Community Review: The Witness

OK, rough show of hands – who among you has been playing The Witness?

This goddamn game man. This goddamn game.

It’s been a while since I’ve played something like this: a video game that oscillates wildly between making you feel like a genius and making you feel like an utter buffoon. There’s no in between. If anything, The Witness has been a wake-up call for my truly terrible spatial reasoning. I have a problem friends. I have a real problem.

Here’s how bad it’s gotten: yesterday I drew on my television. I literally drew on my television. I got a blue magic marker and I drew on my TV like a low level Russell Crowe from A Beautiful Mind. I’ve never played a game that made me draw on my TV before.

I am enjoying The Witness. It’s actually a tremendously beautiful video game the island is beautiful and dense with detail. I’m enjoying the fact that, on some level, the game is teaching you how to play, how to get through the puzzles, but part of me wonders if the openness of it makes things a little less accessible than necessary.

The Witness has a Dark Souls approach. No routes are necessarily blocked, they are blocked by puzzle language. If you haven’t learned the ‘language’ of certain puzzles, then your progress is often blocked. This results in a lot of dead exploration and frustration. I usually like this kind of structure, but I think s little more guidance in the beginning might have been nice.



    Great game that even has my wife solving a few puzzles on the side with me. Over the weekend I obsessed over it walking away in frustration many a time to return ten minutes later and solve. One of the great feelings.

      Same situation here - as soon as I started the game the wife was interested and solving puzzles along with me.

      Ironically(?) the last game she was this interested in was Braid.

    Apparently the game has been rated for an Xbox release but there's no release date in sight, so so far my experience has been somewhat insubstantial. I'm considering picking it up on PC but I'd rather play in on my console.

    Yeah, I bought this day 1. Done roughly 300 puzzles, 4 beams up and running. I didn't realise there were specific areas with a tutorial for each concept, so took me a while to get the tetris-like puzzles. Started area with audio puzzles and really like that concept.

    Also game is real hard. Resorted to tetris cutouts and drawing out a grid at one stage.

    Also with regard to the theatre room. Found 2/6 of the movie clips. They're fantastic, one of my favourite bits of the game.

    Haven't played for a few days, but a few times I ran into cases where I didn't understand what the puzzle was "asking" - i.e. I didn't know the parameters of the puzzle because new elements were introduced which hadn't been explained and weren't intuitive. There are probably tutorial puzzles around somewhere for these, but there are definitely times I've wished that the structure was more linear. The only beacon I've triggered so far is the symmetry one.

    Will have to see how it goes henceforth.

      Yep, Ill admit I googled the puzzles just for parameters.... power to the people who figured it out but I was either going to switch it off in frustration or just get the rules. To be fair I only did this once in a couple of hours so don't feel bad about it.

      Yeah there's a tutorial section for each of the puzzles. Although, having just gotten my 7th up, I must admit that the last 4 optional ones have me seriously worried about my ability to do them.

    loving the witness. I just finished and loved the talos principle 2 weeks ago so I (thought i) was mentally prepared. You do go from feeling like the stupidest person in your year 1 class to a born again puzzle solving genius but that feeling is the best. It looks gorgeous on the ps4 as well. I can understand how some gamers wouldn't go for it, it's kind of like bloodborne where you have to be patient and learn the rules/processes as you go along. I haven't resorted to drawing on the TV but have used a lot of paper scribbles and phone pictures. 10/10 for me atm (I'm about 5 hours in)

    Played it. 'Finished' it. I have not completed the "specific challenge" but I intend to do that for the platinum tonight. I loved every minute I was in the world. It felt like I was learning a new language. By the end I was just staring down my nose and my thumbs were making magic.

    Last edited 01/02/16 12:10 pm

    I cut paper tetramino shapes out of an envelope and arranged them on top of a grid pattern that's printed on one of my tea towels to solve a puzzle. I love this game.

    Yesterday, I found myself literally running all over the island frantically because I was getting frustrated.

    I love this game.

    It's not one you should play in long sessions I've found. Breaks to let your brain work over puzzles is a good thing.

    Kinda spoilery, but not really because I'm being vague, but I'll put the tags in in case you want to be completely blind and see for yourself:
    Also, the thing with the black monolith looking thing... Holy shit. When I realized what the deal was there, my whole view on the game changed. So clever, so good.

      Yes exactly that (what is in your spoiler tags), when that revealed itself to me it felt like I had started NG+ even though I was still in NG. A complete game-changer. Loved that moment of realisation.

    The Witness is amazing. Completed nearly 200 puzzles, plenty more to go. I was worried that the line-puzzles would get boring and repetitive but they are incredibly clever, unique and diverse. I also love the obvious Myst influence. It feels like what I imagine Myst would be if it were released today. I'm playing on PC so photoshop has been supremely helpful with solving puzzles.

    I finished it the other day (420 puzzles, praise it, 22(?) of the extra ones, about 16 hours all up), and immediately hopped back in to get some more stuff (the credits were pretty neat). I found that sodding off from areas if I didn't understand a mechanic was a pretty good way to keep moving (that said, I did "the castle" when I didn't know the rules for half the concepts, and winged my way through, just couldn't do one of the two at the top), but I'll agree that it might have benefited from being slightly more guided.

    My brain is currently melting from some of the extra puzzles, at times I just want to throw them in a bin, but in a good way.

    I love it. Absolutely love it.

    17 hours down so far. I've managed to where I am without cheating at all. Not that it hasn't been tempting but as others have said, learning the 'language' of the game and how to apply it is the main joy of the experience.

    The sheer number of puzzle variations JBlow has been able to come up with is stunning.

    I totally understand why some people wouldn't like it, though - I think it appeals to a very specific kind of person. I'm just lucky that I happen to be one of those weirdos. If you're not - you won't 'get' it.

    5 lasers so far (the art gallery, the plant bunker, the temple, the autumn tree shadow puzzles and the quarry. I've seen 4 of the movies with 2 to go (they're weird, IMO), and found about 15 of the monolith symbols. I'm up to the very last puzzle of the Castle/Keep but CBF trying to finish that enormous thing for now, I'm a bit stuck with one of the last puzzles in the timber mill, the last tetramino one in the swamp, the last one in the tree house area, the 3-way shadow puzzle in the town and I've managed to get up onto the roof of one of the renovation house with the blue tarps around the columns but haven't figured out what happens when I solve the next puzzle. I can hear a click but haven't noticed what is changing. Oh, and the damn camouflage puzzles - I'm stuck on the last one, like just about everyone else.

    This game is the most relaxing form of frustration! I picked it up on Friday and have done around 180 puzzles. I have had to look online twice so far as I couldn't make any sense out of the puzzle even though I had learnt the specific technique. I haven't come across any audio puzzles that I'm aware of...but then again, maybe I have and don't know it. Oh and there are a couple of puzzles in the castle (the last hedge in particular) which have me scratching my head.

    I would love some sensitivity options, as I've found turning to be a little sluggish (PS4), but apart from that, I can't really pick out any negatives. It's gorgeous, challenging and bloody rewarding once you figure out a puzzle that's been hindering your progress.

      Oh and there are a couple of puzzles in the castle (the last hedge in particular)

      That third hedge got me for ages haha. Literally had my girlfriend come in, sit down and I had to explain it out loud, then i was like oh... And it clicked. Was one of my favourite areas that one. Anyway, for that last hedge, if you want it, here's a hint:

      Physically draw it out. Coincidentally, doing that has helped me on so many puzzles haha.

        That's a great tip, I really do need to start doing that. Thanks.

    I've started seeing puzzles everywhere lately IRL....just yesterday I saw a black drumkit with a black line on the wall behind it and may brain instantly thought "Aha! Puzzle found! Now if I shift my perspective slightly they'll line up and........"

    Even when I realised this was reality and not the game, I still wanted to move slightly to see where the puzzle led to....

    About 220 puzzles in a loving it! There have been times where I've wanted to Google the answer, but I've stuck at it. Some puzzles have been so mentally exhausting that I need to turn the game off immediately afterwards, but it's so satisfying having completed it without any help.

    Reminds me of playing games pre-internet age, when you just had to figure stuff out on your own.

    I'm loving it. It's a struggle but I still love it. Some of the environmental puzzles are mindblowing but I'm less into ones that are sort of isolated in mechanic to the puzzle board. I'm playing it with my girlfriend next to me and its interesting how 2 different brains process the same puzzle. Some of them I am all over, but then others I struggle with whilst my gf picks it up in seconds like it was obvious all along.

    Brilliant game.

    Last edited 01/02/16 3:24 pm

    I bought it yesterday. Was really loving it, but after about an hour I stopped playing and realised I felt horrendously motion sick. I've never had motion sickness in a game before and I play a tonne of racing sims with fast motion and flashy lights and whatnot. I gave it a few hours and came back to it to see if it was just a one off. After about 15 mins I felt WORSE than I did when I played for an hour earlier. I've read it has happened to quite a few people in this game. I really hope they come out with a fix because I was really enjoying it, but at the moment, it's not worth the few hours of nausea after playing it.

    Me and my boyfriend finished the game on the weekend. He was much better at the puzzles than me. The Tetris ones and the Suns did my head in. Especially the end game ones...

    I completed 2 of the obelisks.. Not sure my brain can handle doing more. Loved the game though.

    I found using an app on your phone which lets you draw on a picture you take, incredibly helpful.

    Me and the fella have been sending videos and pictures of us finding grids and patterns in real life and pretending to solve them as just as a bit of fun :)

    Before you hate on me.. we're all entitled to our opinion and I'm not trolling or just saying I don't like it. I tried to like it...

    Gonna go against the grain here.. I simply don't like it.. there is no progression other than getting the next puzzle.. and the next... and.. the next. That's it.. nothing else really to it. I'd rather play a book of Sodoku puzzles.. it's the same feeling. There wasn't really any "oh wow!" parts to the "game" after completing puzzles.. I was hoping for some kind of wow moment when different parts of the island unlocked and there was a beautiful scene to admire or something... but no.. just the same clunky graphics..

    In contrast, I found Talos Principle to be basically the same premise of puzzle after puzzle after puzzle but there were cut-scenes, scenery/area unlocks and story elements that made you go "wow" or "ooh".. etc..

    The Witness feels unfinished to me.. I tried to like it, I pushed on through the puzzles as much as I could and they were good puzzles, for the most part.. but it seemed forced and may as well have been a blank world of white with puzzles on the walls.

      Valid points there dude. You're right, it doesn't have much "wow" factor in game, doesn't really give you any "reward" as such for completing puzzles other than giving you more puzzles.

      I've found that the game is less about its contained experience and more about you as the player. The point of the game is more about teaching you the rules and concepts of it but by bit, the rewards as such are those moments of understanding when you "get" it and the collectibles you can find are all exposition basically just to get you thinking. It isn't necessarily a contained experience - it's a dialogue between the game and the player, almost teaching you a language of sorts.

      The game definitely is not for everyone, that's for sure. If the puzzles themselves aren't rewarding enough on their own, I can definitely understand not liking this game one bit.

    Dammit, a day too late, but anyway:
    There was a video the other day where Blow explained his goal from the game's inception: epiphany. He wanted people to discover things, not be told how to do them. And that's exactly what makes The Witness so good.

    You're given an easily understandable language: draw lines on tablets to advance, draw lines on the environment to, um, I don't know yet! Right from the beginning you see all sorts of arcane symbols on the tablets. Even if you manage to brute force one or two, there's no way to know the rules. Yet.

    You'll eventually find "tutorial" puzzles that make you deduce the rules yourself. You're never told "this grid has two stars therefore you need to do this". After a few examples it clicks and you have gained the codex to solve these problems. An area opens in your brain AND on the island. Epiphany. I've also encountered other instances of epiphany beyond the tablets, which I won't go into here, for fear of ruining that experience for others!

    The feeling of epiphany is complemented by the feelings of mastery you get from solving a hard puzzle, and from unlocking the lasers. Though that is a feeling that many other games offer, so it's not quite as unique.

    In short, amazing, original, all-consuming entertainment that is worth twice what it costs. Anybody with complaints about the price should be directing them at the annual Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty, FIFA (+DLC!) instead.

      Well said. Looking forward to checking out that video

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