The Talos Principle was unique. A puzzle game, and easily one of the best of its genre, it tells the story of humanity, or more accurately its demise. Awakening on a strange island with the voice of someone calling themselves Elohim scratching around in its head, the player has to solve a series of progressively more dangerous challenges while slowly answering the central question of what makes a human, human.
Recently I had the opportunity to join developers Croteam for a first look at The Talos Principle II. Now thousands of years into the future, our character is the 1,000th robot to be awakened. These AI are tasked with rebuilding the world, starting with a city they’re calling New Jerusalem. As if being called to purpose, a mysterious island appears. Full of devious and dangerous puzzles, once again the player will be tested, only this time it’s to answer a new question. Rather than asking about the individual, The Talos Principle II seeks to answer the question of what makes a society, a society.
One of the first things I saw in the hands-off demo was that the developers are pushing three pillars especially hard. The visuals are a huge leap up from the already-gorgeous graphics of its predecessor – not a huge surprise given the team’s pedigree. There were 120 puzzles in the first game, and each of them were high quality mind benders. Here, we saw several new mechanics that change the fundamentals established by its predecessor. Last but not least, the narrative’s central themes seem to be even more engaging and complex than before. Let’s dig into each.
During our demo, the dev team worked to solve several puzzles for us. While I won’t dictate those solutions in detail here, I can at least describe the elements. Most of the light puzzles in the first game involved bouncing light off of various surfaces or hitting precisely the right angle to open a door or lower a barrier. To be sure, these will return, but now a new tool that combines two colors to create a new beam color joins the mix. This “RGB Converter”, for example, can take yellow and blue beams to make a single green one, red and green to make yellow. Suddenly you’ll have to think about not only placement, but combination of color to solve puzzles. Like its predecessor, this is sure to cause all of us to exclaim “Oh, that’s SO simple!” after spending 20 minutes trying to figure out a puzzle, but now in a completely new way.
In addition to the RGB Converter, we also saw the player somehow gain the ability to walk up walls, defying gravity. It was a brief demonstration of this power, by my mind is already constructing M. C. Escher paintings to solve. Additionally, we saw a mind transfer skill, letting us jump from our body to another, allowing us to effectively be in two places at once. A drill was also used to carve a small hole through a wall, allowing a laser to pass through while still restricting the player. Several additional tools were briefly demonstrated, but I don’t want to spoil them by belaboring the point – what Talos Principle did well, its sequel will do better, making us scratch our heads in a whole new way. If that new complexity worries you, there’s some good news as well.
Rather than pushing the player to complete every puzzle, the sequel is giving the player eight main puzzles in each of the game’s areas to complete that section. These puzzles will certainly grow in difficulty and complexity, but it won’t be the huge spike in difficulty that the first game had. Additionally, as you solve puzzles you’ll uncover “Prometheus Sparks” that can be used to skip any puzzle that you are struggling with, allowing you to earn them back if you have a sudden epiphany and go back to solve it. The first game had three endings, and a hidden area as well, so I’d expect the sequel to have something similar for those dedicated enough to plumb the depths of what the sequel has to offer.
The third tier of this sequel is clearly the writing. The first game was mostly a solo affair, with the player uncovering echoes of humanity’s past, having succumbed to a deadly virus in 2030. This new game seems to embrace that you aren’t alone. We saw other androids, as well as massive technological marvels and buildings. Who built these things, and why are puzzles always the chosen method of challenging the player? What is this mysterious island, who built it, and can choices made there change their world? Naturally the team is being very tight lipped about the story, but what we’ve seen thus far is compelling already.
The best part is that you don’t have to wait long. In conjunction with this brief demo, we also got a confirmation that the game is coming to Xbox Series X|S, PS5, and PC sometime in 2023. Look for our continued coverage, and eventually a review – this is a puzzler you’ll want to have on your must-have list.
Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.
Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.
Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 27 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).