Title: The Talos Principle: Road to Gehenna
Platform: PC/Mac/Linux (Steam – Reviewed on)
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release date: Out Now!
Family Friendly?: Click here
Having only recently stepped into the world of PC gaming, I like to consider myself a rather neutral force in submitting reviews. I’m not biased, I don’t come into the game with any expectations or comparisons towards other PC games and all in all, it’s actually quite fun for me.
In order to submit a fair review for The Talos Principle: Road to Gehenna, it was only fair that I pick up from the beginning and actually play the main game: The Talos Principle.
For those like me who were blissfully unaware, The Talos Principle and the subsequent DLC package I’m reviewing, is a first person puzzle platform game.
Developed by Croteam and written by Tom Jubert (FTL, The Swapper) and Jonas Kyratzes (The Sea Will Claim Everything), I knew I was in for a good mash up of puzzle gaming and decent scriptwriting. Previous works aside, you can never truly tell what a group of writers and/or creators are capable of until they come together and something actually happens; understandably, I felt confident in what I had committed to.
As soon as I loaded it up, I immediately thought of my time playing the Portal series on the Xbox. Apologies to go back on my earlier reference of not comparing games but the general feel as I took my first steps made me reminisce fondly on my time playing Portal. I suppose it was reasonable considering that I was playing a puzzle game in the first person; a natural comparison that from the offset, I somehow knew I was in for something fresh.
In fact, I felt that this was already off to a better start than the aforementioned game that I’ll endeavour to avoid making any further comparisons towards… a better start because I was left staring into the screen looking at a beautiful world, void of any grey testing facilities.
Anyway… in many ways, I felt that the first person aspect made me feel even more attuned to what was on offer (though 3rd person can be selected). I always find it more fascinating when you are actually in the eyes of the character, almost as if you are there. So I won’t lie, I proudly sat back in my chair and took it all in, quickly nipped into the kitchen to make a cup of tea and then focussed on what was in front of me… beverage in hand.
Once again… I strongly underestimated what I was playing. What I anticipated to be a quick puzzle game actually turned out to be a lot more than that. I had to take numerous trips to the kitchen for beverages and that was over the course of a good few days. The game is anything but a quick brain teaser, it’s a fully immersive, mind blowing puzzle game with a story that has (more than) a few philosophical layers to it.
A mysterious being, Elohim, begins to guide you through the game, instructing you to collect glyphs. Whilst that might sound extremely simple, it’s anything but in the long run. These glyphs require the player to think about how to collect them through a maze of puzzles. If I was to make one further comparison to a game, it’s actually one of my personal favourites Shadow of the Colossus; that’s simply because a voice guides you through a mysterious land and entices you into performing actions on its behalf.
Naturally, having realised in the aforementioned Shadow of the Colossus that I was a pawn, I have always been slightly on edge and reluctant to listen to big voices in the sky… but that didn’t do anything to sate my curiosity as to the nature of Elohim. What was its purpose? What was the end game? Better yet – why am I doing this?
“Uriel, awaken… the end of days is upon us…”
Trust me, the game did have a bit of a slower start where I actually felt like I was just wandering about doing nothing but it’s well worth sticking in there.
I implore you though – don’t let the build-up of my explanation put you off. It’s actually quite a serious storyline that leaves quite a lot to the imagination up until the end point, perhaps even after as well. It’s tough to describe in an overall summary but just think about a time in your life where a storyline has had you think long and hard. Perhaps even go away and think up your own explanation of things…
I felt like I was playing a book in many ways. A book that you can’t put down. A book where the young me, as a child, would read and re-read just to make sure I got the point and ask questions to the frustration of my parents, teachers in school and so on. That’s what this game felt like.
Too often, games can feel like the scripts are just words; meaningless words that drive a very shallow, empty storyline to an anti-climactic finish. The Talos Principle does the opposite. The words are deep in meaning, hinting towards the secrets behind the game that really keep you invested in what comes next. It was almost incentive for me to continue.
I was serious when I said I couldn’t put it down. I found myself sitting up in my office (on a Mac, not a laptop I’m afraid) until the long hours, much to the disapproval of my partner. I wished I could stream it to my iPad, play on the move and just continue the story in bed or on the move – unfortunately not possible for me though!
Not to mention that the puzzle nature of the game felt like I was constantly accomplishing something. All the small victories combined helped to encourage me as further incentive to move forward to the next area/puzzle.
That’s something I’ve not really touched base on yet – the puzzles.
Perhaps some people have a knack for it, me being one of them but the puzzles weren’t by any means ‘too hard’ and just when you might think that they start to get ‘too easy’ – you find that they aren’t. There is a good balance of rewarding puzzles and some less rewarding. I suppose it’s a good thing though, I guarantee that one puzzle I found quite hard, someone found easy and vice versa.
I will point out that some of the puzzles began to feel like a chore because of some minor feeling of repetitiveness but again, thankfully, never really at the expense of getting exaggeratedly bored.
There is a natural progression aspect as you cannot complete some puzzles until you’ve unlocked various sigils so you can’t pit your mind against the harder puzzles until you have ‘earned’ the experience.
Another plus point I might note is that there is nothing worse than getting stuck in a game where you cannot progress, especially in a story that you are beginning to get a feel for; so the good mix of easy, mediocre and challenging puzzles helped to make the game flow for me.
I might add that it was true, I am very new to PC gaming, with this being only the second game (plus DLC, I’ll get to it – promise) I’ve jumped into on the platform.
The game mechanics weren’t difficult by a long shot. Seasoned PC gamers or absolute amateurs could play it without feeling intimidated at the prospect. I’ll admit, that’s always been something that has quite often kept me away from PC gaming.
Anyway, I felt that worth mentioning because if I can jump into the game with ease, surely anyone can. If that truly is an intimidating factor for you – rest assured that the game is set to come out on PS4 later this year.
Without further ado… I’ll finally get on to the main part of the review, The Talos Principle: Road to Gehenna.
Firstly, I’ll apologise if it felt like I was only reviewing the main game… I appreciate that many readers will be solely interested in what the expansion has to offer.
Road to Gehenna followed the story of Uriel, one of Elohim’s messengers with a rather plot heavy opening where he advises that you have to “re-write his mistakes”, as stated in the original video.
A lot of the same is still featured in this expansion with the game world ‘glitches’, the QR codes containing lore etc. So all in all – it does feel like a continuation of the game rather than a spin off. It’s almost like playing in an alternative ‘world’. Slightly more depressing, downtrodden… the purgatory to the original.
Whilst I might have assumed earlier that the main game offered some rather easy puzzles – this one upped the bar a little.
I actually felt myself stopping to think about some of the puzzles with many traditional ‘penny dropping’ moments when it finally clicked.
Road to Gehenna provided more of a challenge, utilising all of the game’s mechanics in even more unique ways to get the player thinking. It actually felt like a very good puzzler.
Be forewarned that the increase in difficulty is great but make sure that you are in the mood for it – one night I actually dropped a few ‘F bombs’ because of my lack of mental capacity. The challenge was welcoming but admittedly quite frustrating after a long day at work!
One of my worries, understanding that Gehenna was an expansion, was the story. Often, additions and DLC can be a bit of a flop or empty to some extent.
An excuse to cash in and make a quick buck…
The main storyline was beautifully written with the (I’ll try to be as vague as possible) whole story of the fate of the human race, the path of artificial intelligence learning how to act independently and then ascension… so the expansion definitely follows through with the some level of continuity, largely gifted with the return the original writing duo of Kryatzes and Jubert.
I wouldn’t say it competes with the main game, having been blown away by that in the first instance but it certainly does add to it like an expansion should.
The Talos Principle: Road to Gehenna doesn’t try to be anything more than the main game, focussing on delivering a strong puzzle environment whilst cleanly assisting in expanding upon the creationist aspects of Elohim’s world instead of letting the original fall in it’s shadow. Too often, DLC tries to ‘one up’ the predecessor and make the original look weak/incomplete in the process.
I didn’t really get that feeling and almost felt like I was playing an extra chapter (or four essentially).
If I’m honest, I really enjoyed the experience of playing this game. To go back and reflect on my experiences without touching much of the story was tough because of the philosophical aspects (they would have turned this review into a dissertation worthy of a philosophy degree). Whether the combination of philosophy and puzzle games work, is entirely dependant on the player and probably won’t be welcomed if some people are adamant to compare to that which won’t be compared to again – and expect a comical sidekick to egg them on in the process.
I’ll quite happily say that playing these two games easily falls amongst some of my most enjoyable gaming experiences.
This is what gaming is all about to me.
A welcoming challenge, a deep storyline, memorable and not too linear in its execution.
- A stunning game world, welcoming on the eyes.
- A very well thought out, deep storyline. I still don’t know if I ‘got’ it!
- A good balance of fantastic puzzles with a real sense of accomplishment.
- Whilst a refreshing story, maybe too complex for most to appreciate or get hooked on.
- Very ‘samey’ feel with some of the easier puzzles albeit extremely addictive!
I would say no. The concept is far too complex for children, maybe even some adults. Put it this way, if your child plays this, gets it and then engages in an intellectual debate – sign them up for Mensa.
A code for the game was kindly supplied by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.