Review: The Talos Principle (Croteam)



Wow, that took a while. I kind of zoned out and forgot to finish this review, but then a flurry of activity in the comments (apparently due to the game) made me decide it was time to stop loafing about.

I’m not exactly a great gamer. I played Myst and Riven back in the day, but it seems my brain cells have decayed a fair bit since then! That is to say I struggled badly with some of the puzzles… but I refused to give in an use a walkthrough. And unlike Myst and Riven, I actually finished this game!

And what did I think of it, I hear my near-nonexistent readership ask.

I liked it. It wasn’t what I expected, but it’s interesting.

To be fair, I’m not sure what I expected, precisely. I mean, how do you adapt a philosophical principle into a game? I expected something on the educational side. Instead, I got sort of a classic sci-fi story that uses the Talos Principle more as a lens through which to consider the various ideas presented than as an historical subject. There are some interesting biographical bits about Straton of Stageira himself in there, so that’s cool, but the game is more concerned with materialism and the impact of the principle on its characters. So – how do you deal with death when it suddenly becomes very real? How do you think about civilization when your own existence is so limited? And so on.

The game doesn’t exactly take sides or argue for a single specific philosophy, but it doesn’t sink into the mire of postmodernist wishful thinking, either. It does assert the existence of a single, specific, observable reality – it just wants you to figure out for yourself what it all means. Straton would approve. It’s also rather positive on the subject of the human species, which I found refreshing.

I should mention that I didn’t get all the stars, and I did end up watching the third ending on YouTube. Some of the secrets are just too well-hidden for me, I guess. The built-in hint system is also somewhat bizarre, but it didn’t actively bother me or anything. The graphics were pretty, the music was excellent, and the voice acting was much better than in any of the games that I played when I was younger. I can even say that I was genuinely moved by some of it, which I did not expect.

All in all, I’m glad this exists.

Review: The Talos Principle (Wordsworth Classics)



As cheap versions of classics go, the Wordsworth editions are usually quite decent. The quality of the paper is not superb, the fonts are a little small, but none of it ruins the book. If you don’t fetishize books as objects in themselves, and want an affordable edition of Straton, this is really OK. I’ve read some of my favourite books in Wordsworth Classics editions.

The introduction is simple and straightforward, the annotations limited but at least not offensive, and the translation, while archaic, is very pleasant. I can’t claim Straton would be amazed, but he’d probably be satisified. Especially at these prices!

(Apologies for the shitty image, but it seems there aren’t any Wordsworth covers in normal quality to be found on the internet. These editions aren’t exactly famous for their good looks, anyway, though I find them charming.)

Review: The Talos Principle (Penguin Books)


The Talos Principle

So I found this dodgy old Penguin Books version of The Talos Principle in a bookshop the other day and thought I’d puke up some thoughts. (Sorry, I just saw David Cameron on the telly and I feel sick. It’s not Penguin’s fault.)

It’s not a bad collection, I’ll give them that. It has all the texts except the most recent still-not-entirely-confirmed ones from Oxyrhynchus (which is fine), an excellent translation, good annotations, and a couple of fairly decent essays on Straton.

I would have preferred a better introduction, one that really gave readers a clear idea of Straton’s place in the history of philosophy, especially his influence on modern materialist thinkers both of the Left and the Right. He may be mostly forgotten, but his influence does linger in unexpected corners.

(I also think it would’ve made more sense to call this The Complete Works or something like that, but I guess going with the best-known title is reasonable enough.)

All in all, I was much happier with this edition than the last one I found, which contained an introduction by the notorious imbecile Prof. J. Schofield, whose work on Straton is the philosophical equivalent of Robert Service’s attempts to re-assassinate Trotsky. Quibbles aside, this version should allow a regular reader to get a good idea of why Straton is such a fascinating writer. Recommended.