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The Talos Principle is a first person puzzle game created by Croteam. If your asking yourself what the people responsible for Serious Sam are doing making a puzzle game well...

Opening

The game begins with you waking up in a picturesque location filled with Roman ruins and deadly traps. You are accompanied by a voice in the sky calling itself Elohim and claiming that it created this "garden" just for you. What follows is a series of puzzles that see you collecting tetromino looking sigils. As you collect more sigils more of the world opens up to you and you get the sense that you're in virtual reality. The environment randomly glitches out, there are teleporters with floating ones and zeroes, and every time you die time rewinds.

As if all of that weren't weird enough the player character seems to be in the body of an android. What follows is puzzles interspersed with a slow drip of clues about what you are, where you are, and why any of this is happening. The game throws you into the deep end as far as existential mysteries and player character motivations are concerned. Solve a puzzle, get a sigil, collect enough sigils that you can unlock gates, get to the hub level. Wash, rinse, repeat. This pattern won't change for the rest of the game.

Game Play

If you've played either Portal or its sequel this game play is going to feel pretty familiar. Each puzzle hands you a set of tools you can grab, Jammers that turn off objects in the environment, Connectors that link beams, Hexahedron which are just boxes, and fans which push you and objects around. The major obstacles you'll face are force field barriers, roaming, floating, homing mines, and auto-turrets. This is where the similarities to Portal end. Portal is fairly three dimensional because of the portal gun; the Talos Principle is fairly two dimensional because your robot isn't very agile. Portal makes you beat each level before going to the next; the Talos Principle lets you tackle them in nearly any order. Portal's puzzles are mostly straight forward; the Talos Principle ...

Difficulty is obviously somewhat subjective so take what I say with a grain of salt but a quarter of the time I was left wondering if the solution I landed on was even what the developers intended or if I found an exploit. With maybe one exception, Portal and its sequel never had me spend a half-hour fruitlessly wandering back and forth through a puzzle trying to find something I missed. The Talos Principle made that my experience every third puzzle near the end of the game. What I'm trying to say is this is a hard game (or I'm stupid) and I think if it hadn't drawn me in as much as it did I wouldn't have finished it. I slapped my forehead a lot. I would have slapped the developer a few times if that had been an option. For all that it frustrated and humiliated me it was never unfair. It never asked me to do anything that I should not have known about or hit me with a gotcha. Success, when I came upon it, was earned.

Themes

And here we come to the part where it's hard to explain without spoilers. As you make your way through the game, slowly assembling clues and getting a picture of what you are and where you are and why any of this is happening, you are going to be asked two questions: what makes a person a person and what are your moral obligations to people? These aren't just idle queries, you will have to come up with answers within the frame work of the dialog trees. It's reductive but effective at making you really think about the questions. Are you (the robot in the game) a person worthy of moral consideration? What are you (the person playing the game) obligated to? Humans? Animals? Robots? Yourself? There are like three other philosophical threads woven into the game but it would be hard to describe them without spoilers. Fair warning, if it wasn't obvious already, existentialism is slathered all over this plot.

Behind the philosophy is a tone of melancholic hope. If you think that's a contradiction of terms all I can say is that the Talos Principle managed it despite that. The depth of loss and the optimism for the future are so starkly at odds without actually contradicting each other. Playing this game hurt. It frustrated me, and made me feel intensely lonely, and it made me tear up with pride in the human race, and it annoyed me with silly Easter eggs that were way to hard to find. It's easily the most aggravating experience I would still highly recommend.

Also the soundtrack is really good too.

Conclusion

If you like puzzle games, serious challenge, or just have a lot of time to kill I would suggest picking this game up in the next Steam Sale. It won't be for everyone but for the people with the temperament to finish it I'll bet it goes in their top 20 games.