Ancient, vine-draped monuments and towering obelisks protrude from the forest floor, connected by a maze of stone paths and one hyper-speed transit capsule. Statues loom among the monoliths: hooded human figures and mythological beasts surrounded by saintly geometry in gold and turquoise. I’m running down an overgrown platform by the water, sun radiating off the side of my face, trying to find the next puzzle. I take a sharp turn, the shadows shift and my silhouette is suddenly projected in front of me: waist on a slim pivot, hip joints jutting out, sticklike arms. I remember I’m made of metal and wires, and for a brief moment, I’m surprised. I forgot — I’m a robot.
The Talos Principle 2 reintroduces a post-apocalyptic world filled with the puzzles and dreams society left behind, and populates it with a race of machines who simultaneously worship humans and consider themselves to be the natural evolution of humanity. The game’s first quarter, which spans roughly seven hours, offers a beautiful and immersive playground of puzzle solving and philosophical inquiry, and it feels both grander and more cohesive than the original Talos Principle. That game came out in 2014 and featured a lone robot in an AI-powered testing ground. The sequel features an entire society of sentient machines. It also has lots of laser-powered, logic-based spatial puzzles, of course.
The Talos Principle 2 is set in a futuristic society of robots, and you’re the 1,000th machine to come off the line. There’s debate among the citizens about whether you should be the final addition to the group, as one of its founders once dictated, and your presence unlocks a new prophecy tied to a mysterious island. Elohim, the AI antagonist of the first game, has calmed down significantly and acts as a caretaker to the robots, gently guiding their sleep cycles with a booming voice.
Each robot has its own personality, and it doesn’t take long for these machines to feel fully human, despite their lack of meat and bones. Developers at Croteam took the time to build out backstories and individual points-of-view for each supporting character, and their conversations and arguments flow seamlessly. The Talos Principle 2 features full voice acting and branching dialogue trees with multiple meaningful responses for players to choose from. It’s not uncommon to see six to eight options in conversations, presenting discrete approaches to heavy prompts about faith, doubt, consciousness, life, death and love. This is a game for curious minds, and the dialogue system supports this with rich character development and high-quality conversational writing.
This robot society provides the narrative framework for actual gameplay. On the mysterious, prophesied island players encounter a series of puzzles hidden among humanity’s ruins, much like in the original game. The structures on the island are widespread and vast, but navigation is intuitive, thanks to subtle environmental cues, a compass with waypoints and directions from the other robots on the expedition team. This time around, you’re not alone (no offense, Elohim).
The puzzles themselves are devilish. They start simply, prompting players to divert laser beams into portals of the same color using connector rods, jammers, blocks, pressure pads and fans. As players progress through the riddle rooms, the game introduces new tools, like a drill that can create holes in some walls and an inverter that reverses the laser color, adding unexpected complexity to the puzzles. It’s my firm belief that the best puzzles in video games are ones that appear simple, but have a single, incredibly tricky solution buried beneath layers of almost-there answers. Nothing beats that breakthrough feeling when the entire room suddenly makes sense, the lasers align, and all the right doors slide open. The beginning hours of The Talos Principle 2 effortlessly capture this sensation, again and again.
Tetrominoes are back in the sequel, and they’re big. Not only metaphorically (the robots often theorize about the shapes’ supposed purpose), but also in physical size. I made literal bridges out of building-sized tetrominoes, swapping out pieces and rotating them on a grand scale. While this segment wasn’t particularly challenging, it was satisfying in a new kind of way.
In its first quarter, The Talos Principle 2 reproduces the brilliance of the original game and adds to this foundation, expanding its world narratively and mechanically. Philosophical conversations are no longer siloed in read-only terminals, though there are still datasets scattered around the map. The story’s main prompts are instead integrated into gameplay via deep, player-driven conversations with NPCs, and even a little bit of light gossip. The Talos Principle 2 has secrets to discover, personalities to explore and questions to answer — and that’s all on top of being a uniquely fantastic () sci-fi puzzle game.