LAST LAUGH

PC GAMER (US) - - REVIEW -

Char­ac­ters will pull up their per­sonal desk­tops dur­ing a record­ing, which you can ac­cess to see what they were look­ing at. I catch one crew mem­ber read­ing a trashy crime novel about an or­bital casino heist while wait­ing for some­one to get off the phone. Else­where, a woman dis­cusses her troubled re­la­tion­ship with an online ther­a­pist, and a man chases high scores in an AR videogame. There are a lot of jokes buried in these op­tional desk­tops as well, and it’s worth not­ing that Ta­coma has a mis­chievous sense of hu­mor that loosens it up and pre­vents it from ever be­com­ing too sac­cha­rine or earnest.

The first hour is pretty se­date, giv­ing you space to ob­serve and get to know Ta­coma’s crew. But then, suddenly, an ac­ci­dent leaves the res­i­dents of the sta­tion in a dire sit­u­a­tion, and the rest of the game fo­cuses on their at­tempts to deal with it. See­ing how each per­son copes with the stress of what’s hap­pen­ing is where some of the best drama emerges. It’s tense, fraught, and often heart­break­ing. But the shift from watch­ing peo­ple mak­ing cakes and play­ing pool to fight­ing for their lives is a lit­tle abrupt, and I would have en­joyed spend­ing more time with the crew in happier times be­fore the in­ci­dent.

A grander nar­ra­tive be­gins to emerge as you jour­ney deeper into the sta­tion, and it be­comes about much more than the six peo­ple who lived there. Themes con­fi­dently tack­led in­clude the rights of sen­tient ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and cor­po­rate ver­sus hu­man in­ter­est, which gives the story a very ’70s feel. It’s dark, thought­ful sci­ence fic­tion, dwelling on the per­ils and ethics of ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy and space col­o­niza­tion. But while a lot of sci­ence fic­tion from that era has a cold, ni­hilis­tic view of mankind’s place in the uni­verse, Ta­coma has a heart. The crew are the soul of the game, and even when things are fall­ing to pieces, their in­nate hu­man­ity al­ways shines through.

By the time the cred­its started rolling I’d grown gen­uinely at­tached to these six unique peo­ple. I spent so long read­ing their emails, snoop­ing around in their liv­ing spaces, and eaves­drop­ping on their many con­ver­sa­tions that I felt like I knew each of them. And that made say­ing good­bye par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult. I missed them so much, in fact, that I im­me­di­ately started a sec­ond playthrough. And there was un­ex­pected value in that, be­cause things I learned in my first run brought new con­text to cer­tain events and con­ver­sa­tions the sec­ond time around. There’s a lot go­ing on in Ta­coma, much of it sub­tle, hid­den away, wait­ing to be un­cov­ered. And in that sense, as a game about piec­ing to­gether a story, it’s im­mensely re­ward­ing. I won’t for­get my time aboard that sta­tion any time soon, or the peo­ple whose lives I got hope­lessly tan­gled up in while I was there.

You get the sense that this is a func­tion­ing place and not just a movie set

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