A Preview of The Talos Principle 2
The Talos Principle 2, launching on November 2 this year, is the long-awaited sequel to the beloved philosophical first-person puzzle game of the same name from developer Croteam. The sequel will greatly expand on everything that made the original special. More mind-bending puzzles to solve, more surreal environments to explore, more secrets to uncover, a deeper story to lose yourself in, and bigger questions to boggle your brain. Read on for a preview of what this game will be all about.
What is The Talos Principle about?
The Talos Principle launched in 2014 and stood out because of its sobering, humanist story about robots with artificial intelligence learning what it means to be human. Underneath those intriguing themes was an entertaining puzzle game. As if awakening from a deep sleep, players found themselves in a strange, contradictory world of ancient ruins and advanced technology. Tasked by a creator with solving a series of increasingly complex puzzles, players had to decide whether to have faith or to ask the difficult questions: Who am I? What is my purpose? And what am I going to do about it?
The game immediately drew attention when it launched, earning praise from gamers and critics alike plus a number of awards. Puzzle games are released all the time, and though they all differ in complexity, The Talos Principle seamlessly combined environmental puzzles with a philosophical mystery that compelled players to keep going even when the challenges seemed overwhelming, which they often were.
The Talos Principle 2 amps up everything about the original when it comes to both narrative and themes. In the sequel, you play as the one-thousandth robot to be awakened from the virtual simulation that was the entirety of the first game and part of this sequel’s tutorial. Once awake, you discover that these robots have started to rebuild civilization in a city they call New Jerusalem and that this new society is debating whether to continue letting new machines awaken given that its founder set a strict quota of 1,000 residents. The visuals in The Talos Principle 2 are a huge leap up from the already-gorgeous graphics of its predecessor—not a huge surprise given the team’s pedigree. The game was made entirely in Unreal Engine 5, whereas its predecessor was created using Croteam's in-house gaming tech.
Who is the development team behind The Talos Principle 2?
Croteam is a Croatia-based development studio founded in 1993 that is best known for creating the popular and over-the-top first-person shooter franchise, Serious Sam, among other titles. Croteam was acquired by Devolver Digital in 2020, although Croteam kept "total creative freedom" under its new ownership. The developer had maintained a relationship with Devolver Digital since the publication of the first Serious Sam title by publisher Gathering of Developers—members of which later went on to found Devolver Digital. Croteam is currently working on more Serious Sam titles and other original IPs.
The Talos Principle 2 picks up from the events that occurred in the original game and in its DLC, Road to Gehenna; however, newcomers to the series will be able to understand the game's story without playing through The Talos Principle first, and those who last played the game many years ago won’t need to replay it to refresh their memories. Although many of the details of the original game’s somewhat intricate narrative have been left out, the sequel provides a nice recap by immediately dropping players into the thick of things with some familiar puzzle-solving and then summarizing the rest via a talkative robot.
In the sequel, you wake up in the Simulation and go through several basic test rooms by solving puzzles. The same omniscient voice as in the original game tells you you’re going to wake up soon, but unlike in the original game, the voice wasn't lying this time around. The player is suddenly thrust into the real world talking to another robot—having essentially been born, as the game puts it.
The player is referred to as 1k and quickly learns it's the one-thousandth new human (sentient robot) to be born. This completes a Goal of the new civilization of humans (named New Jerusalem) meeting their quota and no longer making any new robot people. This Goal was set by the Founder, Athena, aka the player character from the original game, who saw how humans destroyed the world and decided it would be better to live humbly as part of the world without dominating it. But suddenly, shortly after 1k has awoken, the society is interrupted when a mysterious new island appears, and the player is sent with a crew to find out what’s going on with this island, soon finding that a series of puzzles are required to unlock a mysterious temple. The temple appears to have been built by an intelligent civilization, but who that may have been is as-yet unknown.
In the same way that the amount of time that passed between humanity’s extinction and the start of The Talos Principle was never specified, the span of years since the end of the first game and the player awakening in this brave new world is also unclear. But the numbers seem mind-boggling, with the continents having transformed into unrecognizable land masses, islands existing where none existed before, and artificial intelligence fine-tuning and challenging itself to the point of autonomous sentience.
And such an incalculable expanse of time is appropriately accompanied by an equally profound soundtrack and setting in The Talos Principle 2. The world feels enormous and unexplored, with just a small blip of civilization almost insignificantly tucked into one little corner, and this awe-inspiring scale is reiterated throughout. The dome enclosing the robot city of New Jerusalem, as large as it is, is dwarfed by the trees and mountains stretching to the horizon just outside. As you explore, a fox might trot across your path, and frogs might casually slip beneath the water, unfazed by the presence of an unfamiliar robot. It’s a world reclaimed by nature, making it entirely believable that a mystery as huge as the one being introduced could really have come about without the robots noticing.
Each robot in The Talos Principle 2 has a distinct personality, and it doesn’t take long for these machines to feel fully human, despite their lack of meat and bones. Developers at Croteam took the time to build out backstories and individual points-of-view for each supporting character, and their conversations and arguments flow seamlessly. The Talos Principle 2 features full voice acting and branching dialogue trees with multiple meaningful responses for players to choose from. It’s not uncommon to see six to eight options in conversations, presenting discrete approaches to heavy prompts about faith, doubt, consciousness, life, love, and death. This is a game with rich character development and high-quality conversational writing.
The voice acting is excellent and helps sell the uniqueness of each character. Characters are colorful and realistic, except for the moments in which they are just spouting the game’s philosophy. The group your character ends up with plays off of a nice group dynamic. They have layered and nuanced interpersonal relationships, morals, and ideas.
In the game, you control a robot humanoid in either first-person or third-person perspective—your choice. The mechanics are straightforward: you walk and run around, talk to other robots, and interact with objects. Beyond that, you’ve got a semi–open world compared with the first game. You can spend time talking with NPCs, thoroughly explore every nook and cranny of the map for hidden secrets, or simply enjoy the beautiful scenery, an absolutely essential activity at times during this game. Be prepared for challenging puzzles that may leave your head spinning; taking breaks by leisurely strolling through the serene landscapes can provide much-needed respite before returning with fresh ideas.
The first game offered a solitary experience and relied on lore logs to weave its background story, but its sequel puts narrative in the forefront. Players are able to walk around the hub city engaging in conversations with other robots and gaining insights into their society. Players can also access a social media site filled with philosophical discussions among the robots. Be warned that if the first game’s heady chatter turned you off, the dialogue in this sequel is even more extensive.
The Talos Principle 2 retains a hub structure similar to the first game, but there seems to be more to explore within each hub area, and you may be rewarded somewhat for straying from the designated path. Each location has eight puzzles to complete before you can progress to the next area, but this doesn’t mean you will become deadlocked if you come across a real stumper. Each zone has bonus challenges that can fulfill the requirement if one of the main puzzles proves too difficult, and keys are also scattered about that can instantly unlock a puzzle.
Players are free to explore areas and tackle puzzle chambers in any order. You can wander off the beaten path in search of bonus puzzles, hidden lore logs, environmental secrets, and collectible Prometheus Sparks that enable you to bypass certain puzzles (especially useful considering the game offers no hints).
What The Talos Principle 2 does especially well is present puzzles that seem physically impossible to solve at first glance. Initially, puzzles involve unlocking portals by aiming beams of light at matching locks. RGB converters can be used to combine two different-colored beams into a single beam of a third color. Inverters are devices that output the opposite color of whatever they're attached to. Naturally, this creates some complex puzzles the deeper you go as you attach converters to inverters and try to direct lights around walls.
Other new tools and player abilities that provide a twist on the original game include teleporters, drillers that make holes in particular surfaces, banks where players can swap items, fans, and activators that create large volumetric fields. There are also abilities like mind transfer, which lets players switch the body they control, and gravity manipulation tricks. Some puzzles, especially the more introductory ones, use only one mechanic, but later puzzles in the game will combine these mechanics in exciting ways.
When is the game coming out?
The Talos Principle 2 is releasing on November 2, 2023, for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S|X, and Windows PC. The game will likely be included in the Xbox Game Pass lineup at a later date, as was the case with its predecessor, so make sure to check out the Xbox Game Pass and see why Acer is an official sponsor. Don't forget that with the purchase of a Windows 11 PC from Acer, you can enjoy one month free of Xbox Game Pass.
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Ashley is a technology writer who is interested in computers and software development. He is also a fintech researcher and is fascinated with emerging trends in DeFi, blockchain, and bitcoin. He has been writing, editing, and creating content for the ESL industry in Asia for eight years, with a special focus on interactive, digital learning.