One of the greatest puzzle games ever made, we never anticipated Croteam’s The Talos Principle getting a sequel. But here it is, and it’s much more ambitious than we expected.
Croteam’s philosophical puzzler sequel starts out familiar. Thrown into a picturesque environment, the mysterious Elohim guides us through some simple puzzles reminiscent of what we’ve already completed in the original game. There’s nothing too taxing here, though all puzzles need to be completed so you can gather shapes of various colors before using them to solve yet more puzzles and open gates. It’s once you’ve completed this area, however, that The Talos Principle 2 truly begins, and you really see how this sequel has evolved.
After completing all challenges thrown your way and proving that you’re capable of thought, The Talos Principle 2 finds you transported to New Jerusalem. Here, you’re welcomed as the 1,000th member of a community of robots – or perhaps humans – and you’ll supposedly be the last. You see, it’s all a part of the Goal: to build the perfect society by learning from the mistakes of the past. But as you’d expect, not everyone is with on board with the plan that’s laid out in front of them.
Whereas The Talos Principle asked what makes us human, The Talos Principle 2 asks what makes a society. It’s a broader question that you alone might struggle to answer. It’s why on this adventure you have companions. With the celebrations surrounding your arrival in New Jerusalem rudely interrupted, a discussion is called as to whether an expedition should be sent out to investigate a megastructure that has recently emerged. Of course, there are varied opinions on the matter, but this is ultimately where you’ll be spending your time in The Talos Principle 2.
Along with a party of strangers that you’ll soon come to know as friends, you touch down on the megastructure to find that it’s split into numerous zones. Initially you can only explore the large hub at the centre, but with a bit of legwork, you’ll soon have the schematics that gets the local transport system up and running. Well, sort of; it’ll take you to the first zone at least. It’s here that you’ll have your first taste of the new puzzles that The Talos Principle 2 has in store for you, and its more open structure.
Each of the zones in The Talos Principle 2 appear to be huge, and also rather beautiful. This is a game that wants you to explore and take in the scenery. It also wants to reward you for it. With a range of standard, lost and gold puzzles to be solved in each zone, it’s up to you how you progress. You only have to complete some of the puzzles on offer to progress, after all, not all of them. So: do you want to just find and tackle the easy ones, or try to master them all? It’s up to you. If you do choose to complete all puzzles, however, then you might just find out more about this strange new island.
Each zone also has some secrets to find for those who are genuinely keen to explore. Search hard enough and you can even find items that will allow you to skip up to two puzzles, further aiding your progression. You can reclaim these if you return and solve the puzzle in the future, too. In The Talos Principle 2, then, you have much more freedom when it comes to progressing through the game. Chances are you’re not going to get to a point where all the puzzles are simply too hard, and that’s great.
What’s most important, though, is that the puzzles on offer here are more enjoyable to solve than ever before. They retain some familiar elements, such as force fields that need to be disrupted before they can be turned off by connecting beams via receptacles, but there’s much more variety found within them thanks to a number of new elements. There are now receptacles that can combine the colours of beams, for example, adding another dimension to the conundrums on offer. And as you progress you’ll also be able to create holes in walls with a drill, defy gravity, and a whole lot more.
The gameplay of The Talos Principle 2 is more engrossing then ever, then; this is the type of game that you sit down to play, and the next time you look at the clock hours have passed because you’ve been so absorbed in solving the puzzle ahead of you. What’s really surprised us about the game, though, is its focus on narrative. It’s clear as soon as you arrive in New Jerusalem that Croteam has really wanted to push things forward with this sequel and make it feel more like an adventure.
You can engage the citizens on New Jerusalem in conversation and try to find out what makes them tick. You also have important choices to make, some of which are likely to affect the story and perhaps determine its outcome. We were approached before heading out on the expedition to the mysterious megastructure, for example, and asked if we’d like to make friends with people in high places. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But once we were on location and received a message via the in-game social media app from the same person, asking us to share our personal information, we got cold feet and called the thing off. A threat that we’d regret our decision made us more confident in our choice, but also left us wondering what might happen down the line.
A lengthy game with puzzles around every corner, The Talos Principle 2 is another triumph for Croteam. We wondered how the developer would top the phenomenal first entry in this mind-boggling series, and it’s done so by providing a veritable feast of varied and engaging puzzles, backed up with thoughtful philosophy and stunning visuals that heighten its light exploration elements. If you play just one puzzle game this year make it this one. In fact, we’d go as far to say that The Talos Principle 2 is one of the best puzzle games of all time.