What does it mean to be a person? Why does a human qualify as a person, but an animal does not? If a computer AI functions exactly the same as a normal human being, can that be considered a person? These are the questions that are examined in “The Talos Principle,” that is in between solving puzzles and collecting tetromino pieces necessary to complete the game.
“The Talos Principle” is a first-person puzzle game by Croteam, a developer known for their “Serious Sam” series, which involves much less philosophical inquiry and mind boggling puzzles and much more shooting gigantic armies of aliens. Needless to say, this is quite an unexpected game from them, but it’s a surprisingly and refreshingly well done attempt at bringing complex themes into a video game without feeling pretentious.
In “The Talos Principle,” the player plays as a humanoid robot who wakes up in a strange world greeted by the booming, disembodied voice of a God-like being named Elohim who refers to the robot as his child. He gives the robot the task of solving all the puzzles and obtaining all the sigils in his many “gardens” that once complete will grant you everlasting life (or so he claims). All he asks of the player is to avoid temptation from climbing up the giant tower in the center of the game’s main hub area, warning that it will bring certain death.
The game contains three main worlds contained within industrial buildings on the surface. Each of these buildings has seven portals that take the player to the areas with multiple puzzle rooms that grant the player a tetromino piece once solved. These pieces are later used to solve tetromino puzzles to unlock access to the other two worlds, other devices needed to solve future puzzles and access to the upper floors of the tower.
Things start off relatively easy, the first world consisting mainly of puzzles that will teach concepts that later puzzles will utilize in far more complex ways. Soon though, the game will have the player maneuvering around mines in narrow corridors, redirecting laser beams and positioning splitters perfectly so that the beam isn’t interrupted to unlock doors, and much more. Some of the puzzles are unforgivably difficult and may take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to figure out.
Holding the player’s hand is definitely not on this game’s agenda. However, this just makes it more satisfying when they finally have that eureka moment and finally solve a baffling puzzle. The only parts that can be frustrating are the puzzles that involve the mines, as getting killed by one forces the player to start over from the very beginning of the puzzle. These puzzles would definitely benefit from a quick save function.
For those desiring a greater challenge, there are other secrets you can find such as hidden stars and Easter eggs. The most insanely obscure star requires players to scan an in-game QR code to decipher a hint. Others are tucked away in passageways hidden by the shadows of giant statues.
Throughout the game, there are also various terminals to find, which contain documents that subtly reveal what happened to the human race and the purpose of the game’s world. A computer AI named Milton will also snidely argue philosophy with the player. Graphically, “The Talos Principle” looks very pretty, with various settings such as vast deserts, snowy mountains and medieval castles.
Overall, “The Talos Principle” may well be one of the best puzzle games of recent times, containing difficult puzzles, incredible environments and a great narrative that’ll probe the player’s philosophical side. With around 15 hours worth of content and multiple endings to discover, it’s undeniably worth its $40 asking price.