Puzzle games often have the tendency to fall flat. Lacking in plot or any discernible characters, a collection of tedious puzzles completed for little to no gain, and an ending that makes the player feel annoyed that they have wasted their time. The Talos Principle, however, manages to successfully break these problematic puzzle game conventions.
You play as a robot AI character who is questioning their existence and life: both whether they are human, what is it to be human, if they are conscious, and if so what is consciousness anyway? The game takes place in a world seemingly created by a disembodied voice calling itself Elohim, who is the first interaction you experience with another entity in the game. This entity frequently speaks to you about the land you are in, calling it his garden. Whilst wandering this world, you encounter challenges.
The Talos Principle manages to successfully break problematic puzzle game conventions
These challenges require the player to enact change on beams and/or walls of energy, to unlock pathways, and are completed in order to collect Tetris style puzzle pieces that allow you to progress through the game. The player can either progress through the world on the ground level or up the tower, although you are warned against this by Elohim. Both of these paths of progression allow the player to access increasingly difficult puzzles which include different items to help you.
Within each level, there are terminals that you can interact with. Sometimes you are able to converse with the MLI, Milton Library Interface, which often means defying Elohim’s orders and presses you to further question your existence. These terminals also contain the personal logs of the last days of humanity and philosophical text - the library is a database of all of humanity’s literature, of which much of the data is corrupted.
Since this game asks the player to truly question their feelings towards consciousness and what is it really like to be human, any frustration towards the puzzles are short lived
Although an infrequent feeling, the puzzles can sometimes be a little frustrating due to their repetitive nature, but since this game asks the player to truly question their feelings towards consciousness and what is it really like to be human this frustration is short lived. The game also gives another level of depth with the QR Codes dotted around levels which allow the player to complete levels containing stars but also gain further insight into the game.
This game is one in a handful of games, alongside The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and The Last of Us, which I have voluntarily played over and over again, intrigued by the short philosophical passages. Its philosophical overtones and existential story appeal to the lost human in me, striving to understand my own place in the universe.