The Talos Principle: Road to Gehenna (Review)

Developer: Croteam
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Format: PC, PS4 (Reviewed)
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Included with PS4 version, provided by GameFly

Road to Gehenna is the single DLC chapter for The Talos Principle.
It ramps up the difficulty from the base game (which was already quite challenging), introduces a large cast of characters, and tells a truly magnificent story. I was extremely satisfied with The Talos Principle (read my review here), but I was fully blown away by Road to Gehenna.

Road to Gehenna takes place near the end of the base game, but this time players are in control of a different robot, named Uriel. As a messenger of the God-like Elohim, Uriel is tasked with entering the land of Gehenna and rescuing an assortment of artificial intelligences so that they can ascend to freedom.

As you travel the equally gorgeous and foreboding land of Gehenna, you’ll experience more of the challenging puzzle experiences from the base game. However, these puzzles are leaps and bounds ahead in terms of creativity and difficulty. That being said, I can’t recommend jumping into Gehenna without clearing the base game. You’ll need to have a very confident grasp on all of the mechanics and types of strategy needed to solve these puzzles, and you’re guaranteed to suffer without having any prior knowledge of how to play the game.

In fact, Road to Gehenna can be downright tricky.
There are a handful of puzzles that require you to use the tools from the base game in ways that can (sometimes literally) be considered “outside of the box”. This piece of DLC acts like the next natural step in difficulty from The Talos Principle, tasking you with taking everything you’ve learned and adapting it to fit seemingly impossible tasks. You’re still connecting lasers to receivers, manipulating force fields, and jumping through fans, but everything feels smarter here. There’s no new tools or mechanics introduced, but there is entirely new ways to use them. Some puzzles can also be quite deceiving in the way they’re presented.

It’s not too uncommon for larger rooms to have short and easy solutions, or smaller rooms to have long, drawn out ones. One of the things I loved about Road to Gehenna was that it completely subverts everything you thought you knew about how to play The Talos Principle, occasionally resulting in moments of pure genius. There’s one puzzle in particular that’s a feat of master ingenuity by the developers, and it blew my mind once I realized the solution.

However, unlike the base game, you aren’t completing these puzzles for colored tetronimo bricks. Instead, each puzzle houses a small cell, which holds one of the AI bots you were sent to rescue. Completing a puzzle grants you access to the cell, allowing you to rescue the AI inside. Which leads me to the best part about Road to Gehenna…

Although trapped in prison cells, the inhabitants of Gehenna have observed the beauty around them and used it as inspiration to create art. Inside of each cell is a computer, and they’re all connected. The AI have created forums, poems, short stories about Jeff Goldblum, and multiple text adventures (that are totally playable!). There are other computers scattered around the environment, and accessing them allows you to communicate with the other AI.

Developer Croteam has gone to extremes to make each AI have a very distinct personality, and although you’re just reading text, you get a very strong sense of character for each individual AI. Despite being prisoners, they’ve all become creators, and it’s through their creations that you start wondering if Gehenna is really a place that needs saving from. Through their sometime crazy and nonsensical creations, these AI have come together and created a world of beauty. They entertain each other, challenge each others thoughts and beliefs, and have what seems like a genuine sense of friendship and camaraderie.

However, some AI are cautious of your arrival.
Why are you releasing them? What do they need to be saved from? And can you really be trusted? As you interact with these AI, you get to know them, but they get to know you too. While some of them are welcoming of your arrival, some are cautious and skeptic of your motives. The more puzzles you solve, and the more AI you release, the higher your ranking in the computer becomes, allowing you to eventually access hidden message boards. There’s a lot of mysterious happenings going on in Gehenna, and as the story progresses, you find out that there might be greater problems in Gehenna than you were led to believe.

Road to Gehenna not only has better puzzles, and possibly a better story, it’s visually more interesting than the base game. While certain types of environments are recycled, the extra flair on display in Road to Gehenna is immediately noticeable. The Talos Principle is a very gorgeous game, but Road to Gehenna takes that beauty and amplifies it. The lighting effects seem much more dynamic and intentionally jaw dropping here, although pictures don’t do it justice. Every level in this DLC has at least one huge standout in visual design, resulting in a game that’s extremely pretty to look at.

When all is said and done, Road to Gehenna is a bit shorter than the base game (around 6 hours compared to 15), but that doesn’t mean it’s any less of an experience.

FINAL VERDICT

Road to Gehenna is a terrific addition to an already masterful game.
The puzzles require even more thought and strategy to complete this time around, the story is better than the base game, and the extra thought on visual flair is greatly appreciated. While Road to Gehenna is absolutely tough as nails, it’s a worthwhile challenge worth accepting.

– Zack Burrows

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