The Talos Principle: Road To Gehenna Review

Flame war.

What is a community? At a glance, it's a group of people who interact and are connected to each other, but it's more than that. Look at any gaming message board. Skimming through the different threads won't tell you much initially other than the fact that everyone there has an interest in games. But dig deeper, and you'll find artistic people who create fan art or even fan fiction of their favorite series. And you'll witness people building relationships on these works and discussions based on simple shared interest, admiration, or even scorn and hostility. What this says about free will, creativity, and interaction is exactly what The Road to Gehenna explores, at least when it isn't giving you more puzzle rooms to solve apropos of nothing.

But why wouldn't it? From the first bit of downloadable content for the excellent Talos Principle, you'd expect more of the same brain-busting puzzles that the first game excelled at providing, and Road to Gehenna doesn't disappoint. The structure of The Talos Principle's puzzle rooms allows for a multitude of different configurations of light beams, refractors, switches, boxes, and recorders (which luckily are used sparingly here because any puzzle that used them tended to break your brain three times before you figured it out), so you'll still be spending days trying to think your way out of a seemingly-impossible mechanism. Don't go in expecting a ton of new ideas, though. You're not going to get any new tools or things to interact with. You'll occasionally run into puzzles that use these old ideas in new ways, but for the most part, you're just going to get a new set of expertly designed puzzles that are as good as anything the base game threw at you.

Much like its older sibling, the real heart of Road to Gehenna lies in the many terminals scattered across the game world. But while The Talos Principle was concerned with history and philosophy, Gehenna is a meditation on creativity and community. Instead of delving into a virtual Library of Alexandria and debating with a metaphorical serpent about the nature of free will, you'll spend your time examining the works of the programs forsaken and imprisoned by the system. As a sort of tradeoff for being put in prison, they're also cut off from the god figure program Elohim's care and influence, a parallel to the biblical stories of Hell as well as the Platonic ideal for a society that casts artists out. Using this as a strength instead of a punishment, they form Gehenna, a message board for the free exchange of ideas and creative works. Though they're trapped in their cells with nothing but a terminal to keep them occupied, Gehenna allows them to expand their worlds through the power of imagination and communication.

Instead of exploring an open hub, you're just given a collection of levels to complete.
Instead of exploring an open hub, you're just given a collection of levels to complete.
No Caption Provided

From the get go, you're free to poke around in all the different threads the programs have created, which feature ruminations on the nature of humanity, artwork, written fiction, and even simple text-based video games. The works themselves aren't as important as their creators. As you experience what these beings have created and how they talk to each other, you'll begin to see what roles they fill and how they relate to others. One seems preoccupied with studying human behavior, for instance, by researching human history and performing experiments on fellow posters. Artists of all different levels of sophistication post their works, from the quietly profound to the ridiculously pulp. And even the posters who don't actively create things participate through commentary and helping to promote other people's work. Admirers of specific creators spring up, and subtle relationships form based on this admiration. It's these posters and what they bring to Gehenna that bring it to life.

What's vital to Road to Gehenna's narrative is that, unlike The Talos Principle, which made you examine your very nature, you're not central to the experience in the slightest. Sure, the in-game conceit for you even trying to take down these puzzle rooms is that you're Uriel, Elohim's messenger, tasked with freeing everyone he regrettably incarcerated before the simulated world ends. But though you do free posters and evacuate them from the garden, the real crux of Gehenna is the posters themselves, how the threads evolve and change, how the moderation staff's goals shape and conflict with those of the other posters. In essence, you're just an observer bearing witness to what kind of creature the community has become. Even so, you'll find it thrilling getting to know everyone in the community through their passions, thoughts, and works. There's even a Reddit-style upvote-like system designed to encourage quality posting, though not everyone is happy with it. Road to Gehenna simulates community dynamics extremely well.

Mac writes some very, er, colorful science fiction
Mac writes some very, er, colorful science fiction

What doesn't work is the fact that the disparate parts of puzzles and message board threads don't really have anything to do with each other. In The Talos Principle, Elohim tasked you with collecting tetrominoes from puzzle rooms to attain enlightenment. Meanwhile, you the player are left wondering what the point of doing the puzzles really is, which feeds right into the discussions of free will and purpose with the serpent. With Gehenna, everything important is in the terminal segments. Without the questioning acting as a bridge to the game's themes, the puzzles are drained of all meaning and merely serve as more content to sell you. Luckily, the Gehenna bits are really strong by themselves, questioning what constitutes humanity by looking at the things they create and attempting to create things in the same way. But you can't help but think that Road to Gehenna would have been a much better, more focused game had it been a text adventure instead of one shoehorned into a 3D environmental puzzle game.

It's difficult to complain too much, though, when you're given more of the same kind of fantastically devious puzzle design found in The Talos Principle. You're going to be banging your head against a wall as you spend days trying to figure out how to get through that one room, finally feeling a tidal wave of elation and cleverness when you solve it. And you're going to enjoy getting to know the denizens of Gehenna as you ponder what of human nature is hidden in its art. It's a shame that these two excellent pieces never truly gel into something even more excellent, but even so, both still make for an enthralling, thoughtful experience together.

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The Good
Smart, brutal puzzle design
Thoughtful meditations on community and creativity
An impressive gallery of message board dynamics
Forces new uses for old tools
The Bad
Puzzles don't connect to the forum in the slightest thematically
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for The Talos Principle

About the Author

Jeremy Signor considered The Talos Principle one of his favorite games of 2014 and, after fifteen hours with Road To Gehenna, is slightly disappointed it doesn't quite reach the same heights.
26 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for RogerioFM

Ah, such a great expansion.

Avatar image for Leozaur

If you give base game 9/10 you don't have a right to give this DLC a lower score than that. It doesn't introduce any new mechanics perhaps, but it uses the base game's ones in clever ways, the puzzles are way more complex and give you even more of that "wow I'm amazing if I figured that out". ...Not to mention a deeper story going on with the terminals. You fail to see terminals questioning you, you say - but they do, it's just that your answers aren't as obvious as they were when talking to MLA in the base game. I feel sorry for you. :]

Avatar image for RogerioFM

@Leozaur: I feel sorry for you too, being so butthurt thinking they don't have the 'right' to give the score they want.

Avatar image for Leozaur

@RogerioFM: I'm getting butthurt only because of logical contradiction. If you give base game one score, how can you give a lower score to its expansion that is no worse than the base game? I understand if it's yet another DLC with the same stuff you've seen in previous one(s), but that isn't the case in here.

Avatar image for iabstract

@Leozaur: Your contradiction isn't logical, though, because it's based on your opinion that the expansion is no worse than the base game. Even were that assessment objectively true, that doesn't necessarily make it better nor justify a matching score.

Avatar image for Leozaur

@iabstract: I agree, that is subjective. Okay, let me translate my comments above then: WTF EIGHTSPOT JUST 7/10???!!!

Is that a better version of my comment? :)

Avatar image for RogerioFM

Even better than the main campaign, this is DLC done right, it's amazing and that soundtrack man, just beautiful and game that exercise your reasoning and questioning brain functions and it's also fun. 9/10, would be higher if it were longer.

Avatar image for sadface1234

guys has 1 negative point to say about the game, which IMO is very trivial and gives it a 7... i'm confused at the logic.

IMO this was good expansion, and for me the puzzles were harder and more expansive then that of the main game. Recommend to anyone who has played the original.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b19214ec908b

@sadface1234: Reviews don't work by starting at 10 and then retracting points based on negatives. Maybe the positives just weren't strong enough to justify a higher score.

Avatar image for ArunabhaGoswami

@toast_burner: For some reviewers they do, for some they don't. This belongs to the second kind.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b19214ec908b

@ArunabhaGoswami: I highly doubt any review works like that. If they did then a game that is ok in every aspect would be a 10/10

Avatar image for ArunabhaGoswami

@toast_burner: Are you a regular on gamespot?

Avatar image for deactivated-5b19214ec908b

@ArunabhaGoswami: yes, why?

Avatar image for ArunabhaGoswami

@toast_burner: Every reviewer here have their own rating system.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b19214ec908b

@ArunabhaGoswami: And why would that mean any of them work the way you described?

Avatar image for ArunabhaGoswami

@toast_burner: I was merely saying that when it comes to review scores there's no fixed rule here, that's all.

Avatar image for 88mikelll

This site gives Everybody's Gone to the Rapture a 9, which is a boring ass game, and this a 7.....sigh

Avatar image for Leozaur

@timmyp1982: Well, if your idea of the opposite of boring is fireworks or something - it's in there too. Just look for Serious Sam references - there's everything from sobbing to blowing helicopters.

Avatar image for ViggyNash

Yeah, I don't think he got the point of the overall structure. Allow me to lay it out for you.

The basic premise of the story is not new. Imagine an old western set in an isolated, self reliant town, until one day a stranger shows up and starts changing things and people, one at a time, claiming that he or she just wants to help them. Everyone's going to take it differently and react accordingly. Uriel/you are the stranger that has suddenly arrived in this forsaken land with tales of the end of times in tow. Whether the citizens of Gehenna want you to or not, you are forcibly removing them from the familiarity (and for some, comfort) of their prisons. So the community must decide, are you the harbinger of death and destruction, or the angel come to save them from it?

A point I would have agreed with, had Signor made it, is that you don't have much say in your own actions in the case of being required to solve the puzzles, or have much feedback as to how your actions have affected the others in the cases where you choose how to respond on the message boards. After all the talk of the nature of choice in the main game, the lack of choice in the DLC is odd. But he didn't make that point so I can't agree with him.

Lastly, all I really wanted from this DLC was more quality puzzles. Road to Gehenna did more that satisfy me, it astounded me. Some of these puzzles, especially the star room puzzles, required a depth of understanding of the mechanics of their game that not even Valve's Portal team managed. Croteam has some truly brilliant minds over there and I hope they get more chances to shine in the future.

Avatar image for ArunabhaGoswami

@ViggyNash: Comparing it to portal - that's bold. Now I have to play it for myself to find out.

Avatar image for ViggyNash

@ArunabhaGoswami: Before the Talos Principle, Portal 2 was my favorite game of all time.

Now it is the Talos Principle. You won't be disappointed.

Avatar image for saturatedbutter

I had to look up the word "vestigial"

Avatar image for timthegem

@saturatedbutter: It's a clear effort to replace the Van Ord. He was the Dean Koontz of video game reviewers.

Avatar image for OllieBrown

@saturatedbutter: Me too, it's a rather descriptive word here! I think a certain reviewer broke out there thesaurus.

Avatar image for unreal849

Already beat this expansion, and I can safely say, anyone who enjoyed the base game should get this.

The Talos Principle More Info

  • First Released Dec 11, 2014
    • 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.
    Average Rating130 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Croteam, Devolver Digital
    Published by:
    Devolver Digital, GHI Media, LLC, Bandai Namco Games, Nighthawk Interactive
    First-Person, VR, 3D, Adventure
    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