GAX (Malaysia) - - REVIEWS - by Az­izul Rah­man Is­mail


It takes mas­ter­ful sto­ry­telling, de­sign, and game­play to in­voke the feel­ing of dread in a video game. Many fran­chises that used to be the van­guards of hor­ror have since lost their way, but in their ab­sence, new ter­rors rise from the abyss.

In Thar­sis, you as­sume con­trol of four as­tro­nauts on hu­man­ity’s first manned mis­sion to Mars to an­swer a mys­te­ri­ous sig­nal from what is be­lieved to be hu­mans. The 10week jour­ney was go­ing well, when ev­ery­thing went wrong.

“We were pre­pared for any disas­ter – ev­ery disas­ter. But not all of them at once. We can’t turn back, but how could we go on?” nar­rates the high­est rank­ing of­fi­cer on the ship.

Sup­plies are low and ev­ery part of the ship is break­ing apart. It is up to you to keep the ship and crew to­gether for the jour­ney, and land at least one of them on the sur­face of the red planet.


Thar­sis is a soli­taire board game that uses the dice pool me­chanic to elo­quently con­vey the sense of dread. Each as­tro­naut has up to five dice that rep­re­sent their strength. You can use each as­tro­naut’s pool of dice to fix prob­lems pop­ping up all through the Ik­tomi (which is the name of the ship you’re in), and use their spe­cial abil­i­ties to in­crease health, re­duce stress, pro­duce food, and many more.

The game­play per­fectly con­veys the help­less­ness of the sit­u­a­tion. Your dice pool is small, the chal­lenges are big, and if you don’t make the right de­ci­sion, the fate of your team is sealed even be­fore the first die is rolled, and you won’t even know it.

The game’s sim­ple, yet ex­pres­sive graph­ics and story only add to the ex­pe­ri­ence, and coax you into want­ing to go fur­ther with each roll.


On the flip­side, the odds are stacked against you taller than the Burj Khal­ifa. Each turn ends with the char­ac­ter los­ing a die, each round be­gins with a new cat­a­strophic event and ends with the crew mem­bers propos­ing two op­tions. You must pick one of th­ese pro­pos­als and they range from bad to game-end­ing, de­pend­ing on the char­ac­ter’s stress.

More of­ten than not, you will feel that your game is at the whim and mercy of the dice. De­spite your best laid plans, a sin­gle die could make a dif­fer­ence. It’s tense, it’s frus­trat­ing, but it can also be fun.

If you love in­tense strat­egy with a healthy dose of luck, Thar­sis is the game for you. The de­vel­op­ers even threw in un­lock­able char­ac­ters, and prom­ises of more mis­sions, ships, and as­tro­nauts to sweeten the pot. But in the end, this game is not for ev­ery­one.

There are nine as­tro­nauts to choose from, five of which are un­lock­ables.

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