November 03, 2015

The Talos Principle Deluxe Edition - Review

While casually browsing the Playstation store last week, a gorgeous looking banner caught my eye and I instantly assumed it was an over the top advertisement for your run-of-the-mill indy mini-game. When I clicked through to The Talos Principle I was pleasantly surprised by the trailer. It actually looked like what it says on the box. Although I didn't see any cats.

Now, I had a vague memory of a Portal-esque puzzler coming out on PC but really hadn't heard much hype about it. Being a bit of a Portal fan I figured I'd give it a go and hit the download button.So, you boot up in a gorgeous rendition of ancient Greek ruins and the within seconds it's pretty clear that you’re playing as some kind of android.  The booming voice of ‘your maker’, Elohim gives you a single instruction. To seek him in his temple if you are worthy. And with that you’re left to fend for yourself to solve the first few challenges. Clear markers and pointers guide you through the glittering world to collect a myriad of Tetris pieces called Sigils.

These pieces are the reward, and the goal for all the puzzles in the game. The increasingly complex challenges have a pretty smooth learning curve that will have you using a jamming device to disable energy walls one minute and deflecting lasers with precision timing the next.

They're all super satisfying to complete and most are just complex enough that you'll feel a little bit clever, especially when you start having to record a clone of yourself to help solve the puzzle. It's very pretty and serene and running extremely smoothly at 60fps the occasional audio/visual glitches were a bit out of place.

But that, as it turns out, is just part of the story. As a simulated consciousness in a contrived world the puzzles you solve are apparently to prove your independence along with several other ‘tests’. It seems like the aim of all these riddles is for you, as a conscious being, to completely ignore Elohim’s warnings and head to the top of a tower you find early on. In all honesty the story felt like it had been retrofitted into a great puzzler.

What’s supposed to be a philosophical tale of existence and intelligence amongst the simulations of the future, feels distant from the action of completing a puzzle. Ascending the levels of the tower is dull in comparison to opening up new areas like ancient Egypt and Opening up a new set of puzzles or a new tool to help you solve them is much more of a reward than learning a little bit more about your maker.

With the majority of the background info cryptically crammed into QR code like graffiti or computers and scattered around the game world it’s disappointing that the creators haven't managed to get the story and gameplay to mesh. What could have been a standout game turned out to be just an exceptional puzzler.

Thanks to Devolver Digital for supplying the game for review

*Time Vampire

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