It took only an hour or so for The Talos Principle 2 to get me hooked. The sequel to Croteam’s 2014 puzzle game promised bigger worlds and notoriously tough brain teasers.
For the most part, those expectations were indeed met. From gorgeous locations and delightful characters, to numerous mechanics that you need to master just to solve problems, The Talos Principle 2 manages to surprise in many ways.
Still, I did encounter a few technical issues during the course of my playthrough. I also had some qualms with how several tasks were meant to be completed.
A Brave New World
The Talos Principle 2 is set millennia after the events of the first game, well after humanity has perished. You take on the role of 1K, the one-thousandth robot created from a program developed by a scientist named Alexandra Drennan.
Upon awakening from slumber in a simulation (with some nods to the original game), you’re greeted by countless sentient machines, all of whom now populate the city of New Jerusalem. However, the celebration is cut short when a being known as Prometheus appears out of nowhere, urging the droids to seek out his mysterious island.
This sets the stage for an expedition into the wilderness, an adventure where you explore the world around you just as much as philosophical musings. What is the difference between free will and freedom? What is the purpose of your existence? Are the robots meant to follow preconceived rules or should they continue to advance?
These questions and more are often presented as you advance further in the campaign, making you think twice about your character’s motivations and role in this futuristic society.
As you ponder these thoughts, you also bear witness to gargantuan towers and megastructures, such as a pyramid-like building that seems to have been constructed by a more advanced civilization.
Along the way, you learn about past events, such as retellings of a bygone age, back when humans were still around. Likewise, you’re told about the Founder and the Disciples, along with other characters that are important to the lore.
To be clear, I did play The Talos Principle a couple of years after it came out, though I wasn’t able to finish it. Nevertheless, The Talos Principle 2’s narrative didn’t necessarily leave me confused or bewildered.
I also found the banter among expedition members highly amusing. The supporting characters that join your trek all have distinct personalities, such as the brash and cynical Melville, the redoubtable Byron, and the cat-loving Yaqut. Similarly, I enjoyed interacting with the other robots in New Jerusalem. These include private messages that lead to objectives, and even social media posts. The world of The Talos Principle 2 never felt lonely as I completed tasks throughout the campaign.
Exploring the Unknown
The Talos Principle 2, as mentioned earlier, is bigger and bolder than before. The capital of New Jerusalem can be explored in certain segments, though most of the campaign takes place on the aforementioned island. The island is divided into each of the four cardinal directions and contains three sectors each (for a total of 12). Along with the Megastructure, there are also important locations that you’ll stumble upon, though I won’t spoil those here.
Each sector is semi-open-world with a particular biome or theme. These range from verdant grasslands and fetid marshes to mountainous ridges, snow-capped peaks, and rocky canyons. Upon arriving at a zone, you’ll notice smaller puzzle areas dotting the countryside, as well as other points of interest.
The locations themselves are uniquely themed and visually appealing. I found myself eager to venture forth in search of landmarks and secrets. It helps that performance was also respectable.
I have an Nvidia RTX 3080 and Intel 10900-K, and I didn’t notice egregious framerate drops at all. There were, however, some issues. I’ve noticed object pop-ins happening at certain points, which tend to be somewhat glaring. I’ve also experienced a few crashes while playing. On the bright side, the game frequently autosaves, so I hardly lost progress.
Peak Puzzle Presentation
The meat and potatoes of the gameplay in The Talos Principle 2 involve puzzles, and there are a lot of these. Each zone has a cluster consisting of eight “normal” puzzles, which appear numbered on your map. Likewise, there are two “Lost Puzzles,” which tend to be tougher, and a “Golden Puzzle,” which is the most challenging type.
The goal is to complete eight puzzles of any type in the cluster so you can access the tower in that location. You can tackle these in any order, though puzzles #1 to 3 are usually the easiest given that new mechanics are introduced. Venturing deeper into the tower and Megastructure is also when Tetrominoes come into play, though they act as blocks that form bridges.
As for mechanics and features, these involve the use of various tools that refract different colors of light (i.e. red, blue, and green), and you’ll essentially connect beams as you go along. However, each zone also focuses on a particular device.
For example, one grasslands sector predominantly has brain teasers that use the Driller, which can bore holes through walls. In the snow-covered north, one zone made use of Droid Backups, duplicates of 1K that you can control. In another area, the tasks relied mostly on Item Swappers, where you had to bring a tool that could be exchanged for something else you needed.
Other devices, such as Teleporters, Gravitational Floors, and Room Rotators, are introduced the further you are in the campaign. These and many more are used in conjunction with core mechanics, leading to deeply engaging and, at times, frustrating moments. I must admit that there were times when I spent over 20 minutes on a single puzzle just because I was stumped.
The Talos Principle 2 Review | Final Thoughts
Apart from the smaller puzzle areas in each zone, there are also the aforementioned points of interest or landmarks. For instance, Lost Labs and Terminals provide more backstory and lore. Monuments, meanwhile, are akin to world/environmental puzzles, where you have to check the entire location for clues. There are also Prometheus Sparks that can be obtained, which let you instantly solve a puzzle.
Perhaps my only gripe when it comes to The Talos Principle 2 is how tasks are meant to be completed. There were certainly a few objectives that really stumped me. However, I’ve also been told that there are a few progression-blocking bugs (which are supposed to be fixed in time for the launch). I genuinely can’t say which ones were bugged and which ones were unbelievably obtuse.
The other facet is that there’s very little creativity involved when it comes to player input. Puzzle solutions tend to be fixed or set in stone, with almost no wiggle room or flexibility. One can contrast it with The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, which had more freeform solutions for shrines, giving me and other players all the opportunities to let our imagination run wild just to complete objectives.
The Talos Principle 2 was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the publisher over the course of 25 hours of gameplay. All screenshots were taken during the process of review.
- Semi-open-world filled with interesting secrets
- Numerous puzzles that use crafty mechanics and devices.
- A deeply engaging mystery that you can unravel.
- Meaningful philosophical discussions presented by various characters.
- Extremely strict solutions with little to no creative input from the player.
- Certain puzzles are somewhat obtuse, not sure if progression-blocking bugs.
- Interiors such as labs and other facilities look drab.
- Outdated character models and clunky animations.