For those of us with an inclination towards puzzle games The Witness’ launch was a very exciting day. With modern gamers preferring more hand-holding and standardised systems it’s rare to find a game that throws you in the deep end. The Witness does this in some style.
The Witness gives you no prompts but the control scheme is easy to work out. Although the gameplay revolves around a simple wander and press A system you will soon be grateful that at least something is self-explanatory.
The puzzles are composed of a series of monitors that are spread throughout the island. The island is broken up in to a series of lush landscapes. Each of these not only has a completely different look it also houses different styles of puzzles, although the whole game is a variation of a theme.
What to Watch For
You are taught very early on in the game that nothing is irrelevant. You will need to seriously flex your observational skills to get anywhere at all. It is essential to look not only at the puzzle itself but at its surroundings at every possible angle. Only then do the puzzles become solvable.
Fiendish and Fun
Although you will find yourself instantly intrigued by The Witness don’t expect to plough through it. This is a classic puzzle game (which from me is high praise indeed). You will need to study a puzzle that you’re stuck on, take notes, and in many cases I took screenshots. The complexity of some of the puzzles demands it.
I have been playing The Witness since it came out and I am now stuck just before the end. It is a slow drawn-out and utterly rewarding process. It is also massive. Most puzzle games exhaust their ideas and end just when you’re hooked. The Witness carries on relentlessly, managing to constantly twist what you know creating a constant challenge. It is manageable, it is delightful and it will make you tear your hair out.
A Player-friendly System
Some areas will suit you better than others and the game allows for you to seamlessly wander from area to area, allowing you to continue playing when you hit a roadblock. Moving to another area can expand your knowledge of the game’s rules making other areas easier. You may also find you simply understand an area’s challenge better than the rest (for me it was the jungle).
Story, but not as We Know it
Like so much of the game the story is not merely given to you. Jonathan Blow instead choose to chop it up in the form of audio recordings that you will have to search high and low to find. Having discovered a fair number of these there is actually a tale to be told.
The Witness is a puzzle lover’s game. Clearing each area’s puzzles will activate a laser that goes to a central point. You don’t need all the laser’s activated to go and explore the epicentre but you’ll complete them anyway. There are also plenty of random puzzles scattered around the island that are just for fun. The Witness rewards perseverance and exploration, and the size and detailing of the world make it worth your while.
The Bottom Line
I could wax lyrical about The Witness all day. From it’s beautifully thought out landscapes to the complete lack of help it’s just perfect. Any puzzle game that makes me break out a notebook to solve it has hit the right level of difficulty. The last one was Fez, and like Fez this is a bona fide classic that is truly unique. If you are the sort of person who runs for a walk-through when things get tough avoid this like the plague. You won’t get any enjoyment from it. If you’re a puzzle fan and want to get really stuck in for a few months then this is must have purchase.