I have never claimed to be a genius at any point in my life, but I have never once thought that there wasn’t a puzzle that I couldn’t figure out in a normal amount of time. People pride themselves on many things, and mine was being good at puzzle games, like Portal for example. That is until I played Croteams narrative driven puzzle game, The Talos Principle. I would like to extend a thank you to the development, with a hint of humility.
The Talos Project is a first person puzzle experience, not a game, an experience. I realize that “experience” is thrown out a lot when a reviewer wants to describe a game that impacts them in a way that makes them wonder, “Why isn’t there more games like this?” Don’t get me wrong, there are great games all around from talented people, but games with fresh ideas in its narrative, writing, and overall presentation are few and far between.
From the get go, The Talos Principle will be very reminiscent of other games like it. You start off by listening to a God-like voice, as he tells you that if you can overcome the obstacles that are presented, you can ascend to a higher plane of being. You pick up devices that can interfere with force fields, turrets, and sphere shaped drones that are designed to explode if they sense you near them. As you go from puzzle to puzzle, you will discover different types of tundra and places that represent Earth’s past. The puzzles get more complex as new materials (cubes, recording machines, jammers, and pillars) have to be used to guide red and blue lasers to open doors that lead to Tetris-like shaped sigils that you must collect to unlock other areas.
With the use of computer terminals in most of the levels, you soon discover that the world you are in, is not what it used to be. Something happened in the past, and the only record of it are documents and emails from others you come across, and the recordings of a scientist that talks about humanity and what may make us human. While there is the voice of what may be a virtuous deity of sorts, you can’t have the good without the bad. While it’s not a physical threat, an entity will talk to you that will question yourself.
When I write “yourself”, I mean that in a literal way and not the character you are playing as. You are tasked to answer questions that best describes your intellect about life and what is important to you. It’s the thinking about these existential questions that gives life into the game.
“All people should be treated equally and given the same rights” is an example of answer you may give, but then it is followed up by, “That sounds like a very fair system, and a potentially universal truth. But what happens when BAD people are a drain on society and hurt otherwise GOOD people who contribute things? If you treat them the same as the GOOD people, then you get taken advantage of and eventually society can breakdown… the whole one bad apple spoils the bunch mentality.”
Yes, The Talos Principle is a mature game that has the distinction of not being a stereotypical mature game. There is no swearing, bullets, or blood in this game, and that may not be an experience that some will want. If you have no interest in giving answers to philosophical questions, or complex puzzle solving overall, then The Talos Principle will not be a game to purchase.
What may alienate some potential consumers is its obvious parallels to Christianity. I would wager, for the most part, that people could easily look past this aspect and just treat it as a puzzle game with a smart narrative. It would be fruitless of me to try and get into the underlying meaning to the game when it comes to representations from the Old Testament. That is a topic that should be discussed in a group, not an article.
The graphics are pretty as the game portrays a sense of serenity the majority of the time. Accompanies by the music and ambient sounds, there is a calmness to the game that makes the player want to stay a bit longer, regardless of how hard game is at the time. There is also the fact that the PS4 edition of the game comes with the expansion, The Road to Gehenna, that adds many more hours to the game.
The replay value is extremely high as well. The game has three different ending options, each dependent on what sigils and stars you have collected over time. The stars are not easily obtained as sometimes it will take thinking outside the box, or area in this case, to open force fields to collect them. Not only that, but there are also hidden sigils that must be obtained outside of puzzle solving; like taking an axe to a tree, and so on. That is, of course, if you care about all the endings to the game.
The Talos Principle is an achievement, both in for its narrative and level design. It is addicting as it is frustrating at times, but with most games that have a high level of difficulty, the reward when completing an area is fantastic. For those reasons, and for its sound and visuals, I will say that The Talos Principle is a gem that needs to be discovered by others.