Review

The Talos Principle Review

  • First Released Dec 11, 2014
    released
  • PC

Being human.

There comes a point in single-player games where we can feel utterly alone with ourselves. It's not just that no one else is around in the game, but everything is obscured from our perception. The finite levels begin to close in as you feel their limitations stop you from doing what you really want to do. We even feel trapped within the very mysteries we're meant to solve as we question what the point of it all is. This only really affects us because it mirrors how life treats us a lot of times. Why are we doing what we're doing? Is there a point to living, some grand design that makes our work worth it? This exact sense of isolation is explored in The Talos Principle, a contemplative meditation on the nature of humanity wrapped in an excellent first-person puzzle game.

Not that you're human to begin with. You awaken in a Grecian garden with no memory of what came before, armed with only the sophisticated communication skills that an adult might possess. You then hear what claims to be the voice of God, who commands you to gather the multitude of tetrominoes scattered throughout. You have free rein to enter and unlock every area within your sight, but the voice forbids you from ascending the tower at the center. Collect all the pieces, and you earn life eternal. And yet you're not entirely blind to the circumstances around you. Your form is robotic in nature, so you immediately deduce that you're not a biological human being. Sometimes the details of the world around you turn blurry and fuzzy, as if the world itself is glitching, so it's not hard to figure out you're inside some kind of computer simulation.

The jammers deactivate laser barriers and turn off mounted machine guns.
The jammers deactivate laser barriers and turn off mounted machine guns.

The tetrominoes themselves are cleverly placed behind gauntlets of puzzles you have to solve using several implements and switches that have been provided for you. Levels typically involve finding your way from one point to the next while bypassing the obstacles along the way. The most basic of these is the barrier of light, which you can dissipate by pressing a switch, aligning a colored beam of light into a matching hole, or disrupting it by using a special jammer you sometimes find nearby. Other obstacles, like mines, machine guns, or even the level itself, require similar strategies, but also involve timing and light reflexes. One element remains consistent: most puzzles task you with bypassing whatever is in your way through logic, often to the point where the game becomes a door-holding simulator. It's not uncommon to hold a barrier open from both sides so that you can get the tools you need to progress further.

Nevertheless, the combination of tools and level design keep the puzzles consistently fresh. Jammers and light-refracting rods let you manipulate any number of devices. Boxes can depress switches and serve as platforms to reach higher places. Fans blow whatever you put on them into whatever direction they point. You even use a recorder to record your own actions for a short time, and then play back the recording so that you may work alongside your clone in tandem, which is particularly useful once you gain the ability to have your recording carry objects above its head (including the real you). The Talos Principle forces you to broaden your mind and master the multitude of interlocking devices each room holds. Some puzzles even require you to move, align, and adjust them into a sprawling, interlocking system of mechanical relationships, an act that makes you feel particularly clever. Developer Croteam makes the most of a familiar conceit, challenging you to look at angles, sequencing, and timing in new, complex ways.

Some of the details of the world around you sometimes turn blurry and fuzzy, as if the world itself is glitching.

When you're not busy whittling away at the main task at hand, you're free to explore the strange simulation, which you soon find is something of a mix between the Garden of Eden and the Library of Alexandria. Aside from the forbidden tower, you're free to wander within the bounds of each area. You won't find much of interest aside from scenery, but you run into strange terminals scattered throughout the place. Each screen you find houses several pieces of information, some of which seem laughably irrelevant. Sometimes you find clues as to the nature of the place you find yourself, but sometimes you come across a history of the myth of Osiris, a passage from German philosopher Immanuel Kant, or a set of lyrics to an insipid modern-day pop song. But they are all musings trying to define what it means to be human.

And then there's the library assistant, which starts out as a plain speak program meant to assist you in a more conversational tone. Before you know it, however, it starts asking you questions about your nature, what a person is, what morals are, and many other heady topics in an increasingly passive-aggressive manner. You eventually get into full-on philosophy debates with it, and, much like real philosophy debates, you hardly ever feel victorious (though the jerk of an assistant will certainly try to claim as much), but you get to stretch your ideas until they either break or strengthen. Where most games are content to make you feel physically powerful, The Talos Principle dares to put you in the shoes of Socrates.

The simulation mimics real locales like Greece and Egypt.
The simulation mimics real locales like Greece and Egypt.

The puzzle rooms, while often brain-bending, are short enough that you might blaze through them with an almost mechanical glee, which almost seems to undermine the existential theme of the game. But we're talking about The Talos Principle here, so named for the bronze man of Greek myth that suggests that, if a machine can be like a human, then a human is like a machine. We are, after all, consciousness attached to working parts. You quickly learn the basics of how to manipulate the divine tools you're given, and your knowledge and expertise grow as your ability to apply logic as you move through the levels increases. But then, so can a machine. Artificial Intelligence can learn, too.

But as you get better at your given “vocation,” you're going to wander inevitably over to the terminals and pore over every work, absorbing what the ages' finest thinkers have to say about the human condition, what history and mythology tell us about our mortality and our immortality, and how the human race is advancing on the back of what came before. You listen to the audio logs of the simulation creator's musings on life and science and civilization. You read the QR codes of the AIs that came before and hear about what conclusions they came to. You even enter the tower you've been forbidden to climb because you just can't help yourself. The game doesn't require you to do any of this, but you do because you're inherently curious and eager to learn, another pesky human trait.

The puzzle rooms, while often brain-bending, are short enough that you might blaze through them with an almost mechanical glee.

After hunting down every last bit of information that the world has to offer, you don't come to any neat conclusions, but quite the opposite. Most of the knowledge that you accrue during your lengthy journey is quite contradictory. Clearly, humanity hasn't figured itself out yet. But you trudge on anyway, gathering tetrominoes as you use the knowledge of the past to build a future for yourself. The hints that the QR codes give build on your past experiences to help you solve the harder puzzles. The vast repository of knowledge at your fingertips help you form ideas about humanity and morality, which you arm yourself with when talking to that smug assistant. Every idea, every thought you come across, helps shape your belief system, ultimately informing whether you accept eternal life, ascend the tower, or stay behind and help the next generation reach new metaphorical heights. Your success is truly built from the whole of everyone's past triumphs and failures.

The Talos Principle is an absolute joy to play, packed to the gills with expertly designed puzzles and enough ancillary content to make any history of philosophy buff salivate. But all of that is almost beside the point in the face of the game's thematic ambitions. It may seem like you're alone in this world, but you're really not, and that's the greatest triumph of The Talos Principle: It serves as a fantastic representation of the human condition, complete with curiosity, speculation, wonder, fear, and a yearning to know the unknowable. But most importantly, it nails the role that isolation plays in the human condition. Because of all we don't know, because of how seemingly out of control we all are in the cosmic sense, we feel alone. But, in reality, we're alone together.

Back To Top
The Good
Excellent spatial reasoning puzzles using varied combinations of tools and level design
Incredible marriage of brain-bending gameplay and existential theme
Rich supplemental material drawing from history and philosophy
Lonely, contemplative atmosphere
The Bad
Too many similar puzzle solutions
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for The Talos Principle

About the Author

Jeremy Signor reasoned his way through forty hours of The Talos Principle, and after completing dozens of puzzle rooms, is pretty sure he needs a puzzle break.
103 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for HippyTrippy
HippyTrippy

Fantastically written review mate, and an epic game. Cheers.

Avatar image for garfield
garfield

This game needs waaay, waaay more attention.

It is turning into a future "hidden gem" right before my eyes!

Avatar image for thedarkfenix
TheDarkFenix

Is this game really coming for the PS4? When?

Avatar image for phbz
phbz

Been playing it, really like it.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

It appears that Croteam is deliberately recycling assets from Serious Sam. There is one scene where the scream of the Headless Suicide Bomber is used.

Avatar image for ohmydrunkimgod
OhMyDrunkImGod

@Gelugon_baat This originally started out as Serious Sam 4 but then ended up as this.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@ohmydrunkimgod

If that is the case, then I am glad it did. I am tired of Serious Sam being recycled.

Avatar image for sangheili112
Sangheili112

@Gelugon_baat they used the same SS3 engine and assets for the game

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@sangheili112

Yeah, I did look up some comparisons.

I will say here that Croteam got lazy - but I will also say that the assets are better utilized here than in Serious Sam 3. They were wasted on a franchise that has worn out its appeal on some people, myself included.

Avatar image for incrediblmullet
incrediblmullet

The gameplay reminds me of Portal, I love Portal....enough said :)

Avatar image for too_handsome
Too_Handsome

Meh, two words are enough reason for me to stay away from this game......First person.

Avatar image for ohmydrunkimgod
OhMyDrunkImGod

@too_handsome "H" key switches view to third-person

Avatar image for ohmydrunkimgod
OhMyDrunkImGod

@too_handsome "H" key switches view to third person

Avatar image for mody_48
mody_48

@too_handsome just press "H" and you can play it in 3rd person, honestly this game is awesome & worth every penny.

Avatar image for Kalan_Arkais
Kalan_Arkais

@too_handsome Really? That's interesting. Why?

Avatar image for too_handsome
Too_Handsome

@Kalan_Arkais @too_handsome I'm sure it's a great game. First person view mode is just a turn off for me, personally. I can never get into them. I have tried many times; Thieves, Elder Scrolls, Far Cry, Dead Island, and numerous other titles. I just can't get into them.

Avatar image for princeev
PrinceEV

just finished the game. completely deserves the score. fun, challenging, atmospheric, addictive, full of surprises, with a deep reach story. this is exactly what a good indie game should be.

Avatar image for nirzor07
nirzor07

Came looking for Stormcloaks


Disappointed

Avatar image for samekichi
Samekichi

@nirzor07 I know that feel bro.

*Praises Talos*

Avatar image for SipahSalar
SipahSalar

such high user rating.

Avatar image for Arsyad00
Arsyad00

GOTY!!!!!!!!!

Avatar image for Act_Chill
Act_Chill

I beat the first 4 out of 7 areas in like 30min, got bored, and quit. The scenery is top notch. I liked how you travel between levels allowing you to view the scenery giving a break between puzzles. The story was semi entertaining from the bit I read. This is a puzzle game though and the puzzles were simple and the methods to beat them were repetitive as the reviewer noted. If you are looking for a puzzle game this will be boring and not challenging. If you are looking to kill some time, have a mild brain challenge, and take in some scenery then this will be a good game for you. I rate it a 6 like the average reviewer by gamers on this site.

Avatar image for thorn3000
thorn3000

@Act_Chill hahaha man you really are something...yes the puzzles are easy, in the first area that is...you have never made it to the second area where puzzles become harder or the third area where they are 42 times more challenging than in the first area...beside this, the puzzles themselve despite being quite hard towards the end are nothing, each area has hidden stars which are hidden using far harder puzzles and out of the box thinking...have you managed to even find the stars in the those 4 areas you did? no. so there you have it

Avatar image for wrednajasobaka
wrednajasobaka

@Act_Chill

I agree that it is repetitive in the beginning, but it gets more interesting as you unlock boxes and beam redirecting devices. I hope they'll have more sophisticated puzzles that will require all of the tools. So far most challenging is finding the stars, not that you need them to progress.


So far I'd rate it 8 or 9.

Avatar image for tomservo51
tomservo51

A puzzle game getting a 9 is like having a hot sister.

Avatar image for 4kgamer_lmxxx
4KGamer_LMXXX

@tomservo51 Somebody needs to watch more game of thrones... :p

Avatar image for rob863
Rob863

@tomservo51 Yeah, well, somebody else can enjoy that puzzle game, and your hot sister. Don't just think of yourself all the time!

Avatar image for wrednajasobaka
wrednajasobaka

@tomservo51

Uh, having a hot sister is great because she brings home her hot friends.

But then since obviously you don't like puzzle games it doesn't surprise me that you couldn't figure that one out. :)


Avatar image for Act_Chill
Act_Chill

@wrednajasobaka @tomservo51 Every hot girl has the fat friend and with your luck that is who will be over all the time.

Avatar image for Dragerdeifrit
Dragerdeifrit

@tomservo51 lol. that kinda made my day, thank you sir

Avatar image for natanmir
natanmir

"Talos" i thought it was somehow connected to Skyrim... lol!

Avatar image for jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

Great review, regardless of what score the game was given, this article was a good read. Thank you, cannot wait to try game.

Avatar image for tiffanystarrxxx
tiffanystarrxxx

I may twitch this at some Point. I've been trying to twitch Assassin's creed unity on ps4, but recently the camera has been dropping out. It's infuriating

Avatar image for Halloll
Halloll

I thought this was Witness from looking at the screen shots.

Avatar image for Hurvl
Hurvl

To think that the devs of Serious Sam, a stupid and stupidly fun game, could make such a brain-bending fun game. That's like if David Cage would make the next CoD.

Avatar image for phbz
phbz

Had a good feeling about this one. Glad to see it's getting good reviews everywhere. Definitely a game to play asap. Shadow of Mordor will have to remain in the backlog a little more time.

Avatar image for damelcfc
DameLCFC

Downloaded last night and simply cannot wait for the weekend to give this a fair blast as my midweek time is limited. Generally love this type of game and really happy it has got good/very good reviews - reasons for Devs to keep exploring and developing the genre - well done and thanks

Avatar image for phbz
phbz

@pelvist @g_vakarian Maybe he loves garbage.

Avatar image for zor3333l
ZOR3333L

another gem from Croteam, Serious Sam 3 is the only Meh game they made

Avatar image for Hurvl
Hurvl

@zor3333l For me, Serious Sam 2 was more of a disappointment. Serious Sam 3 isn't as good as The First/Second Encounter, but with some mods making it more like TFE/TSE it's really fun.

Avatar image for zor3333l
ZOR3333L

@Hurvl @zor3333l oh i haven't tried any mods for SS 3, i guess i'll give it another shot

Avatar image for Hurvl
Hurvl

@zor3333l @Hurvl I have the "classic player jump height" and the "no reloading" mod and that makes a huge difference. With those two small mods you can run (and properly jump) around like crazy, spreading death everywhere you go.

Avatar image for Glen_Runciter
Glen_Runciter

maybe you should've mentioned that the Egyptian stuff is there because they've simply reused most of the stuff they've had on Serious Sam...

Avatar image for Leozaur
Leozaur

@Glen_Runciter It might have something to do with one of the emails you find in world A. It was mentioned that they "used existing game engine for the simulation as it was ready to use and already had a lot of assets and was designed to put users at test", along with a few more reasons to not develop anything from scratch. :) I think it adds to the eerie feeling that the real-life devs indeed reused what they had. :)

Avatar image for zor3333l
ZOR3333L

@Glen_Runciter so what ? the game is really fun and that is what matters most.

Avatar image for Glen_Runciter
Glen_Runciter

@zor3333l @Glen_Runciter yeeeeeah, I kinda think that the fact that this is an offshoot of Serious Sam, the result of trying to design more intricate maps for that game should be mentioned in a professional review.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@Glen_Runciter

I don't think the reviewer even knows that those art assets were in Serious Sam 3.

Avatar image for Glen_Runciter
Glen_Runciter

@Gelugon_baat @Glen_Runciter yeah, seems weird that he doesn't mention it.

Avatar image for Hurvl
Hurvl

@Glen_Runciter @Gelugon_baat When I saw the screenshot of the mounted machine gun I knew that it was the same engine, but the same assets? Well, it seems to work with what they're trying to do, so no biggie. Although recycling like that isn't encouraged.

The Talos Principle More Info

Follow
  • First Released Dec 11, 2014
    released
    • Android
    • iOS (iPhone/iPad)
    • + 5 more
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    In The Talos Principle, players assume the role of a sentient artificial intelligence placed within a simulation of humanity?s greatest ruins and linked together through an arcane cathedral. Players are tasked with solving a series of increasingly complex puzzles woven into a metaphysical parable about intelligence and meaning in an inevitably doomed world.
    8.3
    Average Rating132 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate The Talos Principle
    Developed by:
    Croteam, Devolver Digital
    Published by:
    Devolver Digital, GHI Media, LLC, Nighthawk Interactive, Bandai Namco Games
    Genre(s):
    VR, 3D, Adventure, First-Person
    Theme(s):
    VR
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    Mild Violence