What if people were robots who were created from, and routinely yelled at by, an angry god that just wants to be respected and obeyed when he asks you to maybe solve some puzzles without questioning him so much?
He just wants you to go along with what he says to do no matter how ridiculous his request. Especially that time when he repeatedly asked you to ignore the spiraling tower in the middle of the overworld hub area that he created and you could very well climb it if only he hadn’t forbidden it.
Well if this were the case you and I would be the robotic children of Elohim in The Talos Principle: Solving puzzles by arranging surprising combinations of boxes, lasers, gun turrets, semi-autonomous mines, laser connectors, fans, and jammers in the first-person (or third-person if you’re into viewing robo-booty) world that Elohim created.
If The Talos Principle were from anyone else I might have thought it was going to be a bible game and would have thrown my still-running computer through the nearest window. Instead, it’s from the developers of Serious Sam. A fast-like-Doom first-person shooter series that is anything but serious. You could say that Cro-team aren’t known for making contemplative puzzle games when they’ve been making first-person shooters for over a decade. You would be right.
These puzzles with the boxes, lasers, gun turrets, semi-autonomous mines, laser connectors, fans, and jammers? They’re great. They have that perfect difficulty curve so rarely achieved in puzzle games. There is a gentle progression with the challenges getting slightly more difficult and sometimes (rarely) maddeningly so. Up until you walk away and come back and go “why didn’t I think of putting that over there earlier? Duh.” After you figure out the solution you always feel like a smarty-pants puzzle-solving person because the designers have excelled at making you feel brilliant instead of feeling like the solution isn’t achievable without a hint-guide.
Those few times that you do get frustrated with a puzzle you can just walk your robot avatar to another because the game is designed to let you walk away and pick an easier trial without walking away from the game. Talos‘ arrangement of puzzles into three level hubs, each with a bunch of puzzles that you can go away from and come back to at any time is brilliant and refreshing. Forgivingly, Elohim encourages you to walk away if you’ve spent a lot of time in a puzzle and there’s an achievement for doing so. There’s also an achievement for sticking it out and solving a tough puzzle. In the 30 hours or so I spent in Elohim’s world I experienced each of those scenarios: often breezing through a puzzle in a few minutes, as the difficultly increased there were a few more occasions of frustration and sticking with it, and a few times I just had to walk away to find some peace in an easier puzzle
If the game were just this surprise first-person puzzler from a shooter developer I’d still rate it highly. Talos is so much more than just puzzles.
If it were just those characters of Elohim and protagonist-bot the one-sided dialog from the big E (your protagonist-bot isn’t much of a talker) might have gotten boring and I still would have skipped merrily along through many lands to solve the shit out of placing boxes on fans and then placing jammers on top of them. Fortunately, there are more questions in the The Talos Principle that graduate the story from both the shackles of Elohim’s reverberating narration and the perfectly robust puzzling.
Why is the protagonist a robot?
Who is Elohim really, why does he call you his child, and why does he want you to solve these puzzles?
Why is there a giant multi-tiered tower, what is on those tiers that Elohim insists you not see?
It is so difficult to talk about this game and what it offers without spoiling more . I will say that the …other main characters… are generous with revelations and sometimes more questions. Extremely deep, philosphical questions. I’m not sure if they would challenge any philosophers, but the game’s story is ultimately going to require your interest in them. Which is fine, because the way it asks them is charming.
Puzzles, god, philosophy. I hope you’re convinced to try it and that you won’t read any more. The Talos Principle is something special.