For now, let's discuss the other side Croteam's philosophical puzzler. The Talos Principle has multiple story threads which begin as disparate, seemingly unconnected events that slowly blend together either thematically or structurally. Elohim gives you the official line, seemingly benevolent but utterly autocratic. The other layers in the tale appear in various forms, the majority at the computer terminals. Hidden in these electronic archives are emails discussing a scientific project that went awry, tales based on myths and legends from the time periods which the puzzle-worlds are based on (Greek, Egyptian, and Medieval), and there's an unknown correspondent who questions you about the nature of your being.
The entire game is extraordinarily well written, which perhaps isn't surprising given Croteam's recruitment of Tom Jubert (The Swapper, Driver: San Francisco) to the project. There was one particular moment, where I picked up a recording in which a female scientist discusses the importance of games and puzzles in human history, that was so beautifully penned and delivered with such feeling, that I sat back and applauded at my own computer screen. Like the puzzles themselves, however, I feel that overall the writing pulls in too many different directions at once, and it's quite easy to get tangled amid the different narrative threads.
This leads us to The Talos Principle's only real flaw. It's hardly a deal-breaker, but it does hold it back from achieving the same level of greatness as other puzzlers such as Portal and The Swapper. The Talos Principle is a game constructed from lots of little good ideas, whereas Portal and The Swapper are moulded from a single, brilliant idea, and this is very apparent in the structure of the game. The Talos Principle is a game of fragments. All the different worlds, all the different puzzle elements, all the different narrative threads, although expertly put together, are fragments nonetheless. It doesn't possess the same cohesive elegance, the unity of design, that you see in Portal and The Swapper.
To a certain extent I think this is deliberate. The world you're exploring is as much of a puzzle as the individual challenges Elohim sets before you - a shattered mosaic that you slowly piece together. It carries this concept much better than The Evil Within did. Talos is always driving toward something, peeling back the veil a little more with each room of puzzles. Nevertheless, I feel like it needs something to wrap it all together, like an overarching art-style, for example. This is another niggle, actually. For the most part the Talos Principle is a very pleasant game to look at, but there are times when it feels rather flat. This is particularly the case with the level design, which is very boxy and compartmentalised, jarring with the 'paradise of ruins' idea that runs through the centre of the game.
As I said, though, this is a fairly small issue. Overall the Talos Principle is the ideal antidote to all those fatty, sugar-laden mainstream games we've been struggling to digest for the last couple of months. It's a quietly confident, pleasantly brain-tickling creation that is smartly designed and powerfully written, absolutely worth a look if you fancy something a little higher of brow.