Tharsis - Switch Review

Tharsis by developer and publisher Choice ProvisionsNintendo Switch review written by Jim with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

I'm a fan of board games but I unfortunately often have no one to play them with and that's what drew me to Tharsis. It looked like a digital single-player board game and for the most part, I was right. Tharsis is a space-themed game where you have to keep your crew alive for a set amount of turns until you arrive at Mars. You will have to managed stress, food, and damage all determined by a roll of the dice.

Tharsis has two modes. First up there are missions that are stand-alone and objective-based. Up second there’s the main game that is a story mode. The story mode starts with only four crew members but you can unlock more by playing and then pick them as part of the four-man crew you want at the start of your run. You will also pick a difficulty setting like most games but even easy mode can be a challenge. It took me a few tries before I fully understood everything in the game, and once I did, I enjoyed the game.

When you start the game you will have damage to certain parts of the ship that can affect your overall hull damage (lose all of this and it's game over), your crew can lose health, or your crew can lose one of their dice. You can fix these more physical problems by moving a crew member onto that part of the ship and then rolling the dice however there are hazards in these spots such as “voids”,” stasis”, and “injury”. Rolling a number that has a void makes that dice disappear for that turn. Stasis makes it so you can not re-roll that one die. Finally, Injury makes the crew member that you're controlling lose health.

Now you can use more than one crew member to fix an issue. An example of this would be if you need a total of twenty to fix a part of the ship, you can move a crew member who has two dice over and roll two fives. By adding that crewmember’s total it will bring the remaining amount down to ten allowing the second crewmember to finish the fix. This is the main objective of the game. Do not let the ship get destroyed.

After every turn, each crew member will lose one of the dice that they can roll. These dice are required to gather food, use skills, or to perform other operations on the ship with a high enough roll. Food can be attained in the greenhouse by rolling two of the same numbers while other parts of the ship all do something to help you out if you can roll the right numbers. Without food though, you can not regain dice that you lose for your crew members but you can resort to eating human flesh. Luckily in the tutorial, a crew member died so you start with some meat.

Eating human meals does have a negative side effect as it makes that crew member that eats it lose some of their max health that can not be returned and they gain a lot of stress. Interestingly, eating human flesh turns the dice bloody so you won’t forget who’s eaten what. If you do run out of food, and meat, you can resort to sacrificing a crew member to make food. So if one of your crew members gets too stressed out, they’ll acquire “space madness” which can end up making them kill someone else or kill themselves. In either case, that’s the food problem taken care of for a little while longer.

Every turn adds a new problem to the ship so fixing the most critical ones first is key to surviving. Other things the game does after every turn lets you pick who eats food followed by your crew chatting which lets you pick one of two things to say, and in turn, you receive a perk and a negative effect. An example of this is you may repair 1 hull damage but lose 1 dice on your crew. You can also save your dice for research, letting you activate perks like instantly fixing the hull one damage or healing up a crew amongst other things. The crew all have an ability, the mechanic, for example, can repair the hull one damage if he rolls a five or six if you want to use the dice to do so.

Unfortunately, Tharsis’ story is hard to understand and even after beating the main mode multiple times I am not sure what happened in the end which is a little disappointing after trying hard to make it to Mars with all the crew alive and not eating any humans along the way. The main story mode does not last long making this a good game for the Switch to be played in short bursts but that’s also one of the low points. I can beat it on Easy in thirty minutes. A nice touch though is that Tharsis is voiced over in little comic book style cutscenes and the voice acting isn't too bad. Another cool aspect of this is that they factored the voice acting in for both genders when for your Captain.

There are the missions, but I was not a huge fan of these as there was no story or anything and it felt like they were added just to add length to the game. An example of a mission would be a one-man crew must survive five weeks or turns on his own while trying to repair damage to the hull. This alone took me a few tries to beat it and it was only a tutorial mission.


Overall I liked Tharsis. It’s a fun, but short experience, that has you managing resources and trying to keep your crew alive. Yes there is some replay value as there are a few different endings it’s still not enough. I do think with some tweaking this would make a really good single-player board game that I would gladly play.

Score: 6.5 / 10



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