Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.
What was the logical next step for the developers of dual machine gun toting, beheaded bomber slaying Serious Sam? A thoughtful, philosophical puzzler in the vein of Portal, of course.
In The Talos Principle [official site] you play as a robot, guided through the game by a disembodied voice calling itself Elohim. Imagine the Stanley Parable narrator but with more pompous severity and you’ll have a good idea what you’re in for.
The puzzles are always good and often brilliant, creating that ‘I’m a GENIUS’ feeling that only the best games can manage. The puzzle elements themselves are nothing revolutionary – we’ve been redirecting laser beams for decades, and the cloning mechanics that appear later on in the game are similar to those in PB Winterbottom. Where it succeeded was in blending those and other elements together to create satisfying cerebral head scratchers.
For me though, the most memorable parts of it weren’t the puzzles but the philosophical musings that accompanied them. I was in the middle of my first year of my philosophy degree when it released, and thoughts directly inspired by the game made it into my coursework.
It has its limits: at certain points, you’re asked to pick which statements about the nature of consciousness that you agree with, and then it pokes at supposed contradictions within your answers. Obviously that back and forth can only go so far – there are only so many responses the developers could anticipate.
I’ll keep dreaming of the day when I can have a nuanced philosophical conversation with an AI, and when Destiny rewards me with an interesting thought experiment rather than a cool gun at the end of each mission.