The Talos Principle 2 review: Presence of mind

The Talos Principle 2 is an ambitious sequel that builds upon the original with layers of narrative depth and thought-provoking puzzles that will break your brain in a good way.

Devolver Digital

In 2014, Croteam captured the minds and hearts of puzzle game aficionados worldwide with the release of both The Talos Principle and its mini-game prelude, Sigils of Elohim. Now, nearly a decade later, the studio has built an ambitious sequel for players to delve into, complete with the deep philosophical themes and intricate puzzles that made the first installment unique. The sequel stays true to its origins while building upon its foundations with fresh gameplay mechanics and a thoughtfully crafted, character-driven narrative.

Idols of the cave

An image of a robot looking at several humanoid statues, one with a staircase for an arm.

Source: Devolver Digital

The Talos Principle 2 picks up right where the first game left off. The opening of the sequel will be immediately familiar to those who played the first game, as it begins with a handful of environmental puzzles for players to solve amidst Egyptian-themed ruins, with the voice of Elohim echoing throughout. It is not long until players are thrust into the real world, a robotic civilization that reflects the ingenuity of humankind through its advanced structures and sentient mechanical citizens. Although biological humans have long been extinct, humanity lives on through generations of citizens living in New Jerusalem, a city designed for and inhabited by conscious robots.

The puzzles from the past turn out to be merely part of a computer simulation, one that spurred the early stages of robot civilization. Shortly after solving the introductory puzzles, players awaken as an android aptly named 1K, the 1000th and final citizen to be officially brought to life in the city. After effectively getting red-pilled and being brought up to speed, players have a chance to explore the city and get to know its residents. However, the pristine veneer of New Jerusalem begins to show its cracks both politically and socially as you learn about the city’s history through its artifacts and inhabitants. It turns out that your “birth” has fulfilled the city’s overarching objective, The Goal: reach 1000 citizens and then stop expanding. Issued by the Founder and enforced by the mayor, the Goal is intended to protect society from suffering the same demise as humans. Society is at an ethical turning point, and you have arrived just in time to make a major contribution to its future.

After a mysterious entity crashes your birthday parade, several citizens gather to embark on an expedition beyond the dome of New Jerusalem to investigate the source of the entity. As the newest member of society, 1K’s perspective is seen as the most objective, prompting the powers that be to see you as a valuable asset for the expedition.

Machine learning

A puzzle in The Talos Principle 2 showing laser beams shining through a driller hole.

Source: Devolver Digital

Part of what made The Talos Principle a hit was its plethora of challenging environmental puzzles. Luckily, the sequel has plenty of puzzles for players to tackle throughout its sprawling semi-open world. Puzzles are housed within a dozen biomes that are connected to a massive central Megastructure via a railway system, which you will use to travel between regions. The hub-and-spoke layout of the world makes traveling between biomes a cinch. The vast landscapes and stunning vistas make for some picturesque moments accompanied by moody melodies that set the tone for each region. The newly added photo mode offers several filters, frames, and other tools for editing screenshots and documenting your exploits. Although I had only expected to use photo mode to take the occasional HUD-free screenshot, I ended up spending more time in photo mode than I had anticipated, as I enjoyed toying around with different poses and props for 1K.

The sequel builds upon the formula of the original with new gameplay mechanics that will put your problem-solving skills to the test. On top of redirecting laser beams and rotating Sigils, puzzles now incorporate elements like mental teleportation and gravity manipulation. Each region contains nearly a dozen puzzles to solve, along with secrets that act as rewards for going off the beaten path.

An image of a large metal door with a robot figure on the front within the Megastructure of The Talos Principle 2.

Source: Devolver Digital

Puzzles in The Talos Principle 2 range from surprisingly simple to brain-breakingly challenging. Oftentimes, the seemingly simple puzzles end up being the toughest to solve. Although the main puzzles are numbered, they can be completed in any order, giving players the freedom to explore and solve puzzles at their own pace. Completing puzzles grants Sigils that are used to construct a bridge to reach and activate a massive tower in each region.

When getting stuck in a puzzle game, it is nice to have some sort of hint system to nudge you in the right direction when needed. The Talos Principle 2 has a very modest hint system that simply displays what certain objects do upon picking them up and can be turned off in the settings. When a puzzle has you truly stumped, you can use a Prometheus Token to skip the puzzle and mark it as solved. Tokens are scarce, so finding them typically involves extensive exploration of each region. The few Tokens I had accumulated came in handy for bypassing some of the tougher head-scratchers near the end and I found them to be an elegant way to prevent the more challenging puzzles from inhibiting game progress.

The Socratic method

A screenshot depicting a conversation with Byron in The Talos Principle 2.

Source: Devolver Digital

Along with mind-bending environmental puzzles, The Talos Principle 2 presents a variety of conceptual puzzles for players to work through. The compelling narrative delves into questions that arise from ethics, consciousness, and the pursuit of knowledge. The issues that the citizens of New Jerusalem face are inherently philosophical in nature, and players can navigate such queries by deploying philosophical concepts through dialogue and social interactions. The game has multiple endings, and how you choose to respond during certain conversations can have ramifications for the future of the city.

Every character you meet has a unique personality and perspective on the matters affecting them the most. Characters are brought to life by exceptional vocal performances that are marred by occasional audio skips that cause speech to get cut off mid-sentence. Fortunately, the game tracks every conversation you have via an in-game text log, so you can review any dialogue that may have been cut short.

Mind over matter

An image of 1K with a cat on their back overlooking scenery in The Talos Principle 2.

Source: Devolver Digital

Despite the occasional audio glitch or technical hiccup, The Talos Principle 2 stays faithful to the original while elegantly iterating upon all aspects of the game like a cleverly designed nesting doll. With its compelling narrative, complex characters, and perplexing puzzles, the sequel has exceeded my expectations on all fronts. This game is a testament to the art of thoughtful and immersive storytelling, with thought-provoking environmental puzzles that rival those of Portal and other icons of the genre. Navigating the philosophical labyrinth that is The Talos Principle 2 has been captivating, satisfying, and well worth the wait.

This review was based on a digital code provided by the publisher. The Talos Principle 2 releases on November 2, 2023 for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

Contributing Editor

Larryn is a freelance contributor who creates video game guides and reviews for Shacknews and has more than a decade of experience covering games across various outlets. When she's not gaming, Larryn can often be found watering houseplants, playing D&D, or teaching her cats new tricks.

  • Vast semi-open world with gorgeous scenery
  • Fleshed out characters with great voice acting
  • Puzzles are challenging and satisfying to solve
  • Player controlled pacing
  • Compelling narrative
  • Lovely soundtrack
  • So much cat love!
  • Dialogue audio cuts off occasionally
  • Game crashed a couple times
  • Wanted more internal monologue
From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 2, 2023 9:00 AM

    Larryn Bell posted a new article, The Talos Principle 2 review: Presence of mind

    • reply
      November 2, 2023 9:04 AM

      Hell yeah!!!

      I also love that there are characters instead of being alone

    • reply
      November 2, 2023 9:09 AM

      I hope the fix the stuttering on pc.

      • reply
        November 2, 2023 9:12 AM

        Yes, look forward to the game but good lord that stutter was bad. I even tried to minimize it via settings changes to stabilize the frame rate but it didn't work. So my guess is it's our old favorite shader cache stutter.

      • reply
        November 2, 2023 8:09 PM

        It stuttered for me for the first 60 sec after launching but then got 100% smooth.

    • reply
      November 2, 2023 7:53 PM

      Bonkers good looking game

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