Parents' Guide to

Terraforming Mars

By Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Strategy game marred by faulty interface, connection issues.

Game Windows 2018
Terraforming Mars Poster Image

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Turning board games into video games is becoming popular, though some transformations are more successful than others, and this strategy game doesn't work too well. The strategy board game Terraforming Mars was the sleeper hit of 2016 and as such, promised greatness when it was translated to the digital realm. Unfortunately, thanks to an uninformative interface, rampant bugs, and problematic online multiplayer, that promise remains unfulfilled.

Turning tabletop to digital isn't easy, and much of Terraforming Mars was lost in the translation. "Drafting" (where players strategically select their cards) is a big part of the tabletop version, and it's missing entirely here. Players can select up to 10 cards from a small starting array, but they aren't given the chance to choose from the whole deck. Tabletop players are also used to being able to see what other players are doing as they do it, and that's also missing. The information is there (somewhat), but the overcomplicated interface requires you to dig a while to find it. That means new players will really be in the dark about what's going on -- how other players are progressing, when objectives have been reached, and awards spoken for. The turn-based animations are overdone, creating more confusion regarding whose turn it is and slowing down gameplay. Even with these issues, solo play flows fairly well. Online multiplayer's another story. To start, the player base is small, so it's difficult to find anyone to play with. If you do find people to challenge and then one or more bail out mid-game, the game grinds to a halt, because you can't kick them from the game and you have to wait for their timers to run out. There currently appears to be no method of handling mid-game quitters, which is nuts since it's such a common problem in online games. The developer has responded to complaints about this and other issues, promising to address them, but until it does, your kids are better off with the tabletop game.

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