A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tharsis is a downloadable turn-based space strategy game with dice. Players are put in control of a mission to Mars that's struck by a micro-meteoroid storm, damaging the ship. Managing the disasters, stress of the crew, food shortages, and potential cannibalism, all in the name of survival, makes this game intense. Each decision is about mitigating problems, keeping the crew alive, and making it just one more week closer to Mars. Understanding the modules, class abilities, research, event management, and a whole lot of luck will determine your mission success rate. Tharsis is very unforgiving, and players will fail more often than they win.
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What's it about?
THARSIS puts you on a journey to Mars; it's humanity's first manned mission to the red planet. Along the way, you're caught in a micro-meteoroid storm that severely damages the ship and kills two crew members. Space is unforgiving and unpredictable. With limited resources in a now fragile vessel, you must guide your crew of four through the disasters plaguing you, managing food shortages and the stress of the crew while also deciphering the cryptic signals and warnings being transmitted from Mars. Though the trip may have been doomed from the start, you are committed, so even if you must resort to cannibalism, you will aim to complete the mission.
Is it any good?
This isn't a game for those who want to take the easy path, because there isn't one. It's very unforgiving, and though on the surface it may appear that it's luck-based, it really is a game of strategy. In this turn-based system, you have to survive 10 weeks (turns) where you roll the dice to seal your fate. Tharsis is tough -- there are no bones made about that. The odds of winning are very low, and you'll fail many, many times before you really understand how to play. Many gamers won't make it through the steep learning curve and all the hurdles it throws at you.
But if you're persistent, it becomes evident that Tharsis is much deeper than it originally seems. The complexity in the strategy among crew, modules, events, and research take it to a level all its own. And though lady luck does play a factor, learning how to use luck to your benefit is what makes this game so addictive to those who enjoy the challenge. Tharsis is definitely not for everyone, but those who enjoy sci-fi, survival horror, tabletop, and dice-rolling all in one are going to love it. The rare times you win will feel like you've won the lottery and scaled Mt. Everest at the same time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the balance of risk versus reward. How do you know if ramifications of major decisions will have a larger effect than what is immediately obvious?
Discuss persistence. How does failure help teach someone how to succeed? How can mistakes show you the best ways to make decisions and choices that positively solve problems?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Windows
- Subjects: Language & Reading: text analysis
Hobbies: board games
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: analyzing evidence, applying information, decision-making, deduction, strategy, thinking critically
Self-Direction: achieving goals, identifying strengths and weaknesses
Emotional Development: handling stress, persevering
Responsibility & Ethics: learning from consequences
- Price: $14.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Choice Provisions
- Release date: January 11, 2016
- Genre: Strategy
- Topics: Adventures, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: M for Violence, Blood, Strong Language
- Last updated: March 16, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.