Tharsis Switch Review

In space, no one can hear you scream, but after sacrificing yet another member of the crew so the rest of them can eat, developer Choice Provisions challenges the infamous tagline as Tharsis features some blood-chilling shrieks that haunt you.

Until the next playthrough.

Tharsis is set on the spaceship Iktomi, following an incident that kills off two crew members in the opening tutorial, leaving you with the remaining staff to fix the issues before their inevitable demise.

There are a set number of turns until the crew complete their mission – reaching Mars, but there are various elements in your way to stop you from achieving that goal.

Food is limited, and after the second or third turn, you run out; the only option is to stockpile some die to replenish health at the next interval, or you eat other crew members.

Once your food supplies are gone, cannibalism is an option. Who packed the Tabasco?

Tharsis, published by QubicGames, is a dice-rolling strategy game; every action, every decision, relies on the roll of the die and a game of chance. 

So how does that work?

Tharsis - Deploy
The Space Brady Bunch is marketed for a modern audience. Source: PR

2020: A Tharsis Switch Review

From a crew of four, you attend to various events on the Iktomi, split into seven areas called modules. 

There can be gas leaks, fires and someone forgetting to put the toilet seat down. 

Ok, that last one isn’t true – they go in their suits.

Each member is free to move to any point of the ship without a limitation to how far they can travel; the only caveat is if you pass through an ongoing event, you’ll lose a health point. 

Trust me; it’s not worth the risk.

When you reach the module, there will be a number at the top centre of the screen that you have to reduce to zero. 

The central HUD figure is essentially the threat and once removed, you can focus on the next event or complete a full turn and move to the next.

So, you roll the die and hope that you have enough to fix the issue. 

For example, if the module is 18 and you roll 12, you’ll need another crew member to come in and roll a six or above to eliminate the threat. 

Tharsis - Cannibal Run
Note the colour of the blood die. Source: PR

If you’re unable to do that, the type of risk will activate either causing a loss of health, reduce the number of dies you have or do damage to the hull.

Once either your crew are dead, or the ship is destroyed, it’s game over, and you restart.

So Solid Crew

Each crew member has a unique ability. 

Roll a five or above for the Mechanic, and you get an additional health point for the hull – with the Specialist they get an extra roll.

Then there’s the roulette of rolling the dice with the chances of injury, stasis, void or the bonus assist.

  • Roll a die with the number displayed on-screen and you’ll lose a health point from injury
  • Stasis means that you can’t re-roll the die and it remains the same.
  • Void is precisely that, and the die is removed.
  • Assists with block these if you roll the matching figure.

These are just some of the metaphorical spanners in the works that you’ll encounter in Tharsis: survive a round then you’re given the opportunity to provide health, an extra die or repair to the hull at the sacrifice of something else.

You’ve just gone through a round unscathed, get to the ‘intermission’ and then have the choice of, say, one health point to all crew, but -two damage to the hull. 

There’s nothing for free in Tharsis

Every action has its own consequence. There is a universal balance.

Dungeon Master, Dungeons & Dragons

Wise.

Aside from the main challenges in each module and your chosen member’s perk, you can hold on to die and re-roll – keeping one or two up your sleeve, or you can invest them into research.

You’ll need to roll a die for each number – one through six – and this will unlock perks such as an extra throw, a boost to health, and removing the threat in a room among others.

Tharsis - Rations
See no evil, hear no evil, eat one another. Source: PR

Give Me Some Space

As you progress further, the risks are more frequent and dare I say, feel almost impossible.

There are three difficulty modes: Easy, Normal and Insane Hard.

There’s no shame in saying that for a great deal of time I was in Easy mode and it took an age until I was able to finish the storyline.

While brief, the intermittent story had me engaged with Mars plot. 

I won’t explain any more – it had a sure hook, but seeing the same sequence again and again without being able to get any further was tough going.

Expect to play Tharsis on repeat. Every playthrough is relatively short, but as you get more accustomed to the mechanics, the, further you’ll get.

Incentives include unlocking new characters by completing the game, conducting so many repairs, eating crew, and so on. 

Tharsis - Battery
The space teenager’s room. Source: PR

While you’re still limited to four members of the crew at any one time, these new additions have exclusive perks that can be game-changers.

Surprisingly, my go-to crew was the Specialist. Their ability is a free roll, so you can re-roll two additional times to get that elusive six-sided die.

Tharsis is a relatively quick game, but it’s engaging enough to want to play on repeat – even if it’s just to see the ending as a minimum.

My biggest gripe is a relatively minor one: you can’t undo a move. That is, if you place your die somewhere you didn’t mean to, you can’t go back.

That screwed me over more than I care to admit, but it was all my fault.

It would have been nice to have had the option, though.

Once you get the mechanics in Tharsis, it’s much more entertaining, and you promptly get rid of that chip on your shoulder thinking this is solely a game of chance.

It’s not. Strategy is everything.

You may also like

Comments are closed.