The Talos Principle Review
The Talos Principle Review
If you love puzzles, enjoy hard sci-fi or philosophical musings about the nature of existence and consciousness, The Talos Principle is perfect for you.
Posted: 03/30/15 | Category: Review | Developer: Croteam | Publisher: Devolver Digital | Platform: Mac, Playstation 4, Windows, Linux, Android

Genre: Fantasy/Horror Point-and-Click Adventure
Release date: December 11, 2014 (PC, Mac, Linux) 
Release date: March 4, 2015 (PS4, Android)

Ever since the landmark success of Portal and its equally masterful sequel, the gaming community has been clamoring for new puzzle games with more than just head-scratching mental challenges. Croatian developers Croteam (known for the Serious Sam series) have thrown their hats in the ring with The Talos Principle, a sprawling puzzle game/philosophical adventure that pairs questions of consciousness and existence with logic challenges for an experience that is pleasant and engaging but could feel dull in the wrong player’s hands.

Story
 

The game begins with your character awakening in a serene outdoor space, lush with grass and trees, and you are quickly tasked with solving various challenges to obtain sigils (large floating Tetris pieces) that are protected by force fields. This directive is delivered by Elohim, an omnipresent voice that speaks to your character and guides you forward through the landscape. As you move forward, the situation becomes clearer; the first surprise I experienced was when my character placed its hands on a computer keyboard and they weren’t human but robotic, belonging to a humanoid android. Through computer terminals placed throughout the landscape, it becomes clear that humanity has disappeared and that this new, flickering world is a simulation meant to test your intellect and problem-solving abilities and thus your worthiness to help retain the extent of human knowledge.

Whereas Portal employs humor and a megalomaniacal narrator in the form of GLaDOS to keep the character moving forward, The Talos Principle takes a gentler approach, relying on the player’s curiosity about the fate of humanity and the world they’ve been delivered into to motivate progress. It’s not ineffective—the questions asked are interesting, but the game also long and theoretical and I found myself putting it down for awhile to return to it later without totally remembering what had happened before. It’s a game worth seeing through, but the pacing is often self-driven.

Atmosphere
 

The Talos Principle is attractive and well-constructed, but has nothing you haven’t seen before. This makes sense for a game about philosophy—it’s the kind of beauty Plato would have agreed with, all perfect, essential trees and colorful skies. The juxtaposition of advanced technology and ancient ruins is interesting and allows for a kind of serene clarity when playing the puzzles; there is no sense of urgency at all, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But there’s a lot of ground to cover and often not a lot to see.

The environment still assists the story, though. When your android character wanders too close to the edges of the world, the entire world will flicker, and sometimes trees or rocks will momentarily phase out of existence, reminding you that the environment you’re inhabiting isn’t totally real. Computer terminals dot the landscape, sometimes displaying unfriendly blue screens to demonstrate how much knowledge has already been lost to time. The soundtrack is similarly devised to create a dichotomy between the past and the future, sometimes featuring bleeping technological beats and in other instances medieval-sounding string instruments and ghostly choruses of voices. It’s not groundbreaking, but it does what it needs to do.

Gameplay
 

Players of any first-person puzzle or shooter game will find the controls accessible and familiar. Movement with arrow keys is easy (and downright fast if you hold down shift) and the game is extremely clear about how far along you are; puzzles you’ve already solved are marked off on signposts and maps so there’s no question of what still needs to be done. Players hoping to find all the game’s secrets will have to be a bit more inquisitive, but even the number of secret stars to be found in every world is indicated clearly. It’s an efficient, streamlined gameplay design that doesn’t get in the way of the player’s experience at all.

Puzzles
 

So what about the puzzles? First off, there’s a lot of them. The game boasts more than 120 puzzles, which is far more than in more narrative puzzle games such as Portal. They also don’t have to be played in any particular order; the idea behind the puzzle-filled landscape is that your character must prove its intellect and worth by solving the landscape’s puzzles and collecting the sigils that are used to unlock doors and move forward. The Talos Principle has a lot of sheer gameplay hours but admittedly, the puzzles can become a bit repetitive if you play too long in one sitting. The components of each puzzle are simple—force fields that prevent forward movement, signal jammers that can turn off fields or turrets, colored lights that need to be redirected to locks, boxes that can be used for blocking or boosting yourself up higher—and they get used in a variety of ways, but after awhile the puzzles can feel tedious and similar. For maximum enjoyment I recommend not playing more than a couple of hours at a time before coming back for another attempt.

Conclusion
 

I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed this game. Its weakest elements for me were story and exploration, the two most important adventure game aspects for me, but the rest was especially well-crafted and would be a great draw for the right kind of gamer. If you love puzzles, enjoy hard sci-fi or philosophical musings about the nature of existence and consciousness, and don’t like feeling rushed or stressed about moving forward at a certain pace, The Talos Principle is perfect for you. But if you played Portal for the jokes, want something dramatic and high-stakes, or are quickly bored by puzzles with consistent rules, you should probably skip this title.

Grade: B+
 
Clear game design and puzzle construction
+ Interesting philosophical ideas and questions
+ Attractive settings
 
Puzzles can get tedious
Environment is fairly uniform
Pace can feel too slow or stagnant
 Logo
 
 
System Requirements
 
MINIMUM PC:
Microsoft Windows XP 32-bit (with service pack 3)
Processor: Dual-core  2 GHz
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: DirectX 10 class GPU with 512 MB VRAM (nVidia GeForce 8600 series, AMD Radeon HD 3600 series, Intel HD 4000 series)
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Hard Drive: 5 GB available space
Sound Card: DirectX9.0c Compatible Card
 
 
MINIMUM Mac:
OS: OS X version Leopard 10.5.8, Snow Leopard 10.6.3
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2 GHz
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: nVidia GeForce GT 9600/320M 512 MB VRAM, AMD Radeon HD 4670 512MB VRAM (Intel integrated GPUs are not supported!)
Hard Drive: 5 GB available space
 
Specials from Digital Download
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