I feel like Talos Principle went kind of under the radar late last year, and I suppose why wouldn’t it, the game had practically zero marketing and is a puzzle made by Croteam – yeah, THAT Croteam, the one with the long history of making deep puzzle games, OH WAIT. all they have made are serious sam games which involve headless men trying to jihad you.
It was a surprise then, when Talos Principle actually turned out to be an incredibly competent 3d puzzle game; even more surprising is the massive amount of lore and storytelling they have managed to throw into the game. The core of the game involves small individual puzzles inside hubs which are inside other hubs, you’ll use lasers, jammers, fans, timed clones and more to make your way around doors, enemies, turrets and so on. There are a ton of puzzles, probably somewhere in the region of 100+ normal puzzles, then there are super hard puzzles which are unlocked by collecting star pieces, and these star pieces basically augment the normal puzzles and make them harder or require thinking outside of the box.
The hub worlds and the route of progression is pretty unique – each puzzle awards a tetromino which is used in the main hub to unlock new items or doors (to other hubs), it’s a strange world within world within worlds concept that ultimately really works in both a difficulty limiting fashion as well as a gated progression fashion, ensuring just enough of the world is left tucked away to keep you wanting to push forward. As expected, the further you get into the game, the harder and longer the puzzles become, however I felt the game did a fairly good job of introducing concepts gradually and letting the player figure out the rest – that is of course assuming you play the levels in order, which you don’t really have to. There are definitely some challenging levels in Talos Principle though, I personally found myself looking up hints/solutions about 5 times through my 9 hour playthrough, which isn’t too bad really, and shows that most of the puzzles can be fairly logically solved.
The story/narrative are also very impressively well done, and are not forced upon the player in any way – which is my favorite type of story. All of the lore and story are tucked away in obvious audio logs, or stored on computer terminals which are not required for progression – however the more you put in, the more you will get out, as the lore and world in Talos Principle is actually really interesting and mysterious (though I won’t say much more than that for spoiler reasons). I really did love the start of the game where nothing is explained, and everything is a mystery.
While there isn’t a massive amount of replay value, the game does it’s best at extending the game through natural means instead, as already mentioned there are a ton of crazy hard puzzles available, hidden behind extra hard puzzles. There is also just in general a lot of ground to cover and an expansive world to explore. Then finally there is a massive amount of easter eggs hidden away in the game, along with 3 endings.
While Talos Principle might not have the strong storytelling of the portal series, or the more interesting mechanics of Quantum Conundrum, i’d argue that it has one of the more interesting worlds to wander through and has this mysterious tone throughout – and on the more obvious side, it’s really fucking long compared to everything else in it’s genre that i’ve seen, while being good enough that you’ll want to see it through. The game ran me approximately 9 hours for a normal clear, and probably much longer if you want to go for the stars and star levels.
Oh, as an ‘and finally’ note for the PC version, there are options in the graphical settings to change contrast, brightness etc, but also saturation, which I thought was really neat. More games should let me make them more colourful.
Talos Principle is a shockingly good 3d Puzzler from Croteam, and easily puts up a good fight against it’s genre rivals like Portal. It’s filled with some great level design and game mechanics, beautiful environments, relaxing music and intriguing story.
Approximate Game Length : 9 Hours for basic clear with minimal extras
Actual Worth / Steam Price: £16 / £30 = 0.533
Should you play it : Yes, especially if you enjoy the genre.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
ps. At £30 normal price, the game is maybe a little on the steep side, but is probably a good buy at £20 or below.