With the “found money” from the sale of my father’s house, my wife and I decided that it was time to renovate the kitchen, which turned into a need to change the flooring, which morphed into a reason to repaint the first floor and change the doors and lighting fixtures. Now one entire level of my house is unusable; we have a folding table set up in the shell of the living room which holds a toaster oven, a microwave, and a cardboard box of utensils and paper plates. We have been getting a lot of take-out, unfortunately.

This also means that when we are in the house, my wife is upstairs in the craft room and I am in the basement. I’m usually in the basement, when not milling around elsewhere, but I have no other distractions at the moment which has allowed me to finish two whole games this weekend. TWO! FINISHED! If this construction keeps up, I might be able to complete my entire backlog!

The Outer Worlds

I think I topped out The Outer Worlds at about 30ish hours. I complained a bit this weekend that I was unable to finish the final encounter due to the fact that I had spec’d my character for conversation, and the last bit was all — surprise! — shooting things. Then I remembered that there’s a point-reset machine in the ship, so I dumped all my points into weapons and leadership abilities (which pumped up my companions) and spent the rest of my money on upgrading my weapons and armor.

I know that most folks who have been playing TOW have finished it, but I won’t spoil it much, except for this vague screenshot that really shouldn’t surprise anyone in its vague gesture towards DLC or The Outer Worlds 2.

I will say that when the game is done, and it provides you with a slideshow of “where are they now” for your crew, I got choked up knowing that much of their continuing lives were set up through conversations we had. I mean, set up by code reached based on the numbered responses I chose in our conversations, but it doesn’t make me any less happy for them, dammit!

Tacoma

As I was kicking around in the basement I opted the fire up the ol’ Xbox and see what was what in that ecosystem. I am a Game Pass Ultimate subscriber, so I get free games on PC and the console, and at some point in the past, I had downloaded a few. One I tried yesterday afternoon but didn’t care for (I already forget the name), but another was Tacoma. This had been on my radar and various wishlists for the longest time, so I figured that today was the day since it was already installed.

There’s nothing flashy about Tacoma. You are a freelance investigator who is sent to a corporate station named “Tacoma” to retrieve the AI core, which is a very valuable piece of equipment. The station is abandoned, and without knowing anything about what went on there, you are asked to download data from several nodes within the station. Each one takes a while, so you’re free to roam around. With the help of an AR system, you can reconstruct the last days of the Tacoma staff and learn what went down.

I haven’t seen a system like this anywhere else before. When you enter a room where a story happened, you can play through a snippet of time, pause, rewind, or fast-forward. There are six crew members, each represented by an icon designating their job function — botanist, engineer, doctor, administrator, etc. You witness their conversations and through this learn why the station is abandoned. At certain intervals, you’ll be notified that one of the crew members is looking at his or her AR dashboard, which you can hook into to read additional background information in the form of emails, images, and instant message conversations that they have stored.

The most interesting part is that sometimes these characters will break away mid-playback, forcing you to stick with one group, listen to their conversation, rewind, and then follow another group. Because the playback happens all at once but in different locations wherever the NPCs wander to, there were several instances where an event happened during playback which was witnessed from one side, and which happens again after rewind, and which is now understood from a different perspective or location. It was kind of trippy to have this god-like omnipotence.

I won’t say anything else about Tacoma, suffice to say that I was laughing maniacally by the end. Although I spent significantly less time with the crew of the Tacoma than I did with the crew of the Unreliable in The Outer Worlds — about 3 hours compared to the latter’s 30 or so — I was concerned for them and their situation, which made the ending so much more powerful. I strongly advise folks to pick up Tacoma this holiday season, as it’ll no doubt be on sale somewhere.

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