I’m not sure that I totally understand The Talos Principle, and I think that’s okay. If anything was made clear by the end of my demonstration, it’s that Croteam (the 17-person studio behind the Serious Sam series) has set out to make much more than a short demo can show–self describing the game as a “first-person philosophical puzzler”. But from what I’ve seen of the puzzles and environments, The Talos Principle definitely has something interesting going on between the lines.
In a purely structural and visual sense, The Talos Principle bears resemblance to Myst in the way of exploring islands occupied by mysterious puzzles and machinery. You play as an artificial intelligence trying to piece together its origins, all while being guided by a omnipresent voice in the sky, “Elohim”. Croteam is looking to do more than just tell a good story, but also challenge your philosophical beliefs as the player. As of now it’s tough to know whether they’ll actually pull that off. But even if they don’t, The Talos Principle is shaping up to be an interesting puzzle-exploration game.
The hands-on demo allowed me to explore what seems like the first island of the game. There wasn’t much exploration to be had, but rather a series of doors that lead to puzzles and one secret area with a bonus puzzle. The first puzzle dealt with energy walls that required the use of jamming nodes to open. Another introduced lasers, and rerouting nodes that could be used to direct a laser beam into a laser input that would open a door or grant access to another node to complete the puzzle. The developers made clear that later puzzles would be a lot tougher, utilizing things like fans, as well as throwing a lot of different mechanisms at the player at once. They also made clear that some–but not all–puzzles can be solved in multiple different ways. At the end of each puzzle a Tetris-like block is rewarded to the player. After collecting them all, I had to piece them together on a console to perfectly make up a rectangular shape.
Croteam claims that the game will have slightly different endings based on the decisions made. These decisions have to do with whether or not you choose to listen to Elohim, or ignore his guidance. It’s hard to say how this sort of thing will come across without playing more, but it definitely sounds intriguing. The Talos Principle has me cautiously optimistic. The game will have seven islands in the final release, all featuring multiple puzzles. The developers are promising a wealth of variety in the puzzle themselves, which I can believe in, but it’s heavy-handed story promises are a different concern. The Talos Principle is coming to PS4, PC, Mac, and Linux this Fall.