This was a long time coming. When I first saw this game, I knew it was going to make it’s way into my collection and playtime eventually. The broken world with a promise of finding out what happened and a mysterious tower the trailers already forbid you from looking into had me hooked immediately. At this time I didn’t know or care what you played as… these mysteries had my attention. Add to this curiosity about how well the makers of Serious Sam could do with a puzzle game, and I wanted in. I'm not disappointed.
Story: The Talos Principle is one of those games where the story is not so much told as uncovered as you play. When you begin, you find yourself a robot booting for the first time in the ruins of an ancient Greek garden. It would seem you were alone if not for the booming voice of an entity named Elohim claiming to be your creator and that of the lands you now find yourself in. Furthermore, he also has a mission for you within these worlds: To find and acquire the sigils strewn about the worlds and prove yourself worthy of eternity with him.
But yet it becomes obvious very quickly that this world is not real. Between glitching out bits and data literally lying around, you figure out quickly that you are in a simulation. But for what purpose? For Elohim will not tell you and those who made it are long gone… It’s going to be up to you to figure it all out. And then there is the tower and the temptations to disobey Elohim and see what’s going on there for yourself…
Underneath this premise actually lies two stories: the story of this strange simulation and that of the people who made the simulation you are in. But to explain either is to do a disservice to anyone who wants to play this game for themselves. Just suffice it to say that this is a journey worth taking.
Graphics: To say it bluntly, the Talos principle is downright gorgeous. From the title screen scrolling through the environments you will come across right down the last pan-out as the credits finish rolling, there are few moments in this game that fail to make most AAA games pail in comparison. You will play this game in either first or 3 person perspective (you choose at the press of a button) as you wander through four basic types of environments: 3 modeled after famous ancient civilizations and the last looking something like a research facility in Antarctica, and most of the time, your first impression going anywhere will be “wow.”
Character models are also pretty good looking, but a lot more simple. You see, there are very few moving things in this game at all. You have yourself, recolorings of yourself in the few times you deal with other robots, wall-mounted guns, and two types of spherical drones that float around. There just isn’t much to animate outside of the effects in the world itself, which definately works for a game designed to put you basically alone in an alien world.
The only issue I can take up with the graphics of this game is not in how it looks, but how it performs. Now admittedly, the game auto-detected my machine to run the game on ultra which means it was pushing my hardware as hard as it possibly could, but that also meant my frame-rate for this game never got that far above 30 FPS. This felt weird at first, but considering my hardware, your mileage may vary (for better or worse). This also being a puzzle game and not an action shooter makes this a less important detail then it would be for other games. I just found it worth noting against the performance I usually see.
Sound: Much like the characters in this game, the sound work is also very limited. Without a variety of characters, you have very little making noise around you. Instead, you basically have one or two noises to suggest that these things are aware of you and the sounds of your tools in use. They sound good, but when you stop to think about it, you will realize there is actually very little to listen to.
Music doesn’t fair much better in the quantity department, either. Basically, there is some ambient music used along side ambient noise, but not a lot. And what is here for the most part will be quickly forgotten after it helps set the mood of the room you are in (which outside of the last puzzle of the game is generally tranquility).
The only real star here in the audio department are Alexandra (the voice playing when you find a memory to check out) and Elohim. These two voices add color to the stories of both worlds you will uncover as you play, both of the world you are in and the world that made it. But unfortunately both get upstaged by someone who speaks only in text (you will know them when you meet them).
Gameplay: The Talos Principle is at it’s heart a puzzle game based on tools and physics offered to you for each puzzle. You will wander through the various gardens (generally allowed to come and go at will) to enter each puzzle room you find and collect the tetris-pieces the game calls sigils. These puzzles start simple using nothing but a device called a jammer which will stop one item in the room from working. But over time, the game will introduce other items like crystals on stands you can use to direct light beams or even fans that can push objects around. But you have to earn them. Allow me to explain.
As you collect the pieces at the end of each puzzle, you will notice they fall into place with a letter or a symbol. These icons represent what you will be able to unlock once you collect all the connected pieces. In the case of items, you will find your central hub has it locked away, while gates will have that same lock right on the door.
Once you have all the pieces you can play a puzzle-game where you fit all the pieces on the grid provided to open up either a new item to use in the puzzles or access to a new location entirely. As far as items go, they are interactive parts new puzzles will use to be more interesting and challenging as you play. These will now be added to the rooms automatically, so you do not need to worry about doing anything else once you have unlocked them.
Gate locks work the exact same way, but instead of being in front of a chamber holding the device, they reside on the door to enter a new location. Completing these puzzles will grant you access to the new area, be it one of the three hubs or a new floor in the tower.
These elements combine to give the game a flow and ebb that never leaves you feeling like you can’t make some kind of progression. If you can’t figure out the puzzle you are on, you likely have others you can try and come back later. Or you might find yourself unlocking a new tool to help you out overall.
Bugs: The only bugs I found in the game were intentional (the glitching I talked about earlier). However, you might want to keep an eye out for ways to break a puzzle or two as those do exist, both by accident in design (such as finding a wall you shouldn’t jump on, but can) and to gain access to secrets in the game.
Overall: While like any puzzle based game, The Talos Principle can be occasionally infuriating, it is overall an amazing title. If you are one of the many people who loved their time playing the Portal games, I do not know how you missed this title. It is not nearly as light hearted (and in fact there are times this game can be downright depressing), but it is absolutely mastefully made and a worthy game to stand with Valve’s masterpieces.
If you enjoy puzzle gaming, you need to get your hands on this title. It is one of the best of this genre and well worth your time to play thought. If you are looking for any kind of action adventure, however, this game is simply not for you.
SystemRequirementsLab.com’s Listed Requirements:
- 2Ghz Dual Core processor
- 2 GB RAM
- NVidia Geforce 8600, AMD Radeon DH 3600, or Intell HD 4000 with 512MB VRAM
- 5 GB hard drive
- Windows Vista
- AMD FX 8350 (8 cores) running at 4 Ghz
- 16 GB RAM
- NVidia GeForce 960 GTX with 4 GB VRAM
- Windows 10