The Witness

released on Jan 26, 2016

The Witness is a single-player game in an open world with dozens of locations to explore and over 500 puzzles. This game respects you as an intelligent player and it treats your time as precious. There's no filler; each of those puzzles brings its own new idea into the mix. So, this is a game full of ideas.

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it's crazy how many people think it's a personal attack on their intelligence when a game tells them they shouldn't play it if they don't care

one of a kind! the quintessential puzzle game that everyone should try if you're any bit interested in problem solving. this game is layers upon layers of puzzles, every detail in the world building leading to a greater mystery, all taught by exploration and observation. an incredible amount of work was needed to make this possible; to make a effortless feeling, expansive world filled with engaging puzzles throughout, making puzzles that throw out any logic you have learned thus far, AFTER EVERY SINGLE PUZZLE. it feels like i'm traversing the mind of a mad man, it's fascinating to say the least!

This review contains spoilers

This is a really tough game to review.
As a meditation on obsession and the value of quiet reflection, this game only succeeds the same way La Croix succeeds in tasting like fruit: kinda. I found the audio log in the mountain endgame area about "zen moments" made the latter click with me, and the optional cave section and secret ending made the former make a good deal of sense to me. Here are the ramblings of someone trying to make sense of this game at 1 AM:
The effects of obsession are portrayed in subtle ways throughout The Witness. Your character closes their eyes to pause the game, and floating puzzles drift by as afterimages, inescapable even inside their own eyelids. The constant environmental puzzles, too, reinforce that ALL they can think about is puzzles, even when you're not looking at the puzzle panels. (Although that may be somewhat of a stretch on my part)
A secret ending in which live-action footage of a person waking up (perhaps the player character) and ambling about, gesturing towards certain household items, features of the house, and shapes in the backyard plays with this idea. Perhaps inspired by the phenomenon felt by many whom have played this game, only to see circles and lines they desperately wish they could trace whilst on their commutes. Becoming far too invested in The Witness, like anything, can upset the delicate balance of one's mind, and perhaps their whole life.
The Witness contains inherent contradictions. At once both seeking to be a zen experience where one can find a meditative experience coupled with eureka moments, and a game that stresses the importance of balance, not becoming too immersed in any one thing. However, where it falters in the delivery of this message is largely down to timing. Having the player consider how they're spending their time while they're playing would be one thing, but by the time they hit the caves they likely will have already cleared most of what they intend to clear. In the context of a post-game cave, the message delivered is this: you could have spent your time better. A shame, really, as spending just a little more time gets you that wonderful timed challenge to complete, which might have been my favorite part of the whole game.
As far as puzzle game design goes, this one's got lots and lots of great stuff. There's a wide array of puzzle rules to follow, and without fail they are explained wordlessly and in such a way that mindful players should have no problem figuring out what all the symbols and puzzle types are, if given enough time and patience. The sheer variety of environmental puzzles is to be celebrated, as well. It boggles the mind to think of how much was considered when designing this game, and yet it feels largely effortless.
Puzzle-related nitpicks aren't plentiful but I did encounter some things I didn't enjoy. Firstly, boat puzzles were always a slog. Even if I could clearly see the solution, if I failed there was always an awkward boat ride that lasted way too long while I tried to reset and go again. They also made me somewhat motion sick at times, a perfect segue for my next, and biggest nitpick: accessibility.
The Witness is not a very accessible game by any stretch of the imagination. For those with hearing disabilities, colorblindness, an inclination towards motion sickness, and so on, this game could be rendered impossible or incredibly difficult, without the use of a guide. In my case, the boat, along with the spinning/scrolling panels in the endgame mountain area proved the most challenging parts of my time with this game.
Wrapping up my assorted thoughts on The Witness, I want to stress one thing: I actually did really like it. Most of what I wrote may seem negative, but that's in large part due to the scarcity of genuinely negative aspects of this game, in my eyes. The notebook I keep by my side while gaming (and my friend Bret's DMs) were constantly being updated with new things I was appreciating about The Witness, big and small.
At the end of the day, I think it's well worth a shot. It's a mindfully crafted experience, a real sipping on whiskey type game. Do a small chunk of an area when the mood strikes you, finish a section of the map over an afternoon and set the game down again until you want to sip on it a bit more. My advice? Just like the game, and the whiskey bottle say: enjoy in moderation.

the title is pretentious. idgaf to even figure out what it means because i know it doesnt actually mean anything. this game is just that dumb "open to interpretation" bullshit.
its stupid, lazy, and worthless as art.
the puzzles are fine but theyre irrelevant to the games lazy shallow themes because they dont interact with each other in a way that matters.
all this game needed to be was puzzles on a pretty island. throw away the pretentious art film "story"
it acts all mysterious with its environment and its attempts at world building masquerading as if it has a story to tell but it obviously doesnt. its just a random bunch of biomes and eras of human technology and historical periods that dont actually mean anything. its just a mystery box vibe game. its not deep or interesting in the way it thinks it is.
the audio diaries are insufferably pretentious. that shouldve been a thing you open in the menu to read or listen to. not an autoplay thing you cant shut up. actually just remove that completely its a lazy way to insert themes and ideas into the game. ideas that again have fuck all to do with the actual gameplay of the game.
i wish i could spoil the ending to this game for everyone planning to play it because i hate the ending that much. i dont think the game deserves the right to waste peoples time like that. people should be warned of the pseudo-intellectualism bullshit this game is gonna throw at them when its over. i had a suspicious feeling of fear about this game that it was gonna have a stupid ending. it was the same feeling i had towards the endings of Lost and Twin Peaks thinking "uh oh... this aint going anywhere but its gonna act like its more important than it is" so i looked up the ending ahead of time and i dont regret it because i was fukin right! the final ending is just a “it was just a simulation/dream” ending😒😒😒 its so fucking lazy. the way its filmed is so cheap & tacky. the whole thing is just a cop out. its so elementary. this is what bad artists do when they give up and cant think of an ending because their ideas were shallower than they wanted them to be.
“sighhh it’s so dumb.”😑
people deserve real art or a normal game. not a shallow game pretending to be art and failing.
a game not being art is not an insult. its okay if the only art in the game is just the art design and having a visual style.
like you dont need to insert dumb philosophy monologues to be considered smart and artistic. its fine.. its okay for a game to be just a bunch of puzzles on a pretty island you dont need to impress ppl with anything else its fine. something being just simple and entertaining still has value i promise!!!!
like im not against games being more deep but like do it right and focus on that. again dont just throw it in lazily to act like its somehow now an intellectual art piece.
this is a game made by lazy talentless people pretending to be artists without putting in the work needed to be actual art to trick dumb people into thinking theyre smart for playing it.
none of this means anything.
you made a bunch of puzzles and thats fine! but beyond that you didnt actually DO anything artistic or interesting.
shut up.
i was expecting more puzzle variety not just drawing lines on panel boards the whole time but whatever its fine.
having to redo previously solved puzzles after completing one is annoying.
a tip/hint guide wouldve been nice to have when things get too confusing. i hate when games make me want to look things up. i didnt do that but i wouldnt have gotten through this game without the help of friends. its cool for a game to be hard but i want to get through a game if i started it and i want it to be a self contained experience and this game wouldn’t have given me that. its ok to have difficulty settings you can change while playing. not doing that is inherently exclusionary. people bought your game they should be able to experience All of it on some level.
the creator of this game is not a good person.
the island is confusing and i couldnt form a visual map of it in my head. the map given on the boat is nice but i wish it was available at anytime. traveling on the boat is also tedious af
i wish the game would log which puzzles youve finished so youd know which you havent done and also to know which are optional.
theres several puzzles that just open a door to a puzzle area already completed making it pointless. the open world aspect kinda messes with any progression the game already has but tries to avoid by being nonlinear.
sometimes the puzzles are just about positioning yourself correcting on the ground and looking at the right angle which can be stupidly difficult to get right. it doesnt give you a feeling of accomplishment its just annoying and arbitrary.
the open world approach is sort of nice at times because you can explore other areas if something is hard.
but its a somewhat linear game trying to be open world but it doesnt work as well as it could. sometimes its unclear if youve learned the necessary puzzle mechanics or not so you dont know if youre just stupid or if the game is just allowing you to attempt a puzzle you have no knowledge of how to solve.
sometimes youll do a very hard set of puzzles then later do a very easy set of puzzles realizing you shouldve done them in a reverse order. but the game just doesnt guide you towards its areas in a linear enough way. give me like 4 areas of equal difficulty to deal with in whatever order i want then open it up to harder ones after, not everything all at the same time.
at least its beautiful looking i guess.

This is a fantastic puzzle game that requires heavy use of wits, environmental clues and combining rules and earlier puzzles. If you're the kind of person that solves Sudoku puzzles for fun, you may LOVE this game. If you like puzzle games in general, I recommend you check it out.