If you’re a puzzle game aficionado and haven’t heard of The Talos Principle, you’ve probably been living in a cave. If you’re one and haven’t played the flat game, well, you’re probably me. As luck would have it, the crafty wizards at Croteam have successfully ported it to VR and I’m forever thankful that I actually hadn’t played the original yet.
A Tall Tale
The Talos Principle is a first-person puzzle game with an overarching theme of philosophy, set in ancient worlds, with contrasting sci-fi puzzle elements. It was initially released for PC in 2014 and has since been ported to other platforms. However, its virtual reality version is, by far, the one that does it full justice.
At the onset, the game asks: Who am I and why am I here? And while in the beginning this voice is faint, it grows louder as you scurry around each world, grasping for the whats and hows. It may seem a little dramatic to some, and I have to admit that at first, I myself ignored this aspect of the game. I just anxiously went into each puzzle and did what was necessary, rolling my eyes at parts that seemed arbitrary and skipped them when I could.
This game is huge, and the tale is indeed tall. There are a total of three main worlds (A, B and C) plus a final one. Each world houses seven areas, and each area has four or more puzzle rooms. With the addition of the Road to Gehenna DLC, the VR version offers four more worlds with 4 to 6 puzzles each, plus a bonus stage. But wait, there’s more: there are bonus levels which help solve the omni-puzzle. All of this makes for over 90 puzzles (!) and a staggering 20+ hours of gameplay in total and likely many more if you’re a completionist. Yep.
The game starts at World A, the ruins of an ancient Greco-Roman garden, with an introductory narrative. Then, you jump right into puzzle rooms, each with the objective of getting a 3D sigil straight out of Tetris. Puzzle rooms are laid out like a maze of walls, with some walls physical, and others are much like a force field which can be disabled with different tools.
At first, you’ll be supplied with one tool, the “jammer,” which opens electronic walls. As you progress, more and more tools are unlocked and used in different combinations. How they’re unlocked is another puzzle to solve. There are the expected physical constraints, and some appropriately juxtaposed high-tech obstacles.
Once you’ve collected your first set of sigils, you’re ushered into a hall where you can find numbered entrances, each leading to more puzzle rooms. The puzzles themselves range from “That was pretty obvious” to “WTF this is impossible. I’m gonna have to look it up LOL.”
The worlds are designed in specific themes, World B being the ruins of an Egyptian kingdom and World C a medieval one. I could go on about the philosophical bits and puzzle themes, but this game has existed for a few years now, and there’s a whole world of reviews and game guides out there.
The VR Principle
While the puzzles in Talos are legendary, the game also encourages exploration. As I went along, I became more curious about the environment. I wanted to interact with the world, and I was not disappointed. I went down its rocky cliffs and waddled in its waters. I climbed up as high as I could and marveled at it all. I got virtually soaked in its virtual weather’s rain. It’s not just a backdrop for the puzzles. It drives room-scale immersion home, a truly unique VR experience.
Exploration games in VR are notorious for nausea-inducing locomotion. Croteam was thoughtful enough to include a comfort setting and have been updating a lot of the movement controls, further refining them, which my stomach is very happy about.
Controls are so simple in Talos, you mostly only need the trigger to pick stuff up, drop them, or push some buttons. Although, I found some object interactions finicky and in need of precision. I wonder if it’s on purpose or just a matter of conversion from desktop, as I must admit it can break the immersion a bit, from my experience. However, it doesn’t change the fact that this game is far beyond what I imagined it to be, and that it’s miles ahead of all the other VR puzzlers out there.
What really blows my mind is that I can be in this world. I’m maneuvering these tools with my hands. I’m going up and down staircases and looking up to the sky for clues. I’m not just panning around. When I’m inside these ancient gardens and tombs, with the pillars and walls–all these ruins are in my periphery.
As of this writing, I’m well into (only) World B. I already feel that I’ve solved a lifetime of puzzles, and yet, I want a lifetime more. I don’t necessarily want to finish it soon. In fact, I plan to take the rest of it on in the following months, one or two puzzles at a time. I wonder, If I solve the final puzzle, will it ever end my pondering: Why am I here?
I personally find this game to be well beyond its worth in time and price. The level of detail is currently unmatched in the world of VR puzzles. If you’re ready for some brain exercise and a virtual scenic tour of the ancient world, then you’re ready for Talos Principle VR.
The Talos Principle VR is currently available on sale at $29.99 (regular price $39.99) on Steam, thanks to the Steam Autumn sale. Plus, we can applaud Croteam’s VR efforts with our wallets, so applaud away!