Tech News on G4
Random events torpedo Tharsis
Feb 12, 2016
By Alexander Cattani - G4 Canada
Roguelikes are dime a dozen nowadays. The indie-spawned genre first garnered popularity some years back with titles such as Spelunky and FTL. They captivated gamers with their addictive gameplay and tough difficulty. The Roguelike rules are simple; stay alive for as long as possible. Once you fail, you're typically given a high score and booted back to the title screen to have another go. Each death is a learning experience and gaining valuable insight by familiarizing yourself with the intricacies of the game is crucial, especially if you wish to hone your strategy and rule the leaderboards.
Developer Choice Provisions' latest offering – Tharsis - takes this premise, infuses it with turn-based strategy, resource management and oddly enough, dice rolls.
You assume the position of a captain aboard a space vessel. Your overarching objective is to successfully make it to Mars to further humanity's planetary understanding but calamity strikes your ship leaving those aboard with an entirely new mission: survive. Story tidbits are presented via narrated graphic novelesque cut scenes. These narrative breaks while brief, are entertaining and their scheduled appearances serve as added motivation to see the game through to the end.
With that said, the majority of your time in Tharsis will be spent tending to the needs of both the ship and the crew. As each week in game passes by, the harshness of the ominous cosmos takes its toll and damages several compartments of your ship. After the spacecraft is put through the ringer each week, it's your duty as captain to tend to the various damages. This is where the aforementioned dice rolling comes into effect. Depending on the numbers you roll, you can choose to either upgrade the abilities of crew members, bank lucky dice rolls for a later time and of course, send crew members to repair sections of the vessel. Once you're happy with the maintenances and or upgrades you've requested, the cycle continues. If you successfully survive ten weeks then you've completed your mission to Mars.
At first glance, gameplay in Tharsis appears intimidating. Unfortunately, this issue goes unresolved as the game's tutorial does a poor job of explaining the ins and outs. Aside from some brief introductory text windows, I found myself learning how to properly engage with the game through trial and error. After becoming moderately acquainted with game's varied mechanics, I started to finally notice myself progressing further through the ten week stretch. Though, my progression would ultimately be halted by the haphazard nature of the game. This is where Tharsis stumbles the most.
The randomness of Tharsis is 10% exciting and 90% frustrating. It's exhilarating not knowing what catastrophes you're going to have to contend with as the in-game weeks roll by. Coming up with, and subsequently executing restoration plans to the ship can be a satisfying process but throughout my time, I only managed to experience a handful of exciting tactical moments where things worked out in my favour. The majority of the time I was left at the mercy of the game, which was, more often than not, downright nefarious.
When the dice wouldn't roll in my favour and the weekly damages to my ship started to become ridiculously devastating, I began to feel a sense of hopelessness. Sure, the whole point of the dice rolls are to produce random results but in a game of this nature, this particular design choice unfortunately marred the overall experience.
Tharsis had potential and could've been the dose of life the idling Roguelike genre needed. Unfortunately, the end result fails to deliver on this promise.
About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.