I suppose you could call Tacoma an adventure game, although it more of an interactive story than a game. There are a few instances where you need to figure out people’s passcodes, but they’re so easy to figure out that they don’t really count as puzzles.
You play as Amy Ferrier, a contractor sent to Tacoma station by Venturis, the company that owns Tacoma. A short while ago an accident happened and the station, which had housed six human employees, one AI named ODIN, and a cat, is now abandoned. Your job is to explore the station and retrieve AI-recorded data and ODIN’s wetware.
The AI-recorded data takes the form of recordings that your augmented reality device allows you to see as though you’re glimpsing into the station’s past. All the characters are represented by colored silhouettes of themselves. You can rewind and fastforward in order to follow different people and occasionally access their emails and other files.
I can’t say too much about the story because it’s fairly simple and it’d be too easy to give everything away. The big question, as you’re playing, is what happened and whether anyone survived. Although you play as Amy, you aren’t privy to her thoughts. She knows more about the situation and what’s going on than you do, but it’s okay, because nothing in the game prevents you from taking as much time as you’d like in each area of the station. Just make sure you don’t leave a particular part of the station until you’ve done everything you want to do - I’m fairly certain you can’t go back or, if you can, AR data will no longer be accessible in that area.
As you travel through the station, you learn more about each of the characters: E.V., the station administrator; Clive, the operations specialist; Natali, the network specialist; Roberta (Bert), the mechanical engineer; Andrew, the botanist; and Sareh, the medic. You also get to see them interact with ODIN and, if you purchased the game through Steam, you can try to find the station cat in order to get one of the Steam achievements. I had fun trying to think of where the cat might decide to nap in each area, although I did worry that I'd end up witnessing its death. (Spoiler:
the cat makes it through just fine.)
The cast is diverse, both in terms of race and sexual orientation. As you look through their belongings (to whatever degree you’d like - I was curious and it didn’t feel too creepy, so I looked through every drawer and locker I could), you find out more about how they all got along and what their problems and issues were. My favorite character out of the bunch was probably Sareh, who had anxiety and panic attacks due to an event in her past, but who was still competent and professional despite that. I really liked her and ODIN’s interactions, even as I worried about ODIN being the only one she could confide in.
As someone who loves AI characters, I enjoyed ODIN and I loved the role he played in the story. I did find myself wishing for a bit more from him - players don’t get much of his perspective until the very end of the game.
Tacoma is very short. Even though I spent quite a bit of time exploring and looking at unimportant things like random packages, wrappers, and coffee mugs, I finished the whole thing (minus a few Steam achievements) in about four hours. That said, my biggest complaint about the game wasn’t the length, but rather how playing the game affected me physically.
When I first started, I couldn’t play for more than 20 minutes or so before developing headaches and nausea. I tried messing with the Gameplay and Graphics settings, turning off “head bob” and trying out different FOV settings, but it only seemed to help a little. The best solution I found was actually remembering to wear my glasses while playing. I don’t usually wear them at home and rarely wear them while watching TV or playing games, and it almost never causes a problem. In this case, though, it turns out they were vital. They never completely got rid of my headache and nausea problem, but without them I’d probably still be creeping my way through the game in 20-minute increments.
All in all, this was a simple and fairly short story told in a fascinating way. I loved getting to find out what happened in bits and pieces via AR data, files, notes, ads, and emails. Although I found myself wishing that the story had been a little bit more flexible and allowed for other endings, I was happy with the one ending players were given.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)
I'm not a writer and have no idea how good or bad their pay is in comparison to other options - this just caught my eye. I figured I'd post in case anyone was interested or knows someone who might be interested. As far as I know, their stuff is less visual novel and more text-based "choose your own adventure." I own one of their works, Choice of Robots, but haven't tried it yet.
ETA - And, oh hey, there's at least one author I recognize in their lineup. Sorcery Is for Saps was written by Hilari Bell and Anna-Maria Crum. I haven't read any of Bell's works, but I own Fall of a Kingdom, the first book in her Farsala trilogy. Dang, now I wish Choice of Games had an "Author Browse" feature.
And another one: Max Gladstone wrote Deathless: The City's Thirst and Choice of the Deathless.
I know I’ve often said that no two people read the same story but in this case T. C. Orton has taken that to a whole new level. Iudicium is an interactive story so throughout the course of the story the reader has choices to make, choices which will impact what ultimately happens to Fayt, who is the hero of this story.
Now, I could tell you a bit about what happens but truth is if you read the book your story could end up having little to possibly no resemblance to the one I read. However, everyone does start out with the same beginning so you will start out on a ship heading for a prison island and from there things can change drastically.
I was intrigued to read this book, while I’ve heard of interactive books before I’ve never had the chance to experience one and this one sounded good. It’s fantasy and I like fantasy so opportunity knocked and I ripped that door open.
When you read the instructions at the beginning of the book it says to keep careful track of your choices…pay heed to this. I thought I was doing this and part way through realized no, I wasn’t even close so I went back and started again. This time I not only tracked my choice but the chapter I was on and the details of every choice I know it sounds like a lot but truthfully it kept me on track with the story and it was just so worth doing. The choices made by the reader aren’t excessive but I found that they were enough to keep me really engaged in the story and what was happening. Would I want to do this for every story I read probably not but as an exception and a chance to do something interesting, fun and a little different I really enjoyed it and had a fun time.
‘Iudicium’ is the first book that I’ve read by this author and I really enjoyed his writing style. The world building and character descriptions were well done as was the character development. You will encounter some words that are of the authors creation but if you’ve ever read fantasy than you’ll know that’s pretty much a trademark of the genre. For example Fayt is what is known as a ‘skuld’ and while google will tell you that ‘skuld’ is a word the definition given by google is not the definition that is given in this story. For the purposes of ‘Iudicium’ a skuld is a person of mixed race heritage specifically human and eastern elf (or light elf). I know sometimes this can be disconcerting and even annoying if it’s to extensively done but I didn’t find that was the case at all. In this case the author did this enough to help re-enforce the overtone of fantasy but not nearly enough to have the reader…being me in this instance, frustrated because I didn’t know what half of what I was reading meant. The other thing that I really liked was the fact that while the book is approximately 200 pages long because the readers choices can exclude certain parts of the book it’s not an overly long story which I think would have caused me to become a bit frustrated especially since as I said I’ve never read a story that’s interactive.
Be warned there’s definitely sexual content here and some of it’s definitely non-con. How much sex is in the story is going to depend on the choices you make for Fayt as do many of the other events that happen up to and including the ending for the book which could be anything from an HEA or HFN to a FML (F*ck My Life) after all Fayt’s in your hands.
So if you like fantasy and you’re looking for something a little different grab a copy of ‘Iudicium’ get hold of a pen and some paper and see if you can help Fayt survive his adventure and find his HEA. I have to confess the ending I got for him wasn’t totally an HEA but it definitely wasn’t the worse ending that he could have gotten. So, if you want to have a little different reading experience, let me know what happens to Fayt when you get done, I’d love to hear.
A copy of ‘Iudicium’ was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.