Of Puzzles and Prometheus

Way back in 2020 I played a video game called The Talos Principle. I’ve written about it many times! I also tend to think about it quite often, as I don’t think that any other video game has ever affected me intellectually quite as much -or at least not in the same way- as The Talos Principle did. Also, it was just a whole lot of fun to play.

The Talos Principle, when observed at a gameplay level, is a first-person puzzle game akin to Portal. It doesn’t have portals, but it does have half a dozen other tools that you use to solve puzzles and progress through test chambers or sorts. From a narrative perspective, through, it couldn’t be more unlike Portal. Portal is mostly silly and has a little existential dread for flavour, but The Talos Principle is an intensely serious discussion of philosophy. Which sounds boring, yes, but it hooked me good and actually got me interested in studying philosophy further. For fun.

So imagine how I must have felt when I learned that Croteam was just a week away from releasing The Talos Principle 2.

Worried, actually. From my perspective, The Talos Principle was a brilliant masterpiece and I didn’t think it would be at all possible to make a sequel that truly lived up to its progenitor. But I bought it anyway. Day one, full price (which, I should note, is only $40). Despite my concerns, I was more than willing to bet it all on a sequel to one of my favourite games of all time.

Launch day came, and of course I ended up having to work a couple hours late that day. An ill portent, perhaps? When I was finally able to sit down and boot up the game, I felt an ominous chill. The game opened with my character awakening in a vaguely familiar garden, with a very familiar disembodied voice that called itself ELOHIM guiding me. I solved puzzles that were exactly like those in the first game, and while the difficulty ramped up quite quickly, so did my worries. Was this just going to be more of the same?

And then it did a complete 180. The epilogue was a very intentional callback to the events of the first game, and once you’re done with it, everything changes.

The first two or three hours that I played of The Talos Principle 2 were spent running around a medium-small city, talking to robots about the nature of life and solving puzzles in a museum dedicated to the first game. It was wild departure from anything you’d have done in the first game. Then I started chapter 1 in earnest, and I was flown away to a completely different location. There, I was given a huge area to explore freely. I found many questions and exactly zero answers, but also a transporter to yet another large free-roam area.

Much like the first game, TTP2 is structured around a hub world. From there, you’ll travel to other self-contained area that are filled to the brim with puzzle rooms. Exploring beyond these puzzle rooms will often lead to the discovery of all sorts of hidden goodies like collectibles, text and audio logs, and of course, more puzzles. You can chat with your companions about the events that unfold as you solve the puzzles, and it’s definitely worth running around to take in the beautiful vistas that surround each of the playfields.

Based on the map, I’d wager that I’m roughly 25% of the way through the game, and I could not be more excited for how much there is left for me. I think it’s probably already fairly obvious, but I am absolutely over the moon for this game. A week ago I was worrying that my Top 10 Video Games list wouldn’t have a first-person puzzler on it this year, but lads and ladies, I can guarantee that it most absolutely will and that particular tradition will stand strong.

The one thing I feel a little torn on is how this game handles the collectible stars. In the first game, they just existed in the world, usually in incredibly out-of-the-way places, and it was up to the player to come up with ways to reach them. In TTP2, stars are prizes for solving puzzles found at very conspicuous towers. They’re significantly easier to both find and earn this time around, which part of me thinks cheapens the experience a little. On the other hand, most of the stars in the first game were incredibly hard to find, with many of them requiring you to link elements from separate puzzles together in brain-bending ways. In my opinion, the stars were way too hard to find in the first game, so while I like that it’s been toned down for the sequel, I do think that Croteam overcorrected and it’s gotten a little too easy.

But that’s just a minor gripe! There are still tons of puzzles to solve and many of them are enjoyably difficult! I guess it’s also important to note that I’m deeply invested in the plot, but I don’t want to say anything more about it because I feel it’s best experienced as fresh as possible. All in all, while I did have a few concerns in the beginning, they were very quickly brushed aside by what is turning out to be an absolutely stellar sequel. Now, enough typing! Back to puzzles!

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