To Forgive Divine:
The Talos Principle is a curious beast. Coming from Croteam – the guys behind the mindless yet brilliant Serious Sam series – you would be forgiven for doubting Talos could be as smart and captivating as it is. Don’t worry if you misjudged this fantastic game. After all, to err is human.
Waking as a sentient robot in an Eden-like world, the Talos Principle tells many tales simultaneously whilst also posing a lot of questions and lets you interact with it all. Its narrative threads are – at least, at first – disparate, lonely things. Much of what is here is deeply entrenched in Greek philosophy, Christianity’s own creation story and even material from science-fiction writers such as Isaac Asimov. Whilst this horde of influences could have easily descended into a hodgepodge of parts that simply don’t fit, the writers have woven a beautifully told story full of clever parallels likening your avatar’s existence to a well-timed quote from Aristotle on a terminal log. It’s this smart timing that keeps all the errant threads in check.
Throughout the Talos Principle the game is taxing your brain not only with intricate puzzles but also metaphysical theories and questions. A devious AI quizzes you early on to determine if you are, indeed, human, and gleefully relished my own shortcomings whenever logic failed me. A lot of philosophical material in the entertainment industry asks you to think about what it’s saying, but it’s this first-hand interaction that the game boasts over its competition, and even textbooks and classes. I genuinely loved being part of this thematic dialogue– such as posing and answering questions with a sassy AI – something I’ve never been allowed to do before, in a game or any other medium.
You’ll find QR codes on the walls from your confined compatriots, you’ll learn of the creation of AI through long-lost logs on errant computer terminals and the God of this puzzle world speaks to you in a deep, booming voice from the sky, explaining your purpose and plight. Soon you discover you can write your own messages on walls, interact with God and even have witty discourse with the snarky code that courses through the computer terminals. It’s fun stuff. Whilst these are heady subjects they’re delivered far more tantalizingly than they ever were in my own college studies. It’s a narrative you have to earn by reading, interacting and, finally, comprehending everything – no small feat – but it’s a real feeling of accomplishment when you begin to grasp it.
When you’re not matching philosophical wit with code, you’re tasked with clearing hundreds of bitesize puzzle rooms that engage you on a completely different level. Most of these challenges can be solved in minutes should your grey matter be up to the task, and it’s this quick and consistent feeling of satisfaction that lends the game it’s ‘just-one-more’ addictive nature. Most of these puzzles are gadget based: a room full of patrolling bombs must be neutered with jammers in the correct order to see you through the maze, whilst in another you must reroute lasers with beacons, directing their beam through windows and over obstacles to open locked doors.
Like all great puzzle games, the Talos Principle introduces an element – a new gadget that changes the way you can interact with the world, usually – and then stretches that single idea further than you initially thought possible. Whilst any semi-talented developer can make a bunch of unrelated solutions that don’t necessarily fit into the world at large, it takes a deft hand to craft a small toolset with cleverly interlocking components, each fully realized and capitalized on. Talos Principle delivers the latter in spades.
It’s to Croteam’s credit that repertoire of gizmos is kept to a minimum, introduced at just the right pace to keep your attention. Outside of the puzzle pieces you collect as rewards for each completed room – which open doors to all new areas and tools – there are Sigils to hunt down. These are rewards for the games most challenging puzzles, the ultimate accolade, and are literally gold stars. Despite these rewards being a bit on-the-nose, I was absolutely addicted to finding them. They exist outside of the normal room-by-room challenge, often asking you to subvert a challenge, break a room’s normal boundaries or twist the game against itself in order to unlock them – and you truly feel like a rogue for doing so. They were incredibly rewarding to unlock and each Sigil displays Talos Principle’s smart design at its absolute best whilst also furthering the titles narrative in an emergent way. Top class stuff.
- 1 2