Gamescom 2015: Tacoma’s a slow burner, but holds your attention (Xbox One, PC)

What was it?

A thirty minute hands-on demo.

What did we learn?

— The game is very slow paced, but that’s OK.

— It is only by reading every text interaction found in the world that you’ll appreciate the story.

— Fullbright isn’t afraid to include a swear or two.

How was it?

Tacoma’s demo was gripping, but I only discovered how much it affected me after I’d finished my hands-on session. Having read a series of conversations embedded across the titular lunar transfer station, viewable thanks to a combination of lead character Amy Ferrier’s AR display and the instalment of Big Brother surveillance, I had slowly-but-surely formed a connection with its occupants, and desperately wanted to find out more.

Ferrier is the latest recruit on Tacoma, and in classic sci-fi fashion it’s not long after she arrives that she discovers something is drastically wrong. There’s nobody in sight, and the station’s AI, ODIN, is down. Your first task is to reboot the power, then try to find your supposed new colleagues.

On your travels, you’ll see recorded messages of conversations between the crew, as well as video logs of incidents, where different members are displayed as coloured outlines (think Morph for a crude idea of the representation). These logs are optional, and don’t require you to engage with them, however it’s probably best you do, as they contain the meat of the story. It was only through reading the text messages that I could contextualise what was happening on the ship, and appreciate the enormity of the situation.

As I journeyed through the various levels of the of the shuttle, being able to jump from floor-to-ceiling thanks to Ferrier’s gravity boots, the relationships between the absent crew continue to grow. X doesn’t like Y, Z is worried Y is an alcoholic and confides in X. X, Y and Z all hate ODIN, stuff like that. Eventually it’s unveiled that the crew is hiding in a vault following the initiation of an emergency protocol. Again, all this is done at a very slow pace (there’s no run button), giving you, the player, plenty of time to take the story in and allow it to unfold.

Finally, I reach the vault, approach its doors, Ferrier asks what’s behind the door, then the demo ends. One of the developers then very kindly asks if I have any questions about the game. Just one: what the hell is behind that door?

Of course, I can’t be told, but the fact I asked so frantically showed how gripped I became by Tacoma. The only thing that detracted was the very inconsistent framerate, but with the game due out next year, this could be forgiven for now. I’m a weekend removed from playing the game and still wondering what lies behind that door. It’ll require your focus and concentration, but investing in everything Tacoma has to offer will hopefully be worth it.

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