The Talos Principle’s Demo Will Test Your Humanity

You can now play a slice from The Talos Principle for free, if you like. Which I think you should, because a philosophical first-person puzzler from the makers of Serious Sam that seems genuinely awesome is as rare as a kirin in France. Editorial overlord John Walker says that The Talos Principle is a “surprising new direction” for Croteam. Gone are the guns, the manic humor. In their stead stands writing from Jonas Kyratzes and FTL’s Tom Jubert, neither of whom seem to be very frantic nor very frivolous. The “public test” will let you explore “four increasingly difficult complete puzzle levels.” Why? Because the developers want to use you and thousands like you for their additional stress and compatibility testing.

Why should you play this? Because it involves traversing a mysterious island in pursuit of answers to an omnipotent voice’s cryptic designs. This is also a game that questions your similarities to a frog. It checks to see if you’re human. It investigates you, even as you’re investigating it. Additionally, the game presents you the option to sift through consoles for metaphysical discussion and academic literature on ontological philosophy. Honestly. Just look at that.

Look at that. Is that not charming? Does it not make you want to break out the hipster scarf and the black-rimmed glasses, the old books on Greek poetry and the contemporary science manuals?

16 Comments

  1. Jim Rossignol says:

    This does seem like a fascinating prospect. PUTTING ON MY GAME SUIT RIGHT NOW.

  2. Monggerel says:

    Nah, I says it’s all just smokes and fancy mirrors.

  3. UncleLou says:

    Looks great, although the design of the floating whasitsface, the cubes and all sorts of other devices steps quite a bit over the Portal homage line and firmly into plagiarism territory.

  4. Shazbut says:

    I used to wish games would get philosophical until I realised that I only wanted them to be so on my terms. That second screenshot implies you’re encouraged to think / look deeply and then states some assumptions as fact. Presumably there isn’t scope to challenge or clarify definitions of “conscious” and “alive” in the game. It seems that if games go down the road of wanting the player to think in this way, eventually they have to stop at a shallower level than you otherwise there won’t even be space to have a game or tell any kind of story, and I think that’s only going to be frustrating.

    • willy359 says:

      Well, you do seem to be some kind of robot in this game, so you could wave away the philosophy by assuming that all your responses to these questions are pre-programmed anyway. As in reality, they are, by the game’s writers. How meta.

      Anyway, it’s a pretty impressive demo. The puzzles are easy, but hey, it’s level one. Looks great and runs slick on my antique computer. Will probably buy. Also: Thanks Croteam for remembering what a demo is. Why don’t games have these anymore?

    • JonasKyratzes says:

      What you’re seeing in the second screenshot is part of a debate; a discussion. The game isn’t trying to force ideas on you – but characters inside the game might be…

    • TJ says:

      ^^^ What Jonas said. In that frog dialogue it was John who claimed that frogs were conscious, and he was quite free to do otherwise. I would note, however, that there is broad academic consensus on frogs’ consciousness.

      “Presumably there isn’t scope to challenge or clarify definitions of “conscious” and “alive” in the game.” – This may prove to be a false presumption ;-)

      “It seems that if games go down the road of wanting the player to think in this way, eventually they have to stop at a shallower level than you…” – It’s true for practicality’s sake that you can’t argue every little detail of every topic in the game; but indeed it’s our hope the experience will leave players engaging more deeply with those topics than the game itself ever could.

  5. J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    I had no desire to play the game, but I always like to give demos a shot. Now, I’m completely sold on it. The puzzles are great, as is the music. There’s a hidden area to the demo, too, which I thought was a really nice touch.

    It was also interesting to browse the Stream forums and find someone that’d figured out some puzzles in a completely out-of-the-box way. It pushed me to play the whole thing again, and my second go-round I was able to find some things I’d missed, and solved a puzzle completely differently.

  6. Urthman says:

    Ok. I love this kind of thing and I’m interested in the puzzles, exploring and finding secrets, and in the bits of story and writing are intriguing so far. It’s really great to play a game where the writing is good and makes me more interested rather than less.

    I hope they do a little more integrating the setting, story, and puzzles. So far the island and castle and forest setting all seem like an arbitrary skin (attractive but a bit generic) that could just as well have been a Portal-ish sci-fi tech environment. That said, generic castle ruins is a lot more pleasant place to be solving puzzles than a generic warehouse.

    And they need some work on the interface. The hardest puzzle in the first section was just figuring out how to put a thing on a thing and turn it on at the same time. Are you supposed to stand on the thing? I’m still not quite sure how I did it.

    I’m also not sure how I feel about the similarities between this and The Witness. On the one hand I’m thrilled that we’re getting two games like this instead of just one. But is geometric logic puzzle boxes bolted onto pretty island ruins going to be a genre now? Maybe I hope so?

  7. caff says:

    Enjoyed the public test demo a lot. Not sure it’s worth a hefty £25-ish though.

    Seemed to draw me in more than Portal though… lovely music and something odd about the place.

  8. MickMick says:

    OP, is Kirin rare in France? It’s not particularly rare in Australia, maybe there’s a business opportunity to become a French distributor.

  9. RockPiLP says:

    Hopefully the demo will allow them to optimize the game better. It was unplayable on my machine (old Mac Pro, new Nvidia GPU, perfectly satisfactory for BF4… in Windows) in OSX, giving me nausea within a couple minutes, seldom going over 20fps, and crashing mercifully quickly.

    A pity, because it does sound quite intriguing.

  10. epressman617 says:

    I agree that there is a limit to the depth of any intellectual content in a video game, since you are limited to pre-programmed choices. Until we develop human level AI, this is unavoidable, since we will always be able to come up with other questions that the devs didn’t include for whatever reason (space/focus/just didn’t think of it)
    I don’t think, though, that this should count against a game that tries to explore something deeper than “kill all the things”. It may not be the same as a philosophical discussion with other humans, but if you wanted that you wouldn’t be playing a video game, you’d be out talking to people. Personally, I love the idea behind this game, and even if I’m (hopefully) more sophisticated than my character or those it encounters, I’ll still enjoy the journey.

    Also, I liked the castle theme. There seems to be a weird melding of sci-fi and religion, and the castles set the tone of medieval church dominance nicely. I’m not sure that was the intent, but as a place generated by “god” within the story, I think it fits.