Review – The Talos Principle

What makes a person, a person? Is it the capacity for self awareness? The ability to problem solve or think critically? The capability of empathizing with another? Are these the traits that set us apart from the other lifeforms and elevate us to higher level of existence? What if a machine fitted with an advanced AI was able to experience all of these same faculties? Would it then be considered a person and if not, where would the line be drawn? These are the questions that philosophers and men of science have pondered for ages. Croation developer, Croateam, makes the player face these very same questions with their fantastically designed game, The Talos Principle.

The Talos Principle is a first person, 3D puzzle game that adds a lot of mythology, philosophy, and mystery to an unknown environment. You start off as a robot with a sophisticated AI that awakens in a strange land. A loud otherworldly voice encourages you to explore and solve the various puzzles around the area. As you look around, you see a huge tower looming in the distance like a foreboding sentinel. The voice tells you look around and enjoy, for the world was built for you, but to not try to reach the top of the tower. Naturally, that’s the first thing I tried to do.

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Yay! I got a gold star!

Upon entering the tower, I noticed that in order to ascend, you have to take an elevator that only opens after you’ve solved a certain amount of puzzles. Thus the true nature of the game became clear: solve all the puzzles in order to reach the top of the strange edifice. So back out I went to dive into the strange world around me and start solving the many puzzles set before me.

Naturally, the first few puzzles The Talos Principle has to offer are pretty easy and straightforward. Since you don’t receive any sort of tutorial or even instruction of any kind, they really serve as an introduction to how things work. You’ll start off simply trying to collect block pieces that later open up doors to other areas or unlock new gadgets used to solve more complex puzzles. In the beginning, collecting the block segments is as easy as avoiding some patrolling robotic orbs while short circuiting a laser beam gate enclosing it. Later you’ll be connecting light beams in a complicated circuit while carrying a block you’ll need to gain access to another area, all the while avoiding the patrolling orbs and turrets. This game does a phenomenal job of keeping the different puzzles and levels unique and challenging enough to make the entire game constantly interesting. No small feat for a puzzle game!

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Don’t cross the streams! It would be bad.

Now what does solving puzzles have to do with AI and moral ruminations? It becomes apparent almost immediately that the world you are in is actually a computer simulation. This isn’t a spoiler; the world around you frequently glitches making this observation obvious. Throughout The Talos Principle are computer terminals you can access that allow you see a variety of things such as correspondence between unseen workers, mythos taken from all over the world, and scientific findings. These are seemingly random archives in the beginning, but the meaning behind them becomes known at the end of the game. I was incredibly impressed with the overall point to the game that presents itself in the final act.

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Look, it’s an Eye-Pad.

Visually, The Talos Principle is beautiful, but not without its flaws. Close up, many of the textures on stone surfaces looked muddied and the trees look like 3D paper cutouts. This in no way takes away from the fun of the game however. While finding myself more and more obsessed with solving puzzles, collecting block pieces, and unlocking gadgets, I couldn’t really care less how realistic the foliage looked around me. I could clearly see every enemy and objective around me and that’s all that matters.

There is hardly any voice acting in The Talos Principle aside from the ethereal, Elohim, and a couple other voices left as previously recorded messages, the little you’ll encounter is well done and believable. Ok, as believable as a disembodied voice with self important nature can be. The music is mild and minimal, which fits the serene yet lonely feel of the game very well.

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A life filled with Tetris has been training me for this moment.

The Talos Principle is a must play for any fans of the puzzle genre. Devolver and Croateam created an unexpectedly enthralling game, to say the least. With its vast assortment of challenges and complex thought-provoking narrative, it sets itself apart as not only an outstanding puzzler, but as a deep experience that will stick with you long after you’ve beat it.

Graphics: 8.0

Beautiful for the most part, with textures and foliage looking a bit muddied upon closer inspection.

Gameplay: 9.5

Over a hundred uniquely crafted puzzles that will have you often trying to think outside the box.

Sound: 9.0

The limited amount of voice acting and sound effects are done well. The background music is subtle, yet appropriate for the setting.

Fun Factor: 10

The large assortment of puzzles will have you entertained the whole way through. The mystery of understanding the world around you will keep you enthralled.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Reviewed on Xbox One.
The Talos Principle is available now on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.
A copy of The Talos Principle was provided by the publisher.

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