I haven’t played something as mentally taxing as The Talos Principle in a long while; something not only owed to the increasingly trivial puzzles that the game throws at you, but also because of the philosophical narrative that has you questioning the differences between man and machine.
At its core, The Talos Principle is a puzzler that does nothing new. Gameplay is broken down into mechanics that you would have seen in plenty of other puzzle games. You’ll be lining up lasers to correspond with panels, using jammers to keep energy doorways open for you, loading pressure pads up with stackable boxes… it’s all very familiar. You won’t find much here that you wouldn’t have seen before.
Whilst this lack of originality may seem like a flaw, the way The Talos Principle utilises all these actions is second to none. The puzzle design is fantastic, introducing a myriad of enigma filled puzzle rooms that will certainly test both your logical skills and your perseverance. Whilst the opening few puzzles may seem like a cakewalk, by the time you’ve reached the back end of the games 100+ puzzles you’ll have certainly felt the effects of a strained brain. You won’t want to give up, and nor should you; there’s an enjoyment to be found in solving these conundrums that’ll offer you the sense of satisfaction so often missing from puzzlers. When you finally solve that puzzle you’ve been stuck on for the last 45 minutes, the sense of pride is awe inspiring.
Don’t let the difficult nature intimidate you though – sometimes the solution is right in front of you, just requiring you to look at things from a different perspective. Whilst there’s no ‘game over’ to be found in the game, there are instances of failure that will throw you back to the start of a puzzle, erasing any amount of progress you’ve made. There are mines that will blow you up, machine guns to shoot you down – puzzles are equally as dangerous as they are trivial. These moments can be frustrating, especially after concocting a complex formation of lasers, boxes, fans and jammers only to find your hard work instantly wiped out as a consequence of a misstep in the path of a floating mine. I wasn’t kidding when I said you’d need perseverance.
Each success is met with the collection of a puzzle block that wouldn’t look out of place in Tetris. You’re then tasked with carefully aligning these blocks, rotating and moving each block around until it fills a specified area. Completing these puzzles unlocks doorways to new levels and gadgets to solve future puzzles.
The levels throughout the game look fantastic; developers Croteam must be commended for the job they’ve done with The Talos Principle’s aesthetics. There are a variety of environments that you’ll be exploring, each based on different locations throughout the world at different periods of time – the Egyptian environment with pyramids in the landscape was a personal favourite. Outside of puzzle rooms, there’s an expansive area for you to explore based around these environments. Whilst attractive, they don’t offer much from an exploration standpoint. There are terminals, QR codes and audio logs to discover; it just that the ‘discovering’ itself never feels all that interesting. Nevertheless, The Talos Principle is a very attractive game.
Outside of the puzzles, the narrative elements of The Talos Principle question you in a different way altogether. You’re constantly questioning where and what exactly you are, the only real guidance offered to you from a mysterious booming voice known as Elohim (a name for God used within the Hebrew Bible). Though Elohim promises eternal life through the solving of all the puzzles, he also warns you against approaching the mysterious tower that stands in view above you throughout the game. There’s a real sense of mystery that’ll keep you intrigued until you reach one of the game’s multiple endings.
Whilst the background narrative offers a lot to think about, it’s the terminals scattered throughout the game that ask the most questions; both figuratively and metaphorically. You’ll find e-mails, quotations and logs of data among other things on the terminals. Admittedly, a lot of it went over my head; The Talos Principle isn’t shy with its in-depth exploration of philosophical principles. It certainly kept me interested though, especially the interactions with the ‘Milton Library Assistant’ – a sort of ‘AI’ that will continually quiz you on your interpretation of the world and the things going on around you. It’s another example of the ingenuity that is constantly on display within the game.
It’ll take you near enough twelve hours to complete The Talos Principle, but if you’re itching for more then you’re in luck – the ‘Deluxe Edition’ comes equipped with the expansion pack ‘Road to Gehenna‘. It effectively carries on where the original let off, continuing to baffle you with mind boggling conundrums.
Considering Croteam’s pedigree includes the crazy antics of Serious Sam, it was a surprise that they were behind something as philosophical as The Talos Principle. They couldn’t have took a more different approach to a game; intense carnage is replaced with challenging yet enjoyable puzzles along with a thought provoking narrative. It’s a game that keeps you continually thinking and constantly in awe of the world around you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of puzzles, the philosophical musings of Socrates or even just video games in general – The Talos Principle is something you don’t want to miss out on.
– Fantastic puzzles that are well constructed
– Beautiful environments
– Thought provoking narrative
– Plenty of content
– No puzzle dynamics you wouldn’t have seen before
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4