In a creative leap as big as the one Naughty Dog made when they expanded their horizons from the platforming games of Jak & Dexter to the more cinematic and narrative driven Uncharted franchise, game developer Croteam has made a similar leap up from their Serious Sam shooters to the puzzle / adventure game titled, “The Talos Principle.”
Talos in Greek mythology is the Man Of Bronze. If you have ever caught the 1963 stop motion Ray Harryhausen classic fantasy flick – Jason And The Argonauts – then you know in Greek mythology he is a gigantic bronze statue. In the movie he guarded the treasure island of the gods and seemed an undefeatable foe. Yet, Jason discovered that Talos could be defeated, not by brute force but rather by brains. Seems old Talos had an Achilles Heel, if you will, and Jason used that fact to defeat him.
Croteam has pulled off that rare feat of crafting a game that engages you not only with it’s gameplay but pulls you in with the mystery of the story. Where did this world come from? What happened to its builders? Why are Artificial Intelligences(AIs) being created to search out and solve the puzzles left behind?
Others reviewers have noted that Talos feels like a mix of Myst and Portal and I wholeheartedly concur. Talos feels like a marriage of those two games capturing the best qualities of both. There is a sense of wonder and awe, tinged with sorrow, as you wander through ruined levels that use elements of Greek / Roman / Egyptian architecture but you realize they are recreations – some form of holographic projections as you see, and hear, glitches in the environment. Sometimes glitches in the system even let you see ghostly afterimages of your predecessors! Along with the terminals you access, there are robotic sentry drones and light powered door locks. The past and future clash to create very intriguing environments and a compelling game playing atmosphere.
“Croteam has borrowed from the gods and used not only Greek Mythology but dashes of other ancient cultures such as the Egyptians and Stephen King’s – The Dark Tower to fashion a very engaging game.”
You play the game as an AI – just one in a long line of previous units – resurrected by a God-voice deity known as Elohim. He has sent you out to discover the secrets and solve the mysteries of the world. It appears you are in the world’s ultimate Alexandrian library where collecting sets of Tetris shaped sigils allows you to open up more levels and access tools such as light beam connectors, blocks, fans, and other items that you need to solve the more progressively difficult puzzles. Along the way you find bar code signs that turn out to be messages left by fellow AIs. You even get to leave your own such messages! Seems Elohim has sent out many AIs like yourself on a similar quest. This bit of knowledge and the edict that you avoid the Tower cause you to question Elohim’s motivations. And his sanity.
When I first started up the game on the PS4, my initial impression of the game was not good. There was a horrible visual glitch that caused the game to stutter badly when looking around. Turned out this was due to a ‘Snap To Horizon,” option under the visuals for menu. Turned that off and voila! – the game’s graphics become liquid smooth. Not sure why anyone would want this option turned on. It’s a horrible game immersion breaker. The game runs at 1080p and 60FPS. If there are any frame drops they are unnoticeable or happen during transitional moments and so have no game playing impact.
Croteam have used the Serious Engine 4 to great impact with this game. The visuals and the lighting, especially, are fantastic. No doubt the fact that game playing world is a series of ruined structures – based on a series of assets that can be cleverly reconfigured and reused over and over – has helped Croteam hit the hot button resolutions and frame rates. The game engine is able to utilize high res textures which really make the ruins looks authentic via weathering effects.
Another big plus is on the audio side of things. As appropriate, each world contains ambient noise, wind, glitch noises, and crickets. OK, maybe a bit too much with the crickets. The sound effects really help make the various worlds come to life. Also, very appropriate is the game soundtrack which evokes imagery of Greek Gods and mythology with its choral anthems mixed with harps. It really helps inspire the proper feelings. Also impressive are the looping segments during level play that are repeated but never irritate.
The PS4 version also includes the DLC content – The Road To Gehenna – aka – The Road To Hell. With over a 120 puzzles in this package, that’s a lot of bang for your game playing buck. The balance they have attained with all aspects of this game is a showcase of their various talents. The gameplay, visuals, audio, game atmosphere, and storytelling form a joyous, orchestral experience for game players.
Action junkies will probably come away underwhelmed but if you are looking for a change of pace in your game playing regime this thoughtful, Carl Sagan Cosmos-like experience is a wonderful candidate to consider. Naughty Dog went on from “Uncharted,” to create the masterpiece, “The Last Of Us.” Will Croteam follow a similar evolving game creation path? I’m keeping my fingers crossed and can’t wait to see what they have next in their pipeline.
***A PS4 review code was provided by the Publisher***
- Wonderfully realized world
- Clever puzzles
- Engrossing story
- ?Why are there so many crickets
- !Some puzzles are insane
- ?Did I mention the crickets