You awaken in the ruins of a civilization to a voice which immediately behaves as though he were the Almighty with the name Elohim (God) to boot. He doesn’t sound all that trustworthy but since the game gives you the desire to find out more about yourself it might be good to listen to him at least. You notice you are a humanoid machine and the ruins look like something out of a visit to the ancient ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii. Elohim directs you toward some simple tasks and puzzle solving that unlocks access to an old-school computer holding snippets of history but mostly the hope that you can learn more. Let the mystery of the self begin.
Talos has a visual impact that is impressive for its ability to draw you closer to surfaces you’d like to look at such as wall murals. Scans of real places give the atmosphere a bump in authenticity. Lots of clean lines. The overall feel is original even though familiar places are used. As well as this Roman backdrop you’ll puzzle through places reminiscent of Egypt and Medieval Europe as well. The visual presentation as a whole bespeaks some careful thought behind everything you look at, including how technology is integrated into this world.
With a more or less even mix of being showed around by Elohim and your own trial and error endeavors, you quickly learn how to handle the basics of the basics in puzzle solving and area navigation. It’s good that the first three areas are so small to give the player a hang of the overall gameplay experience. That is, in a nutshell, collecting from each area a relic (Tetris style shape of blocks) and slotting them into place to open up new challenges and places.
The puzzles force you to use what is available to advance while counteracting forces attempt to stop you. That makes it especially fun to use these systems against each other. As the difficulty rises you’ll have to use blocks, signal jammers, blind spots and anything else you can find to deal with robotic enemies, electric fields, turrets, and motion sensors. All the while you will be engaged mentally in the rather deep philosophical issues that are continually raised. I’ll spare you the lesson and just say it is multi-discipline when it comes to its heady life questions. The first challenge, for anyone really, is the “who or what am I?” question. You’ll want to find those computers to put the pieces together. You’ll also learn a bit about philosophy in general but the ancient knowledge is rife with all kinds of things useful and not.
Talos’ philosophical questions are intriguing but at the heart you still need a solid puzzler here right? With well over a hundred of them, cleverly implemented increasing perplexitude, and dopamine boosts of feeling good after each achievement I think it’s safe to say we have a well rounded and solid puzzler in this game. For each problem there seems to be something to neutralize it. As problems compound so too will your need to compound solutions in ways that stretch the imagination. To me that puts the challenges in that spot somewhere between facepalming and feeling quite brilliant. A good spot for a brain teaser no?
I give kudos to the audio gang on this project not for the phenomenal performances (though they are well done) but mostly for using the audio and voice work as the glue that attaches the philosophical plot to the environments, threats, and puzzles. The proper sound setup brings your mind to the right places in Talos and that makes a package out of it.
Talos had me thinking on a level that I am comfortable with and had me building Rube Goldberg type constructions to outwit tough spots. If given the choice, I would take this game over Q.U.B.E. There is just enough wiggle room in the puzzle solving to make the gamer feel less like they “put things together properly” and more like they “beat” something with their mind.