and the few recordings that capture them alone. No one scene, character, or object is more important than any other–things like photos or IMs only become meaningful when you figure out their context, so each new piece of information works in tandem with everything else you’ve found.
There’s a couple on Tacoma, Nat and Bert, who are almost always together. On one level, you get to know them as a pair through their spoken conversations, but there’s another layer, consisting of private IMs and emails, that develops them as individuals. Early on, for example, you can listen in on Nat expressing frustrations about life and work on Tacoma to Bert. Later, in a private message, Bert reveals the fear that she’s holding …read more