Back in 2014, we took a deeper look at the metaphysical world of The Talos Principle, a narrative-driven and thought-provoking puzzle adventure that told the story of humanity and its demise. The Talos Principle II continues with the philosophical theme, but expands on it by asking a much bigger question: What does it mean to be a civilization? I was able to go hands-on with a preview build of the game that painted a solid picture of what was in store.
It all starts with you waking up as a new humanoid robot, awakening on quite a momentous day as the goal of creating 1000 new people to inhabit New Jerusalem has finally been achieved with your ‘birth’. But the festivities are soon interrupted when a seemingly spectral figure appears, delivering a concerning message. Shortly thereafter, a mysterious new island is discovered that holds the keys to the future. You set off with a small group of other robots to investigate, though some warn of the potential dangers ahead.
When you arrive on the island, you discover a great pyramid, several times more massive than the pyramids of Giza, as well as other massive structures and ruins. After landing on a nearby cliffside, the exploration and puzzle solving begin.
The Talos Principle II brings forward much of the same puzzle solving mechanics found in the first game. You’ll be connecting, reflecting, and refracting beams of light to open doors and other passages, collecting tetrominoes and uncovering secrets from the past. In the first area of the island I visited, there were 8 main puzzles to solve and a handful of other puzzles whose real purpose was yet to be determined. As for the main 8, they get progressively trickier to solve, but if you put your knowledge of having solved the previous puzzles to work, the next solution will pop like an epiphany at any moment.
New mechanics have been introduced to help with solving the various puzzles, including the RGB Converter, which combines two colors of light to create the third. However, they skipped the logic that comes from color theory, and now red light combined with blue light gives you green light. Elseways, blue and green combine to give you red, and red and green combine to give you blue. There’s also a new portal mechanic, looking like something straight out of a Doctor Strange film, however I didn’t get to see that during my preview except during the intro cinematic. I’m sure there are other tools likely to be introduced later, as well.
There’s a great deal of exploration allowed to give you a break from solving the main puzzles. Each area is open and you can venture virtually anywhere you please. Before departing to explore the island, I took some time exploring New Jerusalem, which is full of monuments, exhibits, and even a museum that educates the citizens on the cultures and technology of humanity, or to the best of their understanding at least (a toothbrush caused some head scratching, as did a couple other… interesting objects).
There are also artifacts of the old world to discover as well as terminals hidden throughout the area where you’ll learn interesting new facts, download schematics, and otherwise obtain new information, all contributing to the ‘lore’ of the game. Every audio log, conversation, and discovery is able to be revisited by pressing the ‘Tab’ key on your keyboard or the menu button on your controller. From there, you’ll also be able to view the map as well as a Social Media feed where you can read and respond to messages received from the citizens of New Jerusalem.
The controls are the same as the original game as far as I’ve been able to tell (it’s been a while since I played the first game). You are able to remap some of your controls for mouse and keyboard if you’re on PC, which I am thankful for as I think pressing ‘Shift’ to sprint feels awkward. They’ve also amped up the graphics, giving us beautiful and well-designed environments to explore, although some visual effects, like fog, look a little grainy, and there is still some minor pop-in occurring. However, this is still a preview build, and with launch just under a month away, I’m sure these minor issues will be squared away in no time.
These philosophical, ‘asking the big questions’ puzzle games are some of the coolest and most fun games I’ve ever played. Not only are they challenging the mind through puzzle/problem solving, but they really do try to get you to start thinking about the bigger picture, thinking about things greater than the individual. And they do it without being too preachy and without shoving ideologies down your throat, though the Talos Principle games do make a lot of references to Greek mythology.
I can’t wait to see the rest of the game when it rolls out on November 2nd. I’m excited to see more of the new mechanics in action and see how this story unfolds, though it does have multiple endings, just like the first game. Will the people of New Jerusalem learn from humanity’s mistakes or are they doomed to repeat them? Thankfully, we don’t have long to wait to find out.
Cassie Peterson is an Editor for Gaming Trend but also a sporadic content creator and exceedingly average Rainbow Six Siege player. She goes by MzPanik on Twitter and Twitch and all of the gaming platforms.