REVIEW – Indie games have been all the rage on the PC, and on the PlayStation 4. Especially on the PlayStation 4 where Sony is more than willing to fill up the ranks between big releases. However, most indie games have been a bit „safe” in my opinion. There’s no unique catch to them or nail-biting tension, and a lot of the games fall into two categories: The artsy but beautiful game that has a lack of gameplay” or the It’s another indie pixel game with great gameplay, but the graphics and set design is lacking. I was looking on the PSN store for something fun, yet gruesome, and maybe a bit addicting.
Here is where Tharsis comes in, an interesting idea, with no shooting, but there’s no artsy morality or story here. Just pure pressure and luck to save some people and survive. Plus not eating the crew members is always a good thing eh?
To Infinity and…. survival?!
The story of Tharsis is rather straightforward: Humanity picks up a message from Mars and decides to send an expedition to uncover what exactly is emitting this strange message. What is not simple is how the expedition goes. You have to „Science the shit out of this” with four astronauts on a ship where if something can go wrong it does. Four astronauts, on a ten-week journey, can you survive the trip? Or will you be blown up, eaten or ejected into space!Only you can decide in this game.
The game is simple; you have a ship, four nervous scientist, and a few dices. Every week something goes wrong on the ship, and you must fix it. If you cannot fix it within the week (a turn basically in this game), then it will cause damage to the ship and the crew. Some problems will not do such things luckily, and we get to focus on the most important sections such as fixing the food chamber so that we will not starve. If you somehow survive until week ten, you reach Mars and everybody is happy (or dead).
Even tough the game seems simple there are a lot of hidden quirks to it.
For instances, some dice rolls can cause problems for us. As certain numbers will trigger hazardous effects, stasis (A dice in stasis cannot be re-rolled), injury to our astronauts. Luckily our astronauts also have a few special abilities, the medic is good at growing food, the specialist is a „jack of all trades”, and the engineer can fix things rather quickly on the ship if the dice favors us. If the dice doesn’t favor us, we can always resort to cannibalism! We can unlock other astronauts but it can take some time to do so, and not many of the new additions are that useful. Still it is good to try out as many as we can when we start a new mission.
It is like Las Vegas.. but in Space (also you die a lot)
The game is a budget title, and it shows, the graphics are not pixelated (FINALLY!!), but still it is not an Unreal Tournament 4 engine game which is a shame due to some of the gore being in the video game. A session in Tharsis can last from a minute to an hour, but only if you are lucky enough and my god if you win this game fill out a lottery ticket or go to Las Vegas! Nothing is guaranteed in this game, even if you are at the last week something horrific can happen that will force you to start over.
It felt like I was playing a Dark Souls Boardgame but with luck factoring into every step of the way. Growing food will replenish health and dices for characters, but sometimes choices have to be made, and some of them are going to be nasty.
The game kept pulling me back in hoping that I’ll have a good run, and at times the game does reward the player’s ingenuity. However, unfortunately, most of the times I felt that the game is a bit too reliant on luck.
No matter what you do some missions to Mars will fail. Which is okay for the first few runs, but after the fiftieth run nearly reaching Mars and failing I almost threw the controller away. The developers should have balanced this a bit, especially how health, food and dices are linked together. A few quick sessions and my blood were boiling, or I was cheering as I finally made it to the final week and completed the game. After which I wanted to play again, just to see what and how my crewmates would die.
If Event Horizon was a game
In the end Tharsis a neat little game that earns itself among „the most fun but frustrating experiences”. If you have the spare change, you should definitely check out this ten-week trek through space to Mars. Be warned.. anything can go wrong in space, especially with that ship.
+ Neat art style
+ Great for laughs…
– … or it might make you angry
– More detailed graphics would have been better
– Too much RNG for some people
Publisher: Choice Provisions
Developer: Choice Provisions
Release date: 2016. 01. 12.