The Talos Principle is an indie, first person, puzzle game and is one of those intriguing, thought-provoking games both in terms of its puzzle-solving gameplay and the philosophical style storyline. Puzzle solving is very much at the core of both the gameplay and the storyline here, so if you like fast-paced action or solving all your problems with a bullet and/ or some plastic explosives then this probably isn’t the game for you. If, however, you think yourself a bit of a problem-solving genius and like to stretch those grey cells in ways that don’t involve mass murder and destruction then this may just be right up your alley, and if you didn’t feel like a problem-solving genius going in then you certainly will when you leave, as while the puzzles start simple they do get vastly more complex as the game progresses.
On starting the game, you find yourself in a world of ancient ruins smattered with futuristic technology, from floating security drones to giant fans, 3D holographic recording devices and force fields. You have no idea who or what you are, and in a slightly similar fashion to Portal, you’re tasked by higher power, who calls himself your creator, to undertake a series of puzzles, but other than that and the inclusion of a box and button element, that’s where the similarities of the two games end. You might sometimes wish you had a portal device when you find your way blocked by a stubborn force field that no matter how you juggle your jammers, boxes and laser refractors refuses to clear away, but unless you can come up with a clever mod, you’ll soon learn to make the most of the tools that you are provided with.
Puzzle games can be tricky little beasts. Make the puzzles too hard and people may get completely stuck, give up after only a few levels and leave a bad review, but make them too easy and you risk making it feel both patronising and boring which could also cause people to give up early in the game. This leaves a pretty fine line to tread for games of this type. The Talos Principle is one that, I think, treads that fine line exceptionally well. The puzzles start fairly simple but not overly easy. The developers also used the clever design choice of including both manageable core puzzles and trickier optional puzzles. This is explained early on with a simple colour coding system in place of yellow pieces being core and red the optional challenges. So if you feel your mental capacity isn’t being sufficiently stretched then you know which puzzle to go for next. Just be sure to remember that you asked for it.
The graphics are fairly basic, created to what appears to be quite a low polygon count. However, the use of textures and the overall design of the environments more than makes up for the simple underlying structures, with some stunningly beautiful vistas in the game to indulge. It also means that you don’t need to have a supercomputer in your house in order to run it at decent frame rate, and let’s face it, in a game whose sole purpose is to get your brain working, the last thing you want is to have the mild headache of trying to solve a particularly complex puzzle, compounded by a flickering frame rate of a game with high graphics but poor optimisation.
As the game progresses, you’ll advance through three different cultures: Roman, Medieval and Ancient Egypt and you’ll unlock additional tools to solve increasingly complex puzzles. With 120 puzzles to solve, the game offers a good 20 – 30 hours of gameplay at least, if you’re a completionist, and it also has multiple endings depending upon certain choices you make in the game. Of course, unless you’re of a particularly forgetful nature then the replay value will be limited, as once you know how to solve a puzzle there’s little point going through the motions of solving it again.
The storyline within the game is quite passive. If you want to follow it then you’ll find exploring the environments and logging onto any terminals you pass, rewarding, and if you just want to get on with solving those puzzles then you can just walk right past them and follow the signposts to the next puzzle waiting to be solved. Just be warned that if your brain is already hurting due to the puzzle solving then the deeply philosophical storyline might make it doubly so; but if you do find yourself a little hot under the collar after getting stuck on a particular puzzle then hunting down the storyline elements can be a good way to unwind. Deep breaths remember, deep breaths.
Overall, this is a solid and enjoyable puzzle game. I got stuck on only a couple of the puzzles and they were optional ones, so my progress was not impeded and I simply continued the game and went back at a slightly later date to finish them. My only issue with the game is that with the sheer number of puzzles to solve, it did end up feeling a little grindy, and from the middle of the game onwards I found myself getting a bit bored of solving puzzle after puzzle after puzzle, no matter how well designed those puzzles might be. However, the game is well polished, decently optimised and pleasing on the eye. If you’re into puzzle games and this one passed you by on its launch date, in December last year, then you might want to give it a try. If you really love the game and it leaves you wanting more then there is also some DLC expansion content already available.
Nice array of puzzle difficulties to suit most tastes.
120 puzzles to solve, so a decent amount of game for your money.
Well polished and optimised.
Environments are well designed and quite atmospheric.
Has an intricate and thought proving storyline.
The multiple endings give you some input into the direction the storyline takes.
The large number of quests can leave you feeling like a puzzle solving work horse.
The modelling is structurally basic with a low polygon count.
The storyline is easily missed if you don’t think to go looking for it.
You’re unlikely to want to play through the game a second time to get a different ending, as once you’ve solved all the puzzles there will be little challenge left in the game for a second play through.