Comparing The Talos Principle to a game like Portal is unfair, but immediate. The first time I manipulated a gadget to set off a part of a puzzle, I muttered how much it reminded me of the amazing and witty Portal 1 and 2, and that trying to replicate it was unwise. However, I removed my premature opinions and discovered a whole new world of puzzle and story, placed perfectly in what is called The Talos Principle.
The game starts out in ruins, immediately piquing interest and curiosity. This first person interaction makes it impossible to know who you are, or what you are doing in the deserted grounds of what seems like Rome. The land is littered with broken pillars and faulty statues, most of which are missing their heads.
Very shortly after running around, an all powerful voice beams from the skies, introducing himself and welcoming you to his garden. The puzzles ahead are a test to see if you are worthy (of what is unclear) and to strengthen your faith in him, ‘ELOHIM’.
Without going into spoilers, I must say that the story is my favorite part of this game. Despite everything right about The Talos Principle, I’m a sucker for a great story, and very few games have the tone that this one carries beautifully and makes one question the nature of humanity. Almost every word spoken or typed holds a deeper meaning. Nothing is there without reason, and everything is set up in such a way that I didn’t feel left out of anything. There will be no regrets to finishing this game and seeing everything tie together.
Gameplay is very simple, which is nice, because the puzzles are not. Having the option, I opted for controller, assuming I could sit back, relax, and enjoy a nice, scenic mind game. I was wrong. Despite the scenery being beautiful and the music peaceful, my anxiety levels were high, attempting to freeze the laser gun that will shoot you down and sneak past the bots that will blow you up. And that’s within the first puzzles. You can’t do much on your own, only using what is provided to pass each task. It makes learning controls easy, which is nice when you have to take most of your focus into the puzzle.
There are only a handful of gadgets as well, each with a specific task that they do. Don’t be fooled though, because sometimes they are good for more than what they are intended. The puzzles themselves are short, only getting a little longer with time. Difficulty levels vary, but progress nicely with you, rather than slamming you with something impossible. There are also several puzzles per section, which gives you some options in case you get stuck. This attribute is great as the story is a heavy part that everyone should be able to complete.
What the game lacks in wit and comic relief, it replaces with promise and charm as that nagging curiosity presses you forward. There is a lot of content, which can be overwhelming if you want to follow the story, but luckily the audio tracks and journal entries are logged and easy to access at any time.
Another nice feature is the hunt for stars, which can be within the puzzle or just randomly hidden on the selected map. It had a lingering feel of Mario 64 about it. It also gives you a break from some frustrating enigmas and allows you to enjoy the landscapes. The signs are helpful to look at as well, so use them. They even mark off what you have completed, though who does it for you is unknown. Kind of spooky, right?
The Talos Principle doesn’t let down on graphics, either. Each stage and each little world is beautifully done, with sounds and music to match. Voice acting was very well done, allowing you to stay immersed in the game. The settings are almost too good to be real, which makes the game ever more creepy. Keep a look out when just walking around. There are some questionable sights on the rocks, in the water. You are clearly the only one around which raises the question, “where is everyone else?” Though questions like this will be answered, the theories I came up with thanks to the surrounding areas wwere a little unsettling.
With all of the story, the background, creepy settings, and subtle hints, I’d say this game is very replayable, especially if you are like me and forget how to do the puzzles. I know I’m one to miss things the first time around, so going back is always good.
Despite the eerie feeling I got every time I turned the game on, I was so compelled to read the QR codes on the walls, left by others before me. I wanted to understand the notes in the computer library and I wanted to know who ELOHIM really was, and what he wanted with me. All of this and more is explained if you are strong enough to pass over 120 puzzles in The Talos Principle.
PC review copy provided by Devolver Digital for review