- Developer: Croteam
- Publisher: Devolver Digital
- Release date: 10/12/2019
- Price: £26.99 / $29.99
- Review code provided by Devolver Digital
Portals not included
The Talos Principle is a first-person puzzle game, first released on PC in 2014 it has finally made it’s way to the Nintendo Switch as the Deluxe Edition with the Road to Gehenna DLC bundled in. The main story takes about 15-20 hours to beat, with the DLC adding 3-5 hours more. Completing the optional challenges in the main story and DLC can easily bring the game to 30 hours. The Talos Principle is packed.
To describe the gameplay, the easiest allegory is to say it plays just like Portal, without the portal gun. Instead, the player is given a multitude of separate tools that work together in ever more complex puzzles. Initially, there is just the jammer, but more are unlocked as the player progresses.
The game’s options allow the player to set either Graphics or Performance modes. I played docked in Graphics mode and did occasionally run into a slight FPS hiccup. They were rare enough and short enough to not affect my enjoyment, but for those that it does bother the Performance option is likely the better choice. Given how beautiful the game could be though, Graphics was my preference.
Load time for the different worlds is noticeably long, but once a world is loaded the entire zone can be freely explored without any. Respawns from deaths or resets are near-instant, letting the player immediately try again. This is critical on some of the more challenging puzzles, where a long wait between attempts would be frustrating.
A glitch in the system
The game starts out by displaying DOS-style text over a view of the top of clouds. It describes the loading of a child program, which quickly becomes apparent is the player. The player then wakes up, looks at their robotic hands, and find themselves in what appears to be the ruins of Ancient Greece as the heavenly voice of the being Elohim welcomes them to his Garden of Worlds. He sets you off on your purpose in life: solving puzzles and collecting sigils.
This tonal dissidence continues for the rest of the game. Elohim promises eternal life for the faithful, but clues throughout the game speak that not everything is as it seems. Computer terminals allow access to the Library, which is where most of the game’s lore is gleaned from. QR code messages left by other child programs and audio time capsules left by a woman also tell the narrative.
The game explores ideas such as what it means to be human, the nature of the afterlife, and other complex topics, but never does it force one opinion upon the player. It gives the player ideas to think about while exploring one possible outcome of humanity’s choices. Choices are very important in this game; the player is given a number of choices as they play, and those choices change the game’s ending.
Garden of Worlds
The game is broken up into four different areas, but the primary three are temples, each paying homage to different human cultures. Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, and Middle Ages Europe. Each of these temples contains seven separate worlds, each world holding multiple puzzles. The goal is to reach the end where a sigil, which looks suspiciously like Tetris piece, is located.
The sigils come in three colors: green, yellow, and red. Green opens doors for each temple, yellow sigils unlock new tools required to progress through the puzzles, and red is used within the game’s fourth zone, the Tower. The sigils are used in locks, which require the player to arrange the provided sigils to fill a rectangle. Simple at first, these puzzles become much harder as the game progresses.
This is true of the game’s main puzzles as well. Early puzzles require little more than using the jammer to power down gates or weapons, but as new tools are added the complexity quickly ramps up.
The Talos Principle is very smart in how it introduces new concepts. It will introduce a new mechanic, leaving the player to figure it out. This mechanic is then seamlessly fit into future puzzles, making the player feel smart when they realize how they can use mechanics they already learned in the harder puzzles.
In fact, the only times I got stuck while playing where when I forgot about a specific mechanic the game had already taught me. Occasionally the game will throw in a red herring to test the player’s ability to look at the mechanics. A gate might have a power receptor, but the solution actually requires the jammer. Puzzles like this train the player to constantly reevaluate every obstacle, and thus be ready to tackle the harder puzzles.
The design of the puzzles themselves, set within the 3D world, is masterful. I was continuously impressed with how each part of the puzzle worked together into a cohesive whole, all fit within the world’s architecture. Combining as many as four tools at once often required thinking in ways I normally do not, but seeing my work in action was incredibly rewarding. Plus something about floating laser emitters is just cool to see.
Should a puzzle prove too difficult, the game urges the player to come back and try again later. Often walking away and coming back is enough to see the solution when it seemed impossible before. For those that need it, later in the game (once the third temple is unlocked) players gain the ability to unlock three Messengers. Each of these Messengers can be used once to help the player solve a puzzle. For most players, three should prove more than enough.
The only thing missing, perhaps, is a coop mode. While I do not believe all games require multiplayer, the ability to solve complex problems with a friend would have only made the experience grander.
The Talos Principle is an amazing game, with some truly ingenious puzzles and zone design. The player’s ability to choose is integral to the game’s story, where so many others make choice trivial. It all adds up to a game any fan of puzzles should not skip.
- Fantastic puzzle design that is rarely too hard
- An intriguing story told through records of the past.
- DLC included for additional puzzles
- Quickly restarts puzzles after death
- Suffers from occasional frame rate issues
- Long load times for worlds
A must have puzzle game, with a story that will leave the player thinking for some time to come.