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Review: The Road to Gehenna advances The Talos Principle's deliciously provocative tale

Hayden Dingman | July 24, 2015
"You set off on a long journey, and you feel you may already be a new person by the time the city is in view. You ask the messenger the name of this place, but he is gone forever. You open your eyes. Welcome to Gehenna."

If The Talos Principle was about questioning whether God and Heaven and Hell existed, Road to Gehenna is Plato's Allegory of the Cave. We know why Elohim exists, why the "world" exists, and why it's steadily falling apart. Now you must convince the other AIs in Gehenna to listen to you. You must convince them to ascend, despite the fact that means leaving everything they've ever known behind on the word of someone who can provide zero solid evidence.

It's a heavy premise, played out across dozens of text snippets on in-game computer terminals, the same as the original story. It's almost an amusingly sparse design, interspersed as it is with a bunch of puzzles--both the obvious critical path and the ones hidden in the corners.

The puzzles themselves are properly brain-wrinkling. Road to Gehenna wastes no time on tutorials, assuming instead that you've played the original game. The new batch of challenges starts difficult and only gets harder, forcing you to use some of its tools in ways you never even thought of in the original set. Which is honestly surprising, because there were a ton of puzzles in the base game.

But because there were so many puzzles, it allowed Croteam to really explore its limits--and then to push even further with Road to Gehenna. This is Croteam taking all its tools and making the craziest, most elaborate puzzles it can think of, and that's something few puzzle games get (or are allowed) to do for fear of losing the audience. There's true craftsmanship on display in Road to Gehenna.

If I have one complaint, it's that with increased complexity often comes increased size. This became a problem towards the second half of The Talos Principle and it's all-too-often a problem in Road to Gehenna--massive spaces filled with a ton of tools and no solid idea where to go or how to get started. While those multi-step puzzles can be interesting, too many in a row is overwhelming. And Road to Gehenna is, with a few exceptions, mostly made up of large-scale puzzles.

Bottom line

The Talos Principle almost staged a last-minute Game of the Year upset on PCWorld last December, and for good reason--it's one of the best puzzle games ever made. And Road to Gehenna is that most boring and yet occasionally most earnest of compliments: "More of the same."

If you haven't yet played The Talos Principle, 1) You shouldn't even have read this review, but 2) You should play The Talos Principle. And if you played it, I'd recommend Road to Gehenna. More puzzles. More difficult. More philosophy. More soul-searching. More.

 

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