Top Critic Average
Difficult games are fun, and we're all capable of accepting a decent amount of challenge, but Tharsis seems to teeter on the edge of "I can figure this out eventually if I try hard enough" and "YOU STUPID DICE, WHY DO YOU KEEP ROLLING ONES AND TWOS!?" Luck plays a bit too heavily into the whole concept.
The thin storyline around it is entirely superfluous, I'll admit to tiring of the spaceship looking identical every single time I play and it's fair to say there's less motivation to keep on going back once you finally beat it, but even if you only get a few days out of it, right now the price is right.
e told, we took a few extra days to finish this review in hopes that we'd beat the "normal" difficulty's 10 rounds even once. As of press time, we've yet to get past round 8. That is a huge asterisk for this game's appeal; the overwhelming role of luck rarely presents a clean feeling that you've accumulated real skill or progress. As a result, you'll quite honestly need at least two dozen sessions before you come to grips with a range of successful strategies, and therefore, the feeling that this isn't just a fancy-looking exercise in just rolling dice and dying. (We're hopeful that the upcoming free "missions" mode will offer these exact kinds of progress morsels, but Choice Provisions hasn't announced when we should expect those to launch.)
After playing (and dying) a few rounds in a row, I started tinkering around with a few of the game's settings and literally cackled when I saw there was a hard mode—though that's probably just the space madness setting in.
Tharsis is an addictive digital board game, and one that I see as tricky to replicate in real life. It's because of this that the game really shines. One run of the game is normally fairly quick and, even if it's all going wrong you can get something from it due to crew unlocks. The speed of a run means that it slides in to that "just one more game" territory so well you'll be going back to it for a while. It's got a few issues, but for the most part it's a great way to spend some time.
There aren't many games like Tharsis and that's the main reason why you should check it out, but what it's able to do with so little will keep you playing it. It may not be for everyone and is at times unforgivingly difficult, but it's a title that has some undeniable charm.
Tharsis, you hate me, but I like you. Your small and meticulous craftsmanship. Your board game sensibilities. Your dancefloor rhythms thumping out the soundtrack to my cyclical death. I couldn't stop myself from voyaging (and dying on the way) to Tharsis again and again.
I'm sure the punishing difficulty and numerous unfair dice rolls will turn many gamers against Tharsis, and that's perfectly understandable. However, the reward of actually beating the game truly elevates my spirit. I can only hope that the developers will continue the story with another punishing round that occurs on the red planet itself.
Tharsis offers some interesting mechanics, a story with little innovation but plenty of space for the player to create his narrative, and a lot of replayability but all of that comes at a price: the difficulty level that can make players abandon the title before they see everything it has to offer.
This game has elements that make people like me smile and rage at the same time, but being objective, I can see how people may not be too enthused by that concept. This game is great for people who can stand praying to the RNG more than usual.
How you feel about Tharsis probably depends on how you feel about board games, soul-crushing challenges, and shorter gaming experiences. If you love tabletop games, repeatedly dying while learning, or heavily micro-managing resources, Tharsis is a worthwhile way to spend an evening.
If the thought of losing at a game over and over until you finally understand all of its nuances does not sound like a good time, then you can safely pass on Tharsis. If, however, you love tabletop games, or enjoy the challenge of micro-managing several scarce resources at a time in an almost vain effort against nearly insurmountable odds, then by all means buy Tharsis. There's a great challenge to be had, and some replayability in the form of chasing an ever-higher score by not resorting to cannibalism so easily, taking less damage, and keeping ship morale high, as well as new characters to unlock. This is not a game for everyone, but for those who know what they're getting themselves into, Tharsis is well worth the effort.
For those looking for something unique and original, Tharsis definitely offers that up in spades. It's not a game that can be played for hours on end, but you'll certainly return to it time and again should you fall for its clever blend of roguelike and strategy board games.
Tharsis isn't a game for everyone. Strategy may be an important factor in determining how long you'll survive, but luck plays a much bigger role in things toward the end. The game is punishingly difficult early on, but it throws you a bone every now and then with character unlocks that can make things feel different. With the likelihood of failing more often than winning due to streaks of near-impossible situations, some may be disenchanted from the get-go. For those who love to conquer big challenges, this digital board game can be very appealing.
With a few tweaks and maybe a more casual-friendly difficulty level, Tharsis could be a fun strategy alternative for those who don't enjoy building large kingdoms or waging wars that take hours to complete. In its current state however, Tharsis is little more than a sadistically cruel game of digital roulette.
If you're a fan of constant raising stakes with no reprieve, then this is certainly the sort of thing that will appeal to you. Even if not, it will still appeal, but in smaller doses. Either way, Tharsis is a compelling, but polarizing, game.
Tharsis is a good way to spend 10-30 minutes to see what happens on the next journey. It's a very harsh battle against the unknown, and can be utterly soul-crushing. Perhaps too soul-crushing, actually. Players will, at times, feel so defeated and useless that playing again seems pointless. And maybe that's the point, considering the circumstances. I wouldn't recommend to marathon Tharsis in an attempt to complete its journey, but instead to boot it up every once in a while and hope for the best.
Its simple rules coupled with the brief length of its rounds make Tharsis very easy to pick up and get addicted to...for a few hours. Unfortunately, so much of its gameplay is reliant on luck, which can make for an incredibly frustrating and unforgiving experience.
Jokes aside, Tharsis is an incredibly meaningful game that has picked a woefully inadequate format to express an innately intelligent idea. If this was a narrative game, in the vein of Telltale Games' work or Life is Strange, then we really would have had something special on our hands. As it is, we have a board game that goes out of its way to be unfair so it can make players make decisions that should have great emotional impact, but in practice become a quite pragmatic stepping stone towards victory.
For the board game people, they will find this to be more up their alley. People looking for a more action type experience will have to look elsewhere. If you do decide to pick it up, just keep in mind, it is brutal, unforgiving, and takes a lot of patience to get into. When you do, you may very well find some enjoyment out of it maybe two times out of ten.
We so very much wanted to enjoy Tharsis. A project with a lot of potential, we've had our eyes on it for a while. Unfortunately, the little satisfaction we could garner was buried beneath a path of frustration.
I really want this game to work. I want it to be another breakout hit from a studio known for engaging and relatively-simple titles. I want it to be something I'll return to time and time again, to land the world's least reliable spacecraft, piloted by the world's most fickle space crew, upon the surface of Mars, and revel in the rush of victory felt when tremendous odds have been surmounted. It's a bummer, then, that it just isn't. Tharsis is a brilliant title that is ironically marred by its reliance upon dice rolls, and as such, I'm doubtful that many players will be able to reach through the game's thick veil of frustration to the genius that awaits just beyond.
Tharsis can never stop reminding you that you don't have control over its interstellar disaster, just the illusion of it. Every time I watched my ship fall apart, and every time I watched new events propagate across the ship that were completely impossible to stop, I felt like, win-or-lose, Tharsis was having all the fun.