The Witness almost beat me. Countless times throughout my playthrough, I literally was just going to quit. At times, I did quit. But there is something special about The Witness that kept luring me back to its playground of puzzles.
The Witness throws the player into a stunningly gorgeous world that is riddled with very intricate puzzles. These puzzles consist of 2D mazes that are placed on panels scattered throughout the environment. On the surface, the puzzles seem simple. The goal is to draw the correct path from one point to another. The Witness never really explains the rules though, instead, it forces you to learn the rules through trial, error and observation.
The main goal is to activate lasers that will in turn beam a light to a huge mountain on the map. As you complete areas, you begin to see the bigger picture and the purpose of the game becomes clearer. I won't spoil it here but, I encourage you to explore what's around you. The more you put into The Witness, the more rewarding it is when you take a step back and look at all the progress you've made. Throughout the game, there are scattered audio logs and videos that gives more insight on the overall message that is being portrayed.What I found to be most impressive about the game was how challenging the puzzles were. The rules become increasingly more complex as you dive deeper into the game. Some puzzles require you the look around your environments for the solution. Some require using shadows from sunlight. Others you'll have to look at objects from specific angles. One puzzle in particular required me to look at the maze through different filters scattered around the surrounding area.
Most importantly however, is despite how hard a puzzle may seem at first, there is always a solution that is fair. At no time did I find a solution to a puzzle to be considered cheap or far-fetched. On the contrary, I couldn't believe it took me so long to figure out most of the puzzles once solved. The game doesn't really attempt to point you in the right direction either. The Witness demands that its players seek out solutions on their own, and rewards you greatly for doing so. Thankfully, you aren't forced you to play in any specific order. The world is open for you to explore in any way or order you see fit. There aren't any quests to complete or objectives to do outside of completing puzzles. When I did take a break from puzzles to explore, I would occasionally stumble upon a secret. The fact that I found these hidden secrets on my own made the euphoria that much greater.
The more time I spend with the game, the more I learn. I love how The Witness is constantly teaching me new things each time I play. Once I believe I have a particular set of puzzles mastered, it consistently throws a new rule into the mix that completely changes what I thought I had solved.
While the puzzles are obviously the star of the show, there were plenty of times where I wouldn't attempt any puzzles and instead just explore the painting I felt like I was walking in. Everything about this world is beautiful. The bright vibrant colors brings the otherwise near-desolate island to life. I also appreciated the sense of loneliness engendered by the environment. There aren't other characters to interact with or even wildlife running around. This feeling of solitude is emphasized more by the lack of in-game music. Initially, I found the lack of a soundtrack offsetting especially in a world as stunning as this one, but after a few hours I didn't even notice. In a weird way, the ambient noise such as water falling, puzzle sound effects, wind blowing, and other noise became my music.
Even with over 400 puzzles solved, I still feel like I'm scratching the surface. Every time I venture back into the world I discover some small detail I missed or a new set of puzzles. There are over 700 puzzles in the game. In order to see the game's ending, you don't have to complete all of them, but they're always there to come back to after you finish the mandatory puzzles. The Witness is a complex game that rewards its most diligent players in meaningful ways. With a meticulously designed world and the elaborate puzzles that reside within it, The Witness is a game you won't want to miss.
Writer for Darkstation since 2014. I've been playing games my whole life and starting writing about them in 2010. Outside of gaming I enjoy anime and watching my Philadelphia Eagles let me down every Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @jsparis09