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The Underrated Xbox One Adventure Game You Still Need To Play

The gaming industry is on the verge of the next generation of games, thanks to the November 2020 launches of both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Of course, not everyone's going to get a new console right away — prices can be initially prohibitive, and availability may still be a question going into 2021. Plus, there are still plenty of games you haven't played on the current systems — unless you have more time on your hands than most people. If you're putting together a list of games to keep you occupied until you can raise the amount you'll need for the Xbox Series X, make sure Tacoma is on it.

In case you missed this game when it came out, Fullbright's Tacoma is a 2017 indie adventure game. It's set in 2088, on a seemingly deserted space station in a world dominated by hyper-corporations like Venturis. Protagonist Amy Ferrier is sent to a ship called the Tacoma to retrieve data as well as the physical processing module of ODIN, the station's artificial intelligence. Amy, through the player, uses an augmented reality system that allows her to review the actions and conversations of the ship's departed crew members as recordings. She uses this to figure out clues and piece together what actually happened aboard the station.

Unfortunately,Tacoma barely made a blip on gamers' radars. Here's why you should look at this one again before you relegate your current gaming system to the secondary television.

What the reviewers said

When Tacoma was released in 2017, it received decent — but not stellar — reviews. On Metacritic, the Metascores for different versions of the title range from 76-79 out of 100. However, Eurogamer put Tacoma as No. 22 on its Top 50 Games of 2017 list. It won PC Gamer's Best Setting award that year, as well as Game Informer's Best Graphics recognition in its 2017 Adventure Game of the Year Awards. And Destructoid named it as one of the publication's nominees for Best Xbox Game of 2017, alongside Prey, Cuphead, and Assassin's Creed Origins, among others. 

GamesRadar called the game "quiet and haunting," while GameSpot praised the depth of the characterization. Generally, the game seemed well-received for its existential horrors and isolationist themes, despite the lack of combat or any kind of action. However, some reviewers also wanted more of a payoff, and said the complex connections and plot threads developed in the game never came together in a satisfying way.

It should be noted that the game was released in 2017, a good year for gaming. The Nintendo Switch came out in March, the Xbox One X released in November, and the year was filled with titles like Horizon: Zero Dawn and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. This makes it quite impressive that Tacoma made some of the competitive best-of lists, but also less strange that the game was overlooked by so many. 

Tacoma was a good game at the wrong time

According to media reports, Tacoma did not do as well as its 2013 predecessor, Gone Home, which has similar gameplay but takes place in a house where the residents are missing. PC Gamer reported two months after Tacoma's release that Gone Home had garnered 700,000 unit sales since 2013, while Tacoma languished with under 10,000 units sold.

Steve Gaynor of developer Fullbright said that perhaps the company's expectations for Tacoma were unrealistic, given how well Gone Home (which Gaynor described as "four of us making a game in our basement") did. He believed Gone Home had the advantage of good timing: it came out when gaming was embracing more experimental territory. As a result, it developed a certain status that made it impossible for Fullbright to create another game that would be judged solely on its own merits. 

"It's a very strange place to be like: well, what would people have thought of this if it didn't have a precedent? If it theoretically came out in a different year or under different circumstances, or whatever. That's impossible to judge, but it's very much a factor which is something that's inescapable," Gaynor said. "I feel like it's a learning experience for us. I think that it is much harder to be one of the indie games that breaks through in a massive way now."

This hidden gem currently costs $19.99 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. There is also a Linux-compatible version.