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.