REVIEW: The Talos Principle II (PS5)
November 19, 2023
Written by Jamie Galea
As far as first person puzzle games go, The Talos Principle was a fantastic time, especially given it’s surprising origins. You wouldn’t think Serious Sam developers Croteam could make a philosophically charged puzzle game, but they did, and its combination of devious puzzles and exceptional writing made for a great time. While it’s been a nearly a decade since the original release, and many years since it was actually announced, The Talos Principle II is a great follow up that’s been well worth the wait.
Taking place years after the original game, you play as 1K, the one thousandth new citizen to be born into New Jerusalem, whose birth completes the prophecy of the founders of the city. You’ll learn very quickly that New Jerusalem is a city that has more than a few problems, and your birth while momentous, causes some doubt as to what the citizens do from there. Not too long after your birth, 1K and several other members of New Jerusalem are whisked into a new island filled with puzzles, mysteries and possibly the salvation or destruction of civilization.
The solitude and isolation of the previous game being traded for a lot more story, cutscenes and characters initially gave me a lot of pause, but much like that last game, the writing and voice acting generally work really well and feel natural. There’s a great sense of mystery present throughout, and the game does a good job making you want to learn more about what’s going on with the world. It doesn’t take super long to get into the meat of the game either, both as far as puzzles go and philosophy go, which is amazing.
Though don’t worry if you’ve never played the previous game in the series or the Road to Gehenna DLC – one of the first things past the tutorial is someone who’ll be more than happy to explain the backstory of the world and the events of the previous game, at length if you choose. There are a few things you’ll appreciate more having played that original game, but don’t consider it a pre-requisite if you just want to dive in here.
Probably the thing that’s most striking about The Talos Principle 2 is that it immediately wants to start throwing in all new items to compliment the existing ones. Some of the early ones you’ll encounter include an RGB Converter (mix two colours to get a third) and a quantum drill (which can open holes in solid walls). Not only are you having to learn very quickly how these new items work, but you’re also having to find how they work best with the existing items.
It can feel like a lot, especially since the game is more than happy to throw you a bit deeper than you were expecting when you’re just knee deep in learning how an item can be applied to any given situation. The puzzles are pretty good about placing no pressure on you thankfully, as there’s no puzzles that require specific timing or put you under a timer, so you can take as long as you want without stress. Solving them though? Some of the greatest feelings of joy I’ve had in a game all year.
While the puzzles are challenging, the overall design of each world means that if something is giving you too much strife, there’s no shame in walking away and trying something else for a bit. Not to mention any puzzle can be approached in any order, so you can start each world with the last puzzle if you really feel like you want to challenge yourself with the newer items.
Arguably the thing that’s maybe soured the experience at all has been the larger hub worlds. It’s a strange thing to bring up, but hear me out. While Croteam have always been big fans of giant levels, there’s always been something to do in them, and they usually serve the purpose of populating them with lots of enemies that force you to move around.
The thing is, The Talos Principle II isn’t at all like Serious Sam. Where in the previous games the hubs were small and it was easy to access each level, the hubs are now much bigger and it means levels are more spread out. You’ve got a sprint button to get to each level quicker, but unless you’re going out of your way to hunt down all the extra items and levels, it just seems really superflous.
There is one upside to these larger levels though. As you explore each hub, you’ll run into your party where you can talk to them, get to know them a little more and discuss the events of the story thus far. I like this approach, making the hubs feel just a little bit more alive and fleshes out your companions to be more than just voices in your head.
The Talos Principle II is just about everything I would’ve wanted out of a sequel to the original game. While it might be a bit too big for what it is, everything in there works super well: from the writing, to the puzzles and the overall sense of mystery. If you’re in need of a great puzzle game right now, I can’t recommend The Talos Principle II enough.
The Talos Principle II was reviewed on a PS5 using review code provided by the publisher. For more puzzling opinions, follow Jamie on Threads!