Ever wondered what it's like to be human? Ever wondered what makes us human and a toaster a machine? Ever wondered what makes us more than just biological goop wearing clothes? Neither have we, but The Talos Principle 2 is making us think about some of these philosophical questions with its excellent writing and complex conundrums, so we thought we'd make you ponder a few of our own.
The Talos Principle 2 is a first-person puzzle game from Croteam which follows on from the original's story. Sentient AI was created through a series of complex conundrums tasked to you by scientist, Alex Drennan. Several years later, after a deadly permafrost virus has wiped out biological human life, it's up to the "new humans" to begin civilisation afresh. You take on the role of the thousandth newly born and potentially last member of society, 1K. While in heated debate as to whether "new human" production should stop, now the goal set by Drennan has been reached, all is interrupted when Prometheus bursts from the clouds with an ominous speech. After returning to his distant isles, it's decided you'll join the exhibition crew on their journey to uncover what mysteries these islands hide.
The puzzle chamber mechanics from the first game return, with the familiar jammers, light reflectors, fans, blocks, and pressure plates all present here. You must use the gadgets presented to you to reach the tetromino piece or end goal, and then unlock a door or bridge using these tetrominoes in an additional puzzle to progress. It's a familiar formula by now, but the ways in which it's expanded upon in this sequel are both intuitive and charming. The sequel doesn't only build upon the original with all new mechanics, but also introduces some new tools to spruce up the original set. For instance, two that have elevated the light puzzles' complexity are the Light Absorbers, allowing you to collect a certain colour light which you can then transport and extract where required; and the Light Combiners, which turn two colours into a third, such as inputting blue and yellow to make green. The addition of these two components is enough to boggle a few brains and increase the complexity.
However, there has been a whole host of other new mechanics also introduced for the first time: Drills make holes in concrete walls, allowing objects to pass through; Mind Transference allows you to teleport between two robot shells to reach otherwise inaccessible areas; Trade Tables let you swap an object for the item presented on the table; and Gravity Manipulation allows you to adjust gravity to your needs. This is just a handful of the enjoyable new puzzle mechanics, introduced at a steady pace throughout your 20-to-30-hour playthrough, keeping it interesting.
The gameplay loop will see you visit three towers in each region (North, East, South, West), completing a total of eight puzzles per tower, making for a total of over one hundred unique chambers to complete. Thankfully, you won't be required to beat all of them to see the story through to completion, as you can always utilise your collectibles to unlock any puzzles you get stuck on, or try one of a handful of secret conundrums to replace the main path puzzle you may not be able to complete.
Outside of puzzle solving you'll also find collectibles to use as hints, abandoned labs with secret puzzles, detailed lore documents that elaborate further on past events, and you'll also be engaging in discussions with other "new humans" via a social networking application. Debating controversial topics appears to be this peoples' favourite pastime, and we can see why with such a broad range of fascinating topics — free will, death, freedom of speech, afterlife, human vs machine, etc. — and a wide range of dialogue options to best suit your opinions make it an even more enjoyable way to pass your time. A lot of these discussions go in-depth on philosophical issues that most of the NPCs will have differing views on, depending on their background. Can a robot be classed as a human if it's sentient and has all the knowledge humans had? The clever, funny writing of the debates, discussions, and conversations could carry this title alone, and yet there are some excellently designed puzzles that must be solved alongside.
Apart from the occasional visual glitch during cutscenes and frame rate drops when loading, we didn't notice any major issues. The game's environments and visuals are absolutely breathtaking, up there with some of the best on the platform. The mega structure and towers in all their glory fill entire screens, and can be seen throughout the entire biome. We could've easily spent several hours taking screenshots of that magnificent pyramid. Also, there’s an impressively wide variety of environments to roam from crisp, cold, and icy landscapes to woodland replete with deer and squirrels. Accompanied by the ambience and the delightfully tranquil soundtrack, and the entire game seems to come alive — which is ironic, considering most of the "living" things are now androids.
The Talos Principle 2 follows in its predecessor's shoes by nailing down a brilliant philosophical puzzle sequel with new and improved mechanics. If the puzzle solving doesn't get your brain ticking, then the in-depth philosophical discussions surely will. With exceptional puzzle design, glorious presentation, and thought-provoking conversations, Croteam has created a follow-up to be remembered for years to come.