The Talos Principle in the test - the last surprise hit of 2014
In the beginning was the Word. That's what the Bible says. It is the same in The Talos Principle puzzle game. We wake up in a garden that screams for ancient Greece with its columns, ornaments and buildings, but the first thing we hear is a voice. She describes herself as Elohim (Hebrew term for God) and poses as our creator. You can take that quite literally, because we control a robot.
Now, at Elohim's behest, we set out to pass a series of trials. The voice promises us immortality if we should master all of them. A robot that can become immortal? Does that also mean that he is alive?
The question of the meaning
The Talos Principle is not called that for nothing. Based on the Greek legend about the giant Talos, who was actually a bronze statue but was brought to life by a blood channel flowing through it, the title raises the question of whether we are ultimately just machines. Is there a distinction between man and machine? We are concerned with this and more during and even after the test.
On our journey through the world we keep finding voice messages from a scientist and computer terminals where we find mysterious e-mails. Some give us insights into philosophical ideas, others report on a research project that seems to be connected with us.
Now and then something or someone communicates with us via the computer and confronts us with philosophical questions. Is awareness enough to be considered a person? What about an artificial intelligence that thinks independently? Are we really free if we can do everything but a special tower is taboo?
The game never strains the news and the voice of the creator, but always gives us enough time to think for ourselves. Above all, it cleverly interweaves the philosophical theses with the storylines about the research project and the search for immortality and does not appear pseudoscientific. The different levels of the story keep us busy even beyond the game. As in real life, there is no right or wrong answer.
Trials for Immortality
The good thing about The Talos Principle is that it also works for anyone who just wants to puzzle. The over 100 puzzles can be enjoyed regardless of the sub-plot. In essence, every puzzle is about getting a seal stone. The way there is blocked by traps, energy barriers or drones. So that we can still get to our destination, we find equipment such as jammers and connectors along the way.
With the former we break energy barriers or paralyze enemy machines, with the latter we connect energy beams to open doors, for example. As the game progresses, the puzzles become more and more complex because we are constantly unlocking new puzzle elements and the levels make extensive use of them. The puzzles are pretty crisp towards the end. The tips function doesn't help either. Because it only helps us out when we find an image of another player in the world who has already solved the puzzle.
I think I see double
Later in the game, for example, we acquire the ability to record a doppelganger of ours at a terminal, almost like with a video recorder. Our goal now lies behind a series of barriers that can be deactivated partly with an energy beam and partly with simple pressure plates. So in the recording of robot one we switch off barrier one with a connector, put a box on the first pressure plate and place ourselves on the next.
Then we run back to the box and stop recording. As two robots, we now observe how the first barriers automatically open. The trick here is that all objects, i.e. the box and the connector, also double. So we get the last barriers open and reach the puzzle piece. A wonderfully satisfying feeling.
The world seems static and empty, but it creates a mood that plays into the hands of the narrative part of the game, you inevitably feel a bit reminded of Myst . The soundtrack is also melancholy and supports the action appropriately, even if it has only a few tracks and little recognition value. Between the puzzles we move in quite free and quite uneventful areas. After all, we discover messages from other experimental robots. Or we can leave messages on the walls with paint ourselves, which other players can then read.
Because not all puzzles fit into one area, we travel from one temple to different areas. If we solve enough puzzles, we will open doors to two more scenarios with the stones we have earned. In addition to the Greek islands, it goes to ancient Egypt and a medieval world. Both are harmoniously designed and wonderfully staged, especially the crisp textures remain in our memory.
The truth is within us
All in all, The Talos Principle is entertaining both on the playful and on the narrative level. It combines a simple plot with philosophical theories without completely confusing non-specialists. Which conclusions we draw from this is up to us. The three different endings do not give definitive answers either. Just like philosophy.