Earlier last month I was able to go hands-on with a preview build of The Talos Principle II by Croteam and Devolver Digital. This sequel to the 2014 original game is everything I had hoped for, and then a whole lot more. The game has finally launched worldwide this morning on PC, Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5, and puzzle game fans are in for an awesome time with increased puzzle complexity and an engaging and expanded story. If ever there was a puzzle game that could seriously contest for game of the year, The Talos Principle II is it.
You don’t need to have played the first game though knowledge of how the puzzle devices operate certainly will help get over the initial learning curve. The starting sequence of puzzles is a welcoming one for newcomers and veterans alike as it feels very much like playing the first game. You gain access to a set of puzzles and completing them in order gives you puzzle pieces. Visually it all looks the same just with much better graphics. These puzzle pieces unlock the next set of puzzles, and so on goes the gameplay loop of the original game. Once you’ve passed this first section, you awaken and are informed that you are a product of a scientist named Alexandra Drennan.
Drennan created a program to develop artificial life in the form of thinking, feeling androids, to continue human’s legacy beyond their extinction due to a deadly pandemic and global warming. We find out we are called 1K, representing the thousandth, and final child of the project. Each android has a unique personality, and the lower numbered androids, the originals, are all revered. As you solve puzzles, you’ll get fully voice acted comments and conversations with the androids about the situation unfolding in front of you, and of the grander story with a mysterious being called Prometheus.
Starting in the robot city of New Jerusalem, you have a lot of freedom to explore these much more expansive zones in first or third-person perspective. Once you progress the story a little and start to explore the areas surrounding a mysterious megastructure, you’ll come across the first of several puzzle clusters. These are groups of eight puzzles with an additional two lost puzzles and a gold puzzle to really test your puzzle solving skills. The main eight puzzles are required to progress to the next area, with the three other puzzles being optional and initially I left them to come back later with more knowledge.
As I ran from one puzzle to the next, I heard this sound that was get louder and softer as I moved around. Eventually I came across an orange glowing particle object called a prometheus spark. These can be used to bypass a puzzle if you are struggling with it, and I’m not ashamed to admit I used two of them on puzzles 1-7 and 1-8. They had me stumped for a good 30-minutes each, so I chose to bypass to move on to the next sequence and progress the story. A transport vehicle allows you to move freely amongst the clusters you have unlocked allowing you to go back to puzzles you missed earlier.
Solving the core 8 puzzles opens a gate allowing you to start crossing the water towards the large pyramid, however you need to place connecting puzzle pieces to build and cross sections of the bridge. It was similar to using puzzle pieces to unlock new areas in the first game, and you can rotate and roll the objects to form the connections between bridge pieces. It was a cool nod to the first game while iterating the formula, which was a common theme throughout the game. Take what worked well in the first game and add some twists and enhancements to use in this game.
Puzzle complexity in The Talos Principle II increased quickly once at the second cluster of puzzles, and there were a few evenings where I had to log out absolutely stumped. By playing in the review period, there’s no YouTube videos I could look up for a hint for how to do this next section, and my tiny brain was challenged extremely well. Advanced laser connectors can combine red and blue laser beams to create a green one, and vice versa to go from green to red/blue, while a driller can create a portal-like hole in certain wall pieces but needs direct line of sight. These holes are too small for you to walk through, and we can’t crouch but you can pass items devices through them to use on the other side.
Completing the third cluster opened a section of the megastructure and the story takes off on some awesome tangents at these points. Considering each android is uniquely voice acted, the emotion and personality they each convey in parts is believable and I was sucked right into the well-paced storylines. Some puzzle games have a connecting story but it’s often just enough to take you from A-B, however this story, similar to the first game, has you thinking about it long after logging off. There’s a good balance of biomes with forests, snowy mountains and desert oasis as you progress through, helping to stave off any feeling of repetition.
There were some puzzles where I just could not work out how to solve them and was tearing my hair out trying all sorts of angles. While other puzzles I slowly chipped away at and progressively advanced through the puzzle layouts, making use of the new tools provided to us. It is so satisfying putting multiple processes together to finally solve one you’ve been stumped on for ages. Then there were some that seemed completely logical, but I reckon it was a bit of dumb luck too and maybe I wasn’t as tired that night. Either way, it is super satisfying to make my way through each puzzle and each cluster and was rewarded with more story progression. The whole story was amazing. The last level of eight multi-dimensional puzzles were all interconnected to make them work.
Overall, The Talos Principle II is my clear game of the year so far and is a vast step up from the first game in graphics, gameplay and story. Whilst feeling familiar at first, the game really opens up once you arrive at New Jerusalem and start exploring. Voice acting for the androids is superb and the graphics are outstanding, with many scenes stopping me in my tracks to take screenshots. While the game won’t appeal to some but for me, if ever there was a puzzle game that could seriously contest for game of the year, The Talos Principle II is a piece of art.