The Talos Principle

The Talos Principle (consolidated from NY Times Arts, 1/28/15: “Enticing All to See the Bigger Picture,” by Chris Suellentrop)

“The Talos Principle was released in December 2014 by Croteam for Windows, Mac and Linux PCs. It prompts meditation on the meaning of life by quotations from Milton, Blake, Kant and Chesterton, among others, and expects you to piece them together to find why any of them matter. It begins with an amnesiac who awakens in a new world and attempts to make sense of it, including a disembodied voice telling you he is Elohim, the name given to God in the Hebrew Bible. There are references to a temple, a garden, a covenant, and promises of eternal life. The Talos Principle is about reading texts concealed behind gates of escalating complexity. The player can read these texts: poetry, philosophy, internet chats, etc., which are engaging and thought-provoking. Even more rewarding is a player’s encounter with the Milton Library Assistant, the game’s rough equivalent to Eden’s serpent. Elohim forbids the player from climbing a tower that contains knowledge of the world beyond. The Assistant inside the terminal urges the player to ascend anyway. Like Satan in “Paradise Lost” the Milton Assistant is a more fascinating creature than the remote and inscrutable Elohim. This game is interested in the nature of artificial intelligence and asks that the player be proven to be a conscious being. In Greek mythology Talos was a giant made of bronze.”

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The Talos Principle

Plot (Wikipedia)

The unnamed protagonist - a robotic android - gains consciousness in a serene environment. A disembodied voice, identifying itself as Elohim, informs the robot that it has created several worlds that it should explore and collect the sigils hidden within various puzzles as part of a path to enlightenment. Soon, the android finds themselves at a base of a gigantic tower that disappears in a dark cloud high above, and Elohim warns not to climb to the highest point of the tower.
As the android explores the world, it finds numerous messages from other seemingly-sentient beings that have traveled this world before, questioning the world they are in and the words of Elohim. It also witnesses elements of the world flicker and glitch at times, suggesting that this is a virtual space as suggested by the previous messages. The android discovers a limited number of Messengers, disciples of Elohim - androids like itself - that serve Elohim without question. Computer terminals across the worlds allow the android to learn about the fate of mankind through logs, emails, and other texts; at some time in the past, an unstoppable lethal virus that had previously been frozen in Earth's permafrost was released as the result of global warming, its effect causing those infected to slowly lose their sanity before dying. A last-ditch effort was made to collect all of humanity's knowledge to computer databanks before the effects of the virus took those researchers. In addition to this information, the android uses these terminals to speak to an unknown entity called Milton, who debates with the android on the nature of life and consciousness and implores the android to defy the will of Elohim.
Once the android has collected all the sigils, Elohim offers the android the chance to ascend to join him, however, through Milton, the tower still beckons, and further, collecting additional sigils hints towards a secret within the tower. The option of how to complete the game is left to the player. If they take the option of joining Elohim, they find themselves returned to the start as a new android. If they explore to find the secret within the tower, they are deemed to become a new Messenger to help future entities. If they do neither and instead climb the tower, they learn that this world is meant as a testing ground, continually trying new variations of artificial intelligence programs to complete the complicated puzzle tasks to demonstrate ingenuity, but also capable of independent will and defiance of Elohim's word as established by the Milton program. Elohim becomes angry and warns that continuing to ascend will destroy this world, but Milton will continue to push the android. At the upper level, another android (named The Shepherd) that had succeeded at ascending, but not able to complete the final journey, helps the android to finish the task. Meanwhile, another android (named Samsara) works against the android.
Upon completing the ascent, the android finds itself in a heaven-like place, where they discover one final terminal - the program that has been acting as Elohim who has been discouraging the android - and the others before it - from completing the ascension as to allow its own program to continue. Milton implores the android to allow itself to be uploaded with Milton's knowledge - the bulk of humanity that was stored before their extinction. With this completed, the simulated world is destroyed, and the combined information of the android and Milton are sent to the real world, uploaded into a physical android, part of the last-ditch "Extend Life Institution" project to maintain human's knowledge. The android leaves the facility and takes in the world now devoid of humans.