Also On: Xbox Series X|S, PC
Publisher: Devolver Digital
I have a love/hate relationship with puzzle games, in that I find them to often be amazing and clever, but also maddeningly difficult, to the point that I essentially end up cheating in order to finish the game because I’ve grown tired of hitting my head against the wall trying to figure out solutions. There are definitely games that manage to balance puzzles well, like Portal or Portal 2, but other titles like The Witness are often a little beyond me. This is likely the reason I never gave The Talos Principle a try, despite being well-beloved by most. However, when I had the opportunity to review The Talos Principle II, I figured it was time to see what all the fuss was about.
I’m glad I did! It’s a fantastic first-person (or third-person if you prefer) puzzler with a really compelling narrative hook to push it all along. I found that not being familiar with the original game wasn’t much of a hindrance either, you’re generally able to suss out the particulars without much trouble, as you’re introduced to the player character of 1K, and the many other denizens of New Jerusalem. There are tons of optional details to uncover about the world and the state of things prior to the creation of New Jerusalem, which did feel substantial enough to make it worth seeking out. But even if the general story doesn’t do a whole lot for you, I think you’ll still find a lot of fun in the challenging, yet fair, puzzles that abound in The Talos Principle II.
Looking back at some of the prior puzzles in the original game, it does seem pretty clear that there was an effort to clean-up certain ideas and concepts with the sequel. Gone are the auto-firing turrets or patrolling bots. There’s nothing that can really harm you as the player, outside of maybe falling into deep water, so you’re able to strictly focus on the puzzle at hand without having to worry about any real life-ending threats. Removing violence from the equation, even as part of the puzzle, makes The Talos Principle II a more relaxing, but still challenging, experience overall.
Also, the rooms in which you’re solving puzzles appear to be tighter and better designed than some of the stuff I went back and watched from the original The Talos Principle. There’s a lot less need to travel great distances to solve puzzles, very little unnecessary backtracking, and more focus on layering in new ideas with each subsequent section of the island you uncover. As you progress through this new location, uncovered at the beginning of the game by a mysterious, floating, digitized version of Prometheus, you’ll encounter new mechanics, concepts, and additional story elements that keep pushing you along. When I started playing it was very much a game that I enjoyed in short bursts, but as I progressed I found The Talos Principle II hard to put down, to the point that I completed the back half of the game in almost one sitting.
I don’t want to spoil much about the experience here and just want to highlight that The Talos Principle II is a very well-crafted experience. From what I can tell, it’s a definite improvement over the original game, refining ideas and concepts in a way that makes this feel like the definitive experience for the series. It’s also nice that as a newcomer I had little issue in understanding the world, figuring out the puzzle mechanics, and learning the overall story across the dozen or so hours it took me to complete it. It might be difficult to find the time to fit The Talos Principle II into your gaming schedule considering how absolutely packed this year has been, but I think you’ll find it worth doing so.
Note: Devolver Digital provided us with a The Talos Principle II PS5 code for review purposes.