As is the case with most great puzzle games, the puzzles in The Talos Principle 2 are iterative. A fundamental set of ideas is initially practiced and mastered by the player, and subsequent puzzles build on those core principles to create more complex challenges.
The game does an excellent job of introducing new concepts slowly and thoughtfully, but it does drop you in at the deep end in the beginning.
Having played through the original several times now, I certainly had a leg up. For new players, though, it can be pretty disorientating at first, and once you’re out of the New Jerusalem area, there’s no traditional tutorial to speak of.
In this guide, we’ll try to remedy that. I’m going to give you a rundown of everything you need to know to understand how these games work: we’ll go through puzzle design, overall level design, and the common elements of puzzles so that you can go in just as well equipped as any series veteran.
Bottom Line Up Front
If you’re in a rush, here are the basics of what you should know about getting to grips with The Talos Principle 2:
- The game is split into a total of twelve separate levels, which contain eight puzzles that need to be solved to progress to the next one (excluding the stuff in the Mega Structure)
- Each level typically introduces a new puzzle concept, which could be implemented through a new architectural design or a new piece of equipment.
- The crux of each puzzle will usually revolve around routing lasers from a Laser Generator into a Receiver of the same color to open a locked Energy Wall, within which the player will hit a button, triggering the completion of the puzzle.
- Each completed puzzle unlocks a node on a special gate at the center of the level, and when all nodes are filled, the player must solve a teramino puzzle to progress the story and move on.
- Players can find a wide array of secrets within each level, including extra puzzles, lore, and even a secret flame token that enables them to skip one of the secret puzzles. To progress to the next stage, however, they must only complete the compulsory eight puzzles.
Naturally, it’s going to be the core puzzles that give you the most trouble in this game, but let’s first zoom out and take a look at the levels themselves.
Unlike the first game, The Talos Principle 2 is split into two separate hub worlds. You’ve got New Jerusalem, which serves mainly as a story-focused area, and then the central puzzle with a Mega Structure at the center.
You’ll spend most of your time in this area: it splits off into four sections (north, south, east, and west) that each contains three separate environmental areas containing eight individual puzzles.
Take a look at the map below for a visual representation of what I mean.
The whole thing is connected by a rail cart system, and you can hop in the cart at any time (located at a singular, specific station in each area) to travel between the nodes above. You can’t travel to all sections right away, of course, but they’ll gradually open up to you as you complete each section.
Each area is visually distinct not only because of its natural biome but also because of the large structure at the center. While it seems a little complicated at first and isn’t really explained in the game, the progression is pretty simple: to complete each compass point, you need to visit the three adjoining smaller nodes.
While the Mega Structure at the center of the map is your main point of interest, each compass point has its own Mega Structure, and completing each of the eight puzzles in the area grants you access.
Once you’ve finished the eight puzzles, you must head through a gold gate leading to the level’s Mega Structure, and form a bridge with a series of now-unlocked tetramenos to make it to the entrance.
Heading inside the central structure offers some more story context and triggers one of three laser beams that link back to the main Mega Structure. Once all three laser beams have been triggered, it’s onto the next compass point.
So, the crux of all of this is beating those eight puzzles in every level, but this isn’t like Portal, where you just hop in a lift to get to the next area. Instead, the puzzles are placed organically throughout one larger level, meaning you have to physically walk from one to the next.
It also means you have the option of tackling each puzzle in whatever order you want, though given the way the difficulty tends to increase from number one to eight, it’s probably better to start at the first one and work your way up.
Neon signs are handily placed throughout the level, directing you to your next location, so even though the geometry of each level is quite complex, you shouldn’t get stuck on where to go next.
Players have access to a relatively minimal heads-up display, but what is there is extremely useful. Positioned at the top of the screen is a transparent compass that marks not only the numbered puzzles and their locations but also a series of question mark symbols (? ), which signify secrets and points of interest.
There will be about a dozen of these on the compass at first, and the icons slowly get larger as you approach it.
Once you reach one of these question marks, what can you expect to find? A lot, as it happens. Let’s take a look:
Aside from the eight main puzzles required to progress through the level, you also have the option of completing two extra puzzles of the same type based on the principles covered in the main ones.
Rather than being marked as puzzles number nine and ten, they’re denoted by small blue triangles, which are featured prominently at the puzzle entrance and in the top corner of each signpost.
Labs are contextual areas usually found underground within each level and are indicated by a test tube symbol on your compass.
As pieces of pre-robot human architecture, you’ll find lore in the form of text and audio logs here, as well as schematics, which you’ll need to download and send back to your colleagues to progress further. They also often contain hints about the sorts of challenges you’ll find in that level and beyond.
Terminals can be found dotted around the map and inside labs. They present as tall electronic pillars with palm readers which, once accessed, display up to three pieces of lore data in the form of text or audio. Explore all of these at each level to uncover more about the story.
As well as the traditional extra puzzles, there are also more abstract, environmental puzzles that are marked on the compass as a gold star (there can be multiple of these in each level).
Once you arrive at these compass points, they present themselves as very tall and ornate bronze statues, and if you look carefully, you’ll see a Reciever of a specific color attached to them. Occasionally, you’ll need to use clues hidden in other documents gleaned from Terminal entries.
To solve the ones with the Receivers, you must find a hidden Connector or other piece of equipment to link a laser from of one the Mega Structures to the Receivers on each statue.
With the overall level design out of the way, let’s explore the main methods you’ll use to solve puzzles and the equipment you need to get acquainted with.
Laser Generators and Receivers
Laser Generators and Receivers are the main part of any core puzzle in The Talos Principle 2, just as they were in the first game.
In each puzzle, you’ll need to direct and guide a colored beam emitted by a Laser generator to a Receiver to open the specific Energy Wall that unlocks the puzzle completion stations. There’s a lot of stuff that goes in between that goal, but we’ll get to that further on.
Laser Generators mark the source of a laser, and they come in colors of red, blue, or green. Ordinarily, these generators can only produce a laser in the linear direction that the machine is facing, meaning you need to use other pieces of equipment to direct the beam to its necessary destination.
It’s also worth mentioning that you’re not limited to one beam – Laser Generators can connect multiple lasers up to several devices at once so long as there’s a connection (and this goes for most devices that can receive lasers as well)
Receivers are very straightforward: they are used as triggers or locks to open both Energy Walls and to power specific devices, and they will only accept a laser of a given color.
Energy Walls function the same way you’d expect most impassable forcefields to work. You can’t walk through them and you can’t pass a laser through them, so they’re most often used to block off certain areas until a laser or Pressure Pad can be used to unlock them. You’ll always find them implemented to block off the button used to complete the puzzle.
The player is allowed to walk through Exclusion Walls, but they cannot carry items through them. They’re designed to stop players from taking items out of the play space or to prevent them from taking puzzle shortcuts by moving items to places in which they could break the puzzle. Crucially, though, lasers can pass through them.
It should also be noted that, unlike energy walls, Exclusion Walls cannot be temporarily turned off through the use of Disruptors. To turn off an Exclusion Wall, you’ll need to pass an appropriately colored laser to its Receiver (although sometimes, there’s no way to do this).
A Disruptor’s main function is to stop Energy Walls from working without the need to turn them off with a laser. They can be placed at any distance from an Energy Wall to function, so long as they’re not blocked by a solid wall.
You can also use them to trigger Pressure Pads, and they can be placed on top of Hexahedrons for a better vantage point or to use in combination with a Fan.
Most gamers will be familiar with Pressure Plates, as they’re as ubiquitous as explosive barrels at this point.
In The Talos Principle 2, they work exactly as you’d imagine: any item, including yourself, can be used to weigh down a Pressure Plate, but once you step off or that item is removed, whatever the plate is triggering will cease to work.
They’re most commonly linked to Energy Walls, but you’ll find that these walls often have Receivers that can power them as well. Once the Receiver is active, the Pressure Plate becomes redundant unless the laser now powering it is severed.
Hexahedrons are one of the simplest tools in The Talos Principle 2, but they still serve several important purposes.
Most commonly, they’re used as a weight to trigger a Pressure Pad, but they can also be placed on top of a Fan for an even surface on which to place an item, elevating its vantage point and enabling it to function at an extended range. You can also use them to jump on to gain access to a high ledge.
Connectors are the most basic form of laser linkage. Laser Generators can’t do anything other than output a laser in a single direction, so connectors are applied to take a laser as an input and then cast it as an output within a specific direction.
Essentially, it links two sources that can receive a laser together and is one of the most fundamental tools you’ll use in The Talos Principle 2.
They can take any laser generator color and can also receive and output lasers to other pieces of more complex equipment, like the RGB Converters and Splitters.
RGB Converters mark the first extra layer of complexity you’ll encounter. Once both a blue Laser and a red Laser hit an RGB Splitter simultaneously, it can emit its own green laser by mixing the two colors; the same goes for mixing red and green to make blue and blue and green to make red.
Complex arrangements will require several RGB converters linked together, making this piece of equipment a particularly versatile tool. They also can store a laser even if they’re not casting one, meaning that you can use them as a sort of Pseudo-Laser Generator to increase the range of a specific laser color.
You won’t come across Fans quite as often as you will the other pieces of equipment, but they’re unique in that there’s more than one type.
Their function is simple: to elevate whatever item is placed on top of them several meters into the air. This method is sometimes required to circumvent the range issues with lasers or to take shortcuts, and any items you want to lift must first be placed on top of a Hexahedron.
Sometimes, fans are already powered and turned on, making them accessible and usable within a puzzle right away. In other instances, they may be connected to a Receiver and must therefore be powered by a laser to function.
There are even cases where you can use a fan to propel yourself at high speed to a specific location: these types of fans have special jump pads connected to them.
Other than when using these types of Fans, sometimes you’ll need to use your own body in place of a Hexahedron. You can hold an item and jump into the updraft yourself, and then manually connect the piece of equipment you’re holding to a previously inaccessible place.
Fans are usually removable items, meaning that just like Connectors, Splitters, or any other moveable piece of equipment, you can use them to apply weight to Pressure Plates when they’re not in use.
When a laser of a certain color hits a Splitter, it is then capable of outputting a laser of the opposite color; if a red laser strikes it, a blue laser will be produced, and vice versa.
Note that these are quite different from RGB Converters as they don’t combine two colors to make a different one: think of them as halfway between those and Connectors, in that they are most useful at overcoming associated with a lack of range.
When Splitters, Connectors, and RGB Converters are all required simultaneously to be a puzzle, things can get complicated quickly, so watch out for this!
Drills bore a perfectly circular hole in drillable walls (marked by their rusty color as seen in the image below). Once a hole is drilled, laser-based equipment and Disruptors can function by passing through it. As soon as a Drill is picked up, the hole ceases to exist, and all connections that pass through it are immediately broken.
This isn’t Portal, either: you can’t jump through the holes yourself, and you can’t pass a drill through its own whole. It’s also impossible to use a drill through an energy wall.
They’re not a particularly versatile tool, and usually only have one specific utility within a given puzzle.
There are two different types of fencing you should be aware of in The Talos Principle 2: vertical fences do not allow lasers to pass through them, while horizontal ones do. As such, you’ll most commonly find vertical fencing blocking off a Reciever to prevent you from solving a puzzle in an obvious way.
If You Get Stuck on a Puzzle
If you’re really struggling with a particular puzzle and just can’t get a handle on it, there’s always the option of skipping it through the use of secret flame tokens.
On heading into a puzzle, you’ll likely have spotted the orange-glowing palm scanner next to the entrance. Initially, activating it triggers a prompt that says, “You have no tokens”.
To activate it, you’ll need to go hunting for the token and then head back to the panel and use it to mark that level as completed artificially. This means that, technically, you only have to complete seven of the puzzles in each level.
What’s more, the flame tokens carry over between levels, meaning that you’re not obligated to use the flame you’ve found there and then and can simply store up as many as you like for later use.
Keep in mind that using a flame will not reveal the answer to a puzzle, which is a good thing because it means that once you’ve finished the game, you can come back and give it another go without the solution being spoiled.
Note: These are the only items not found on your compass – you’ll have to go exploring and find them for yourself.
Finally, let’s take a look at the very last puzzle you’ll face before you complete a level. Fans of the last game will recall that, at the end of each set of puzzles, the player would have to solve a separate top-down puzzle in which they arranged a group of tetramino pieces in the right order.
These types of puzzles are back but in a slightly different way. This time, the player is required to manipulate huge 3D tetraminos to create a bridge to the Mega Structure in each level. These trigger after walking through the main level gate having completed all eight puzzles.
The game provides you with 2D images in the top left of the screen denoting each tetromino shape, and each image marks the top and bottom of the shape in red and green colors, respectively.
With the ability to both rotate and swap pieces, just like in Tetris, the player must optimize their pieces to make a linear walkway to the other side, paying attention to the top and bottom of each piece to do so.
Remember that if you place a piece by mistake, you must step off that piece by walking backward onto the one you laid before it, and click either the right mouse button or the left trigger to remove it. Once you’ve properly made the bridge, the pieces will remain permanently in place.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Should I First Play the Original Game to Get a Better Understanding of the Mechanics?
Answer: It’s worth delving into to understand more about the story, but I don’t think it’s necessary to get a good grip on the gameplay found in the sequel. The game familiarizes you with the fundamentals of the first entry pretty quickly, and the first area of the game, the Grasslands Ring, plays very similarly to the puzzles in the original.
Question: How Important is it to Complete the Extra Content in each Level?
Answer: None of it is compulsory, and besides the extra puzzles, most of the content is extra story stuff.
Personally, I finished the game first and then came back for the extra puzzles later, but I did try to pick up as many extra pieces of lore as I could to best make sense of the story’s ultimate conclusion. This is a good way to go about it if you don’t want to tackle everything at once.
Question: Are there any Secondary Ways to Beat the Puzzles?
Answer: It’s far too early to say yet, but it’s unlikely. As is the case with most puzzle games, the puzzles you find here have one clear solution. Speedrunners may find alternate solutions in time, but we’ll have to wait and see for that!
I hope this guide was useful in helping you understand the game’s core puzzle mechanics. There’s quite a lot to learn, and it’ll be a tough challenge, but take things one step at a time, have patience, and you’ll find The Talos Principle 2 to be one of the most rewarding games in recent memory.
Be sure to check out our review, our guide to the Grasslands Ring area, and our article covering all you need to know about the story.