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The Talos Principle

Developer: Croteam Publisher: Devolver Digital
11 December 2014
The Talos Principle - cover art
Glitchwave rating
3.88 / 5.0
0.5
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526 Ratings / 3 Reviews
#291 All-time
#7 for 2014
As if awakening from a deep sleep, you find yourself in a strange, contradictory world of ancient ruins and advanced technology. Tasked by your creator with solving a series of increasingly complex puzzles, you must decide whether to have faith or to ask the difficult questions: Who are you? What is your purpose? And what are you going to do about it?
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The Talos Principle ended up being one of the most interesting games I’ve played in quite a long time, but not quite for the reasons that some would expect. It wasn’t the puzzle design that did this for me, as while tightly constructed, it also feels like there’s nothing overly special here either, whether it’s the ways in which many of the mechanics at play are relatively simple, or the fact that it feels clear that some of them were far from explored to their full potential. But no, what actually makes this such a fascinating and uniquely appealing game is the way in which it handles its narrative and manages to overcome the frequent shortcomings of the medium of video games as a whole for such aspects. What might start off as a seemingly run of the mill game is able to develop in a number of ways to truly become a remarkable experience even despite some flaws that can bog certain things down.

I’ve often found that games have a habit of not being able to craft a narrative with quite as much nuance and focus as it seems to want to, often a biproduct of having to tailor the narrative to the fact that the medium is interactive and needs to ensure that such a crucial element of it is not forgotten or at odds with what else it presents. This can often lead to a game either not exploring themes as much as could be done due to wanting to avoid killing the pacing of it, or to not explore things as much as it otherwise could due to wanting the player to feel as if they have an active role in the ideas being conveyed while maintaining a sense of player agency. What this often can lead to is games that while thematically rich, may also come off as either simplistic or lacking in the nuance that some other mediums are able to portray. This is where The Talos Principle shines for me however, with its strong philosophical themes being written in a very thought provoking way that never distracts from the core gameplay loop and instead finds itself tying very closely into almost every facet of the experience. The relatively common philosophical themes that pertain to concepts such as the tangibility of consciousness or the factors that contribute to personhood might not be treading any new ground, but are presented in such a way to almost force the player to think about their own stances on such topics.

When presented with such questions in the game, any contradiction or lack of conviction in one’s own beliefs are challenged, forcing the player to think even more deeply about what are ultimately very abstract concepts in order to attempt to further deepen their own understanding. This manages to further develop with themes of free will being elegantly incorporated through the way that none of the characters you interact with are flawless in their reasoning either, all having rather flawed perspectives that the game frames as correct for most of its runtime. Utilising the game design itself as an unreliable narrator not only provides far more depth to the game as a whole, but is able to further divert attention to the player’s own thoughts as opposed to simply being led along a separate path just because the game told them to, strengthening the story’s focus on independence immensely and being a really nice meta-twist to add in. I strongly appreciate the way this is able to justify its existence as well through being optional but near impossible to accidentally miss. This contributes to player agency, allowing those who only wish to experience the puzzle gameplay side of things to do exactly that, while being able to make players get distracted with the narrative content feel as if it’s entirely their own choice, therefore not getting frustrated at the game tearing control away from them. Further intrigue is also added through the lore provided by scattered text documents that gives more depth and weight to the setting of The Talos Principle, once again without being overbearing, instead providing some interesting, different perspectives about what is explored throughout the rest of the game, overall making for one of the best written games I’ve played that utilises its medium in clever, thoughtful ways.

The puzzles and gameplay is where I find there to be some flaws with all of this however and ultimately end up stopping me from thinking that this is a total masterpiece, even if some aspects are very cool. The puzzle mechanics themselves are actually rather interesting in some ways, especially the idea of just, not having a core mechanic and instead focusing in a number of supplementary mechanics to work with a simple first person controller. The reason this ultimately works however, is the way in which these mechanics synergise with one another rather effectively in order to feel very meaningful, with possibilities to utilise them in different ways to get past seemingly simple solutions being varied while being tightly constructed. The main issue is that despite it all being rather clever in this way, and having some amazing puzzles that are deceptively simple and just take a bit of planning, the way in which quite a few of them are framed and constructed doesn’t quite feel right. Often it feels like part of the challenge comes from the game obscuring the tools you have to actually work with as opposed to coming up with solutions to solve a problem clearly at hand. This usually is done through placing a lot of the tools required to get through the puzzles far apart and leading to a situation where the player will often question whether they can’t get through an aspect of the puzzle because they haven’t thought of the solution, or whether they’ve simply missed finding a key piece of the puzzle that would make everything click.

This becomes particularly frustrating later on where the puzzles can seem increasingly impossible to solve due to how difficult they can seem, further feeding into questioning whether you even can solve it with what you have or whether the game’s gone and hidden something important out of sight. I also found the structure of the game a bit frustrating where there were a lot of puzzles that would have preliminary steps to get other pieces of equipment, though this was a more case by case thing. While this could sometimes lead to making it feel like there was a nice sense of progression to what you had to do, other times it could feel like mindless busywork, especially when the steps to get them can be so dead-easy and obvious even late into the game. These issues can seriously make later portions of the game feel like a drag, and made a lot of building C almost make me drop the game entirely before being able to see the best content it had to offer. I’ll also say that I think a lot of the bonus stars in this just outright suck, feeling less like extra puzzles that involve some out of the box thinking to get done, and more akin to an Eye Spy game where you’re combing the environments to find hidden things to use instead, making these parts often feel horribly unsatisfying to the point where I barely tried past a certain point, fortunately they weren’t mandatory. Despite my many criticisms however, I did still enjoy the puzzle solving element for the most part and found it a nice middle ground, with the later stuff not being easy by any means, but not being unreasonable either for the most part, usually being rather logical and straightforward once you think things through, making the gameplay mostly enjoyable despite having these aforementioned issues, they certainly don’t outright ruin the game despite making it drag.

Overall, all of these elements, combined with a sense of mysterious wonder and beauty to the landscapes make The Talos Principle a remarkable game in a lot of ways, with its approach to narrative being especially inspired in how well it’s all handled. Honestly a must play for those who enjoy puzzle games or games that delve into philosophical themes quite strongly, because this does both elements rather well, even if I gravitate more towards its thematic content then that of gameplay in this case.
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Kempokid 2021-08-23T09:09:33Z
2021-08-23T09:09:33Z
4.0
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made me feel really like i was going to throw up every time i played it but still verry good.
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chipchipleythesnake 2018-03-14T03:45:47Z
2018-03-14T03:45:47Z
4.5
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The gameplay was mostly tolerable. I don't remember any standout puzzles, but I remember at least a couple of terrible ones (especially that obnoxious bomb level in Egypt). The game feels very samely and routine, and at the same time lacks a strong central mechanic (like the line in The Witness or portals in you know what). Difficulty rises (very slowly), environments change (not much), but it is hard to notice any progression or variation in game design: you solve essentially the same generic gate/box/laser stuff from the beginning of the game till the end. Level design outside of puzzle rooms felt really strange, I'd say even amateurish: broad empty spaces with some ugly copy-paste landscapes.

Narrative-wise the game left me with mixed feelings. The main storyline was okay and pretty fitting for a puzzle game, but it did nothing special. I liked the audio logs, sometimes they were touching and thought-provoking. I strongly disliked the text logs and that whole text adventure sidequest, it felt very dull.

Overall, The Talos Principle is decent, but it is not near on the same level of quality as my genre favorites, Portal and The Witness. I just can't help but compare it to those masterpieces and it looks very mediocre in comparison, don't understand how it managed to get almost as much praise.

(Also, the game is like 8 hours too long.)
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around 2018-03-21T10:43:02Z
2018-03-21T10:43:02Z
5 /10
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A modern classic best experienced with an open-mind and no expectations. It builds upon Portal's reinvention of the puzzle genre, while amping the complexity and offering a moving story about humanity and the future of AI. Rarely has a game gripped me for many hours, surprised me emotionally or made me smile due to the sheer cleverness of its creators. Those who don't find appeal in puzzles will probably not find much enjoyment here, but if you are open to the genre you may find a new favorite.
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SUPER_Lonely_Panda 2016-04-06T00:04:11Z
2016-04-06T00:04:11Z
5.0
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One of the reasons I don't stream video games more often (aside from, you know... not having friends) is the fact that I think most people would be terribly bored watching me do what I typically do. When it comes to the games I play, especially my favorite games, I really like to soak up the environments and the atmosphere, which sometimes manifests in me standing around, walking back and forth, looking at artistic details. Not going where I'm supposed to go, or fulfilling the objective.

This proved to be especially relevant the first time I played through The Talos Principle. I'm sure I took probably double the time most players would, but I don't have any sources to back that up or anything. The game is really just stunning, between the various environments and worlds as well as the appropriate music and extremely heavy-handed mystique. It also imposes actual glitches on certain textures of the walls and things too, however, and this positively contributes to the whole feeling that something is off about the world.

Speaking of which, one of the selling points of this game is the whole "philosophical" aspect of it. True enough, throughout the game you're asked a lot of questions that encourage you to think about deeper issues... and kind of come to your own conclusions about things. Without spoiling too much, the game does a pretty good job at being compelling in this way, but that said I think this is probably one of my less favorite aspects of it. I used the term heavy-handed to describe it for a reason--Talos really doesn't force any views on you, but it does so in a way that definitely forces you to think for yourself... which means, if you play video games to turn off your brain like I do sometimes, it can be a little annoying. Despite this, though, I find myself appreciating the presence of these things through the high level of mystery it adds to the game.

I think I've written enough about its atmospheric merits, but Talos isn't all bells and whistles. The puzzles in this game are actually quite challenging, especially if you're persistent about getting all the secrets. A lot of people like to draw a comparison between this game and Portal 2, and on some level it makes sense... it's a first person puzzle-platforming kind of experience. But I'm just going to throw it out there that this game does puzzles much better. I think the mechanical designs and solutions here are brilliant, and I'd recommend them to anyone looking for a little bit of a brain challenge. (Especially the DLC! Get that.) Another thing about the puzzles is that they often have alternate solutions which... were probably not intended by developers.... To say certain mechanisms in the game can't be exploited is definitely hasty, because it's probably worse in this game than the aforementioned Portal 2, but I find them quite fun in this game. (CRAZY solutions!)

So, yeah, I mean, playing through this game the very first time was one of the most memorable experiences I've had playing video games. Nothing can take away those experiences, but it remains a game I'm happy to go back to and surround myself in.
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space_moth 2016-04-03T05:46:55Z
2016-04-03T05:46:55Z
5.0
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Catalog

chromewave The Talos Principle 2022-10-03T04:35:12Z
2022-10-03T04:35:12Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
eschaton1000 The Talos Principle 2022-09-30T01:18:23Z
2022-09-30T01:18:23Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
DJSteph The Talos Principle 2022-09-29T00:22:19Z
2022-09-29T00:22:19Z
14
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
zero_signal The Talos Principle 2022-09-23T16:28:37Z
2022-09-23T16:28:37Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
cheeese5358 The Talos Principle 2022-09-23T07:11:02Z
2022-09-23T07:11:02Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
sam_burgerFan The Talos Principle 2022-09-22T14:23:01Z
2022-09-22T14:23:01Z
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Shoe The Talos Principle 2022-09-20T20:09:47Z
2022-09-20T20:09:47Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
iliys The Talos Principle 2022-09-15T17:05:58Z
2022-09-15T17:05:58Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
MirM The Talos Principle 2022-09-14T07:03:24Z
2022-09-14T07:03:24Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Lisandro14 The Talos Principle 2022-09-09T17:12:02Z
2022-09-09T17:12:02Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
thatonekidatshows The Talos Principle 2022-09-08T15:40:12Z
2022-09-08T15:40:12Z
5.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
fleshisweak The Talos Principle 2022-09-08T15:13:02Z
Windows / Mac / Linux/Unix
2022-09-08T15:13:02Z
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  • Previous comments (8) Loading...
  • batubalci 2021-09-10 12:52:10.550565+00
    the average is rising goddamn, more people should play this game
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  • WinterMirage 2021-09-14 01:44:32.687816+00
    A mind-numbingly dull narrative presentation mixed with a ho-hum puzzle game.
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  • OrphusOrigins 2022-01-15 17:29:12.288003+00
    some parts of soundtrack put me in such a relaxed and cosy mood, what a beautiful ost
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  • Yobyoni 2022-07-18 16:20:01.403829+00
    Interacting with Milton is so much fun
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