The Talos Principle: A soul-searching experience

Yes, The Talos Principle is a first-person puzzle game made by the same people who gave us the mindless extravaganza that is Serious Sam . It’s a bit perplexing, even more so because The Talos Principle is actually a damn good game, especially ina sea of similar, lacklustre titles attempting to cash in on the success of Portal.

Players are placed in the role of an android who awakens in what appears to be the ruins of an ancient garden. Guided by an unseen, omnipresent voice who identifies himself as Elohim, the android sets out to prove himself worthy by solving puzzles and displaying the ability to think and reason. It’s apparent from the onset that the environment is some sort of holodeck-esque simulation, with Elohim and his unseen henchmen delving deep into Biblical analogies especially with threats of destruction should the player break a unilateral “covenant”.

The assorted puzzles see our hapless, sentient machine dealing with  Tetris-like objects called Sigils, which are obtained using a combination of different devices. One such device is a “jammer”, which disables hostile machinery, while another features a crystal on a tripod which refracts laser beams into key positions. Obtaining certain Sigils will allow players to access new areas or unlock additional technologies by forming the pieces into specific shapes in a very basic mini-game. Besides the Sigils, the world has hidden stars which require even more complex thinking and a keen eye to collect.

True to its Serious Sam legacy, the game features gorgeous, bright, open spaces set in meticulously-detailed environments. Likewise, it has the same theme of exploring ancient ruins and certain “dead spots” in the overworlds which feel more like showcases for the engine than well thought-out level design, particularly when players have to employ so much backtracking. Audio logs, terminal records and even Elohim’s musings on life and death help keep players engaged, for the most part.

While there are a lot of puzzles to solve, the lack of variety becomes all too apparent before players reach the halfway mark. It also seems many of the puzzles repeat themselves, albeit with an extra hostile enemy or fewer jammers. C’mon, Croteam, did you think we wouldn’t notice?

The Talos Principle is a beautiful and surprisingly thought-provoking game that reminds us of just how well a first-person puzzler can really work. Far from  Portal ’s deadpan humour and much more serious, it’s a great experience that’ll stick with you for quite some time afterwards. If you want to get the cognitive and introspective gears grinding,I can’t recommend this game enough.

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