Game ReviewsGamingPC / Mac

The Talos Principle 2 (reviewed on PC)

The Talos Principle 2 is one of those puzzle games when you’ll suddenly get an “ah-ha” moment when you least expect it.

Most of those “ah-ha” moments happened when I wasn’t playing The Talos Principle 2, usually when I was doing something completely unrelated but one of the game’s confounding puzzles was quietly stewing in my mind. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about: I’m busy stirring a pot on the stove when a light bulb suddenly goes off in my head – a real eureka moment – and I quietly exclaim: “Of course, that’s how it’s solved. Why didn’t I think of that before?

Join the expedition.

The Talos Principle 2 is said to build on the “philosophical” themes of the first game, taking place in a new world where humankind is now extinct but human culture lives on in a city of human-like robots with human mannerisms and attributes. I mean, they have jobs, and politics, and protest – and most of them love cats, too. The game opens with the birth of prodigal son-like 1K, the 1000th android “created” in the settlement of New Jerusalem.

After a holographic image of god Prometheus appears, 1K joins a group of fellow robots on a mission to investigate a mysterious Megastructure that may hold the secrets to what happened to the human race and their creators. Joining 1K are fellow “humanoids”, Byron (expedition leader), Mellville (mechanic), Yaqut (pilot of the VTOL) and Alcatraz (first officer), all four some of the first “models” created by the founder.

1K must visit four regions – north, south, east and west – tasked with unlocking three towers in each one that will allow deeper access into the Megastructure. Locations include a wetlands, a flooded valley, a canyon, a grasslands and a coastline, each accessible from a monorail located outside the Megastructure. Each location is dotted with relics from the past and memories from a bygone age and underground labs that hold texts and audio files that reveal what happened in the years before.

There’s plenty to do in Talos Principle 2.

Each region has 10 puzzles to solve, although only eight need to be solved to progress to the next location, but each one gets progressively more challenging but builds on strategies you’ve learned from previous puzzles. Puzzles are a combination of pressure platforms, light beams and nodes, and will progressive unlock access to the tower. Each puzzle is numbered but you can do them in any order you like.

At first, the puzzles are easy to solve – connect a single power source here to a node other there and it opens a barrier – but as they progress, they become progressively harder, forcing you to do things like combine two light sources to create one (ie combine blue and red light to create green) or swap one item with another or use RGB converters that absorb one colour but emit another. Some are easier than others but all require a bit of lateral thinking.

By the end of each region, you’ll have combined strategies you learned in the beginning to solve the puzzles within the megastructure, which uncovers more information about how you were created and what happened before humankind went extinct. 

It’s like I said earlier, some of the puzzles are relatively straightforward but they still stumped me a few times, forcing me to often restart them just to get a grip on what was going on. Sometimes the solutions will appear pretty quickly but other times I just stared at the puzzle area, not really sure what I was doing. Incidentally, there’s actually a Steam achievement for coming back to a puzzle 20 minutes later.

I honestly believe The Talos Principle 2 is up there with the mind-bending puzzles of Portal (and Portal 2) and you’ll find yourself scratching your head at times on how to solve them: When the penny does drop though, you’ll grin from ear to ear. 

Power hungry Puzzler?

The game played well on my Radeon RX580 GPU, but frankly, I’d suggest a more powerful generation graphics card to get the most out of this title graphically. In open areas, I had frequent pop-in of trees, bushes and rocks, and the system requirements in Steam suggest a Radeon RX6800 or nVidia RT3070 – and I tend to agree.

I also got an occasional message warning me about playing from a mechanical hard disc drive rather than a solid state drive, as well as a weird message telling me I needed to upgrade to the latest version of drivers for my graphics card but I already had.

I also played the game on Steam Deck and I have to say it plays extremely well, especially since a post-launch patch that fixed an issue with text being too small. It really is the type of game that suits the smaller form factor of the Steam Deck perfectly (I think it was set to medium graphics settings with a locked 40FPS) and is just perfect for short sessions while your significant other is watching reality TV.

The soundtrack is also worth mentioning: It is bloody brilliant, with haunting orchestral pieces punctuating the action. It’s perhaps one of my most favoured soundtracks of the year.

In summary, The Talos Principle 2…

As I write this, I have sunk just over 20 hours into The Talos Principle 2, having completed just 58% of the main game. I’ve unlocked eight of nine towers and visited the Megastructure twice already, venturing deeper into its belly each time. I aim to finish this game as I’m genuinely intrigued with how it will end.

I never played the first Talos Principle (something I will endeavour to rectify soon, hopefully) and it’s refreshing to play a game that has no combat, no boss battles, no jump scares, no death states (however, you can “die” if you try to cross volumes of water that are just too deep for you: You’ll respawn at the last checkpoint). It’s also actually mind-boggling to think that this game comes from Croteam, the studio behind the Serious Sam series where combat and violence is the fore!

Simply put, The Talos Principle 2 is a masterpiece that just gets better and better the deeper you go down the rabbit hole.