In many ways, The Talos Principle was a game about solidarity in being solitary. Its worlds were beautiful but unmistakably barren of genuine life. That was kind of the point. You had to feel comfortable by yourself, focused on the task at hand and only occasionally touching upon messages left by those facing the same trials.
That isolation worked because its locations were fairly contained. You were rarely more than a moment from the next puzzle; the next goal to consume your attention. Discovering a QR code, terminal, or voice recording – not to mention the numerous easter eggs – in the moments between supplied just enough of a connection to dispel the idea that you were ever truly alone. Cocooned, yes, but not the only one.
So when The Talos Principle 2 teased larger, more open environments and an expanded world with multiple voiced characters, it was a little concerning. It felt like a rejection of the atmosphere which made the original so special. But thankfully, the more time I’ve spent with Croteam’s brain-testing sequel, the more it has won me over.
Its puzzles, and the manners in which you can beat or even break them, are no less satisfying. But the world around them has definitely evolved. Each zone is now a sizable chunk of land, free for you to explore at your leisure. It’s impossible to get lost – signposts are dotted regularly along well-defined paths – but there’s a dramatic increase to the sheer amount of space available to wander. And wander it you will if you’re tempted into completing the optional extra challenges each region contains.
The original game gave only the briefest of interactions with another physical figure in the world. In stark contrast, The Talos Principle 2 throws you headfirst into a functioning robot society. Coming from the quiet contemplation of the original, it was, at first, a little jarring. But once you're released into the enigma-packed core of the game? The pieces begin to come together. That extra volume to each area feels like it necessitated (or perhaps was necessitated by) a more tangible sense of companionship.
Elohim and the musings of long-dead humans are no longer the only voices in your ear. Protagonist 1K is accompanied by a crew of fellow researchers who regularly chime in via comms. Complete a puzzle, and they’ll chime in with a word of praise or an update on the team’s progress. You can even encounter them in the world, stopping for a brief chat about recent events. The level of voice acting helps of course, making each member of your team immediately likable, even if you don’t agree with their overall motivations.
It’s not just your companions, though. Wildlife, too, calls this land its home. Frogs will leap into water as you approach; startle a deer and it’ll bound into the woodland. Stop to appreciate the beautiful locales and you might even spot butterflies flitting through the air. The scenery and structures you’ll encounter often give the impression of being ancient and overgrown, but you’re never left to feel lonely when roaming through them.
The Talos Principle 2 breathes so much more life into its world. And that feels like the point, too. For those who enjoyed the contemplative solo ambience of the original, the leap to its sequel may feel almost as large as the timespan between them. But change and progress are exactly the kinds of topics it wants you to consider. And at the end of the day, there are always the puzzles.