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Finished Portal 2 and The Talos Principle back to back, for my first time

Content of the article: "Finished Portal 2 and The Talos Principle back to back, for my first time"

So after about three weeks of detox from gaming, I returned fresh, enthusiastic and energized to dive into more masterpieces. I chose to delve into the realm of Puzzle games. Despite me not being particularly well in brainbuzzing puzzles, I have had positive experiences with the genre. Thanks to story driven or atmospheric puzzle or puzzle-lite games such as Syberia & Syberia II, Machinarium, SOMA and none other than Portal(1), I kind of feel at home with puzzlers.

I had a list of games that I wanted to dig through within two weeks, among which some notable mentions were: The Swapper, Portal 2, Relicta, The Talos Principle, The Uncertain: Last Quiet Day, The Witness and a few others.

Having a tremendously entertaining first time run of Portal(1) back in February 2019, I made a post here and received lots of warm regards and encouragement to hop right into Portal 2. A few of you folks even offered me a hand in Co-op. Unfortunately I haven't had the time or enthusiasm to pick up Portal 2 in about one and a half years. However I played Portal(1) for a second time just a few months ago, in the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown phrase in my country, somewhat to celebrate my one year anniversary of first taste of Portal(1). While my initial plan was to play Portal(1) and Portal 2 in order, for some private reasons once again I left the sequel out because it was not a pleasant time for me to be able to enjoy it properly.

And now that I have actually played it, as unfortunate as it is, my expectations are not fulfilled. Given how much from the core of my heart I loved the First game, I probably grew a bit too much contemplations in me for Portal 2, quite unreasonable amount. After all, more than one and a half years spent avoiding any and all Portal 2 spoilers would of course raise the stacks of expectations in me. Now did I not enjoy Portal 2 ? Yes I god damn did! Absolutely enjoyed the enviromental story telling of the deep descents of Aperture Science, the non-handholding Valve magic is still preserved there fully well. But the puzzles? I mean some of the puzzles are good and require a bit of observation, but others are so obvious with so little places to put a portal on that it almost felt like on the rails. And the writting in the game was……….. a bit less charming than what my heart anticipated. I found myself baffled at the fat jokes that GLaDOS makes about Chelle, they were so silly that I couldn't but feel like she has lost some of that dark humourous charm from the first game. And Wheatley, he's funny, kind of great at times because of the delivery of his lines, but still I don't know why I just couldn't like him for some reason. While it was good to have somebody to accompany me in the dark hallways with a light behind my head, I felt like he was at times taking away from the subtly dark, oppressive atmosphere of the Aperture Science labs that I liked in the first game. I know people love him, some hail him as one the more funny and interesting characters in video games in general, but I personally feel like his execution was not without it's cost. The silly, humorous tone of his dialogues was bearable when he was a friend by side, but when Wheatley becomes the antagonist, I just couldn't find his portrayal to be entertaining and the comic villain type that the writters went with just didn't play out very well in my book. At the end, he had potential, but not perfectly executed. Still good, just not enough. On the other hand, one thing Portal 2 does good is expanding upon the Portal universe, bringing in Cave Johnson. His lines were delivered quite well and I overall enjoyed his vocal presence, and his narrative connection with GLaDOS.

Now coming to The Talos Principle……………

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My god, I needed this in my life! Yes, it fucked up my beliefs, it left me feeling to some extent confused, sad, exhausted, anxious, doubtful, hollow…………. and yet so much entertained. And this feeling is just so fresh compared to other narrative puzzle games, say Portal 2. (Probably doesn't help that I played them both back to back).

What exactly was I doing in that whole game? Solving puzzles? Or thinking about what the actual hell is going on while just being deviated from time to time by logical problems? Is the game more about the story, or the puzzles? The presentation of the story is so simple, yet so much more meaningful, so much more engaging than games that blows production value in obstreperous cut-scenes. And what baffles me the most about the formula the developers applied here is, it is so much generic on paper. You have rooms with teleporters that teleports you to different areas, in each area you solve puzzle, collect Tetris pieces that acts as keys to next areas and then you move on. And in each area you have some skippable archived text reading, some interactive texts with a few choices to be made, and some skippable readings on the walls, which are mostly disconnected from the actual gameplay, the puzzles. And it is absolutely intentional and you understand why as you come closer and closer the ending of the game! As much as I want to, I do not want to go any further into the actual plot of the game, not even with spoiler format on the off chance someone who hasn't played it accidentally clicks on it. It is something you need to experience for yourself for the first time to have the most effective impression upon you. It messed with my limits of acceptability of any idea or information, made me rethink what exactly is the point of anything that I'm doing at a given moment. It is just unmatched when it comes to the story and writing and overall context.

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Now coming to the comparison of these two, I personally enjoyed The Talos Principle more than I did Portal 2. Period. I know it is debatable, but for me Talos Principle is at an echelon above the regular science fiction stories.

Personal F.A.Q. checks:

•Was The Talos Principle the Portal sequel I expected?

  • Hell no, apart from the fact that both are First Person Puzzle game with narratives attached, it would be absolutely unfair to compare these two games by simple quantitative analysis. Portal 2 is quirky, humourous Puzzler that I personally feel like has lost some of the tightly focussed, subtly dark charm of it's predecessor. While on the other hand The Talos Principle is a…………. Nope, if you haven't yet, please play yourself and find out what it is. Just another way of saying my words can't describe the actual feeling of playing it. It makes you think, mainly with it's story, and to some extent with the harder puzzles that requires a lot of pre-planning.

• How does playing Portal(1) for the first time compares with playing The Talos Principle for the first time?

  • By the time you finish Portal(1), you'd be happy, delighted and content with your actions. In Talos Principle not so much, even if you choose the "better ending" that most people feel more connected to after going through the rigorous puzzles of the game, you'd be left feeling hollow, for you don't know what's to come next because the game leaves that kind of fucked up impression upon your brain with all of it's philosophical theories. In both games you "escape" the bad place you've been trapped to, but the outcome is so much different that it can only be understood by playing each.
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And at the end, I have only one thing to say:

Now I Only Want You Gone


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