September 3, 2017

My Review of The Talos Principle

Now that I have a slightly more powerful computer, I was finally able to play through The Talos Principle and its DLC, The Road to Gehenna. [Spoilers below]

The gameplay is mostly about solving problems by using some items. You have jammers that can open doors, disable bombs and guns; boxes to hold down buttons and to increase the height of an item; connectors that relay a signal from an emitter to receivers and can open doors; fans to elevate yourself or an object; etc. The game is divided in three worlds (A, B, C), each world is divided into 8 levels, and each level contains 3 to 5 puzzle zones. You must use the items in each zone to gain access to a sigil, a tetromino shape. When you have enough of those shapes, you can unlock new items, new zones, etc.

I really enjoyed how problem solving was introduced—there is no hand-holding, rather the game gives you simple puzzles to learn how to use an item and gradually increases the difficulty. Compared to games that give tutorials on every aspect of the gameplay, the process of discovery is satisfying and you feel less overwhelmed.

The plot of the game was very interesting as well. We learn through short audio clips, messages, and chat sessions that humanity is doomed. Global warming was thawed the polar cap and released a virus that affects apes (including humans). Faced with its extinction, some scientists join at the IAN institute to create the EL project, Eternal Life. They created an A.I. that would act and think like a human, thus ensuring that even though humans are gone, humanity remains. The whole game plays in a simulation where a God-like entity, Elohim, tells you to retreive the sigils, but not to escalate the great tower—and of course, we are definitely going up that tower! The goal of the simulation is to “evolve” a machine that can act and think like a human, even with our flaws and inconsistencies.

The philosophical questions addressed in the game are quite interesting. What is a person? What is conciousness? What is the qualitative difference between a tree, a frog, and a human? Can a machine be a person? Can a machine have a conciousness? Coincidentally, I am currently reading Douglas Hofstaeder’s Gödel, Escher, Bach which addresses such questions.

I enjoyed The Talos Principle greatly (I spent 60+ hours playing the game) and I look forward to The Talos Principle 2. If you play, I would advise that you refrain from looking up solutions online. I cheated this way a few times myself, and each time I regretted it.