Do robots dream of electric sheep or of destroying the world?
Near the end of the story of The Talos Principle we were witnessing the world collapse around us – hell, we were causing it ourselves. Another steward of this ominous tower, Samsara, was racing desperately to block us as well as the booming God-like omnipresent voice of an entity calling itself Elohim was commanding us to stop. The world needed to end though, and watching its collapse and finally understanding what this cryptic puzzle game was all about was astonishing. Here’s our review of The Talos Principle.
We’ve been fans of the Croatian development team Croteam (get it?) since Serious Sam hit marketplaces in the early 2000s. The game wasn’t demanding cutting edge graphics cards like Unreal or immersing us in a compelling world like Half Life, but it did let us blow stuff up real good! The game never took itself seriously (get it?) but offered hours of mindless explosions and over the top boss fights that could be done in massive cooperative modes all for a budget price. Croteam knew how to deliver a great game at a great price. Subsequent Sam sequels never surpassed the original and started to feel a bit stale over the years. Taking a 3 year break from the last Sam game in 2011, Croteam finally The Talos Principle (it’s first original IP in over a decade) in late 2014 and yes, it is very good.
You awake suddenly in a pristine Romanesque garden in the middle of the day. You’ll realize quickly that you’re a robot with no understanding of why you exist or where you are until a booming voice echoes from the skies commanding you to find enlightenment by solving puzzles of this world its created. As you traverse this 10-15 hour puzzler, you’ll stumble upon audio recordings and computer terminals that will reveal more about the purpose of this world as well as another entity calling itself Milton that will challenge the player’s moral compass through some fairly deep conversations that build over the course of the game. But unlike the other recent puzzler in an isolated and beautiful world, The Witness, The Talos Principle has something to say – and some decent puzzles to boot.
The gameplay essentially is a series of puzzle sequences. You’ll wander through a gate into a challenge room, the game will prompt the name of the challenge hinting at its solution, and leave you to figure it out. The majority of these are pressure pad and directional light puzzles but you’ll soon unlock other tools like disruptors, fans, or time bending recording devices that create copies of yourself to execute multiple steps at once. We never found the game to be too challenging though and thankfully not every puzzle is mandatory to reach the conclusion. It feels very much like Portal though without Valve’s strong sense of humor but with enough diversity to keep us interested (there’s actually a pretty impressive Portal Easter Egg hidden deep in the game if you care to find it – along with way, way more).
We enjoyed this game way more than we anticipated. Perhaps we were cleansing the palate from the disappointment of The Witness or perhaps we just needed to break up the grind of The Division or Far Cry Primal. The Talos Principle delivers a distinct and rewarding platformer puzzle game that packs a punch in its finale (the “true” ending, when you pass the “independence check”).
The version of the game we played included the subsequent DLC campaign, “Road to Gehenna” which picks up shortly before the first game ends. It ups the challenge level out of the gate substantially with some truly ingenious puzzles and also has a strong narrative that is somehow hilarious and feels entirely unique from the story of The Talos Principle. If you enjoy the run through the main game, the DLC will keep you full for another 5-10 hours.
What works well: We weren’t let down by the end of the game. The Witness fell apart. Heck, maybe even Portal 2 had a lackluster conclusion (after the phenomenal last fight). The Talos Principle doesn’t. It’s got a strong ending on top of a solid game. That’s rare for a puzzle game. We also aren’t huge fans of stories told through terminals or audio recordings as many modern games are doing now. The Talos Principle pulls it off though, especially the thoughtful conversations you have with Milton.
What doesn’t work: The later puzzles can really destroy you, especially in the DLC. Be patient. The solutions will become evident after some time. It’s hard to explain but it almost feels like the game jumps too quickly to introducing tools to you. You’re given disruptors almost immediately to stop some wandering mines. After a while using them becomes second nature but it’s an awkward step from taking in this impressively rendered world to “point this gun-thing at this mine now.”
You Should Buy It
We’re embarrassed we missed the boat on this back in 2014. At its current price and considering it longevity, we’d highly recommend just picking it up at this point. Plus, we should be indicating to devs if you promise puzzles and mystery, give us more than line puzzles and pretentious FMV ending.
- You Should Buy It – Not to be missed, grab it now at any cost!
- You Oughta Rent It – If you got money to burn, go for it, otherwise seek ye a Redbox
- Good But Skippable – A quality title but not unique enough to merit your hard earned dollars
- Fun For a While – Buyer beware, this game may disappoint you
- Not Worth Your Time – Oh dear God how does this thing exist?
Disagree with our review? Let us know in the comments below