The Witness is a first person 3D puzzle game created by Jonathan Blow and developed by Thekla, Inc. Jonathan is best known for creating Braid which is a great 2D puzzle platformer released in 2009 (Windows). The Witness has been in development for roughly 8 years. The 3D puzzle genre has had quite a few good entries of late, especially last year when we got The Talos Principle. How does The Witness compare?
The Witness is controlled in your typical first person fashion using the mouse to look around and keyboard to move around and sprint. The objective of the game is to solve 2D puzzles which are placed in groups around the open world. All the puzzles are completed on a 2D board by drawing along lines from A to B. Puzzles are grouped in the world by solution mechanics and later on puzzles combine many different mechanics. For example, in one area, the puzzles might be solved by making a shape when drawing from A to B and another area might be solved by collecting dots when drawing from A to B. Later on, you will need to draw a shape and collect the dots in the same puzzle. Sometimes you are required to use the puzzles surroundings to solve it, e.g. a reflection or stone formations.
That’s it, that’s all there is to The Witness. Occasionally, you’ll find audio logs which is the only narrative I could find.
Usually I try to spend at least 7 hours playing a game before doing a review (depending on the size/cost of the game) but I just couldn’t do it for The Witness. I’d had enough by 3 hours and by 5 I’d starting using guides if I couldn’t get past a puzzle after a few tries. There is just no compelling reason to find out what the island was about or sense of achievement for completing a puzzle. Last year I highly recommended The Talos Principle so it’s not that I don’t like puzzle games.
Graphics wise, the game looks excellent, you can tell that just from looking at the screenshots. The art style is great, if Blizzard made another World of Warcraft, I imagine it would look something like The Witness. I don’t have an opinion on the audio, it wasn’t particularly interesting and definitely didn’t stand out (as I was writing this I wondered if it actually had any). There is a high/low/medium option as you start the game but no options beyond that.
I did not encounter any bugs.
I didn’t enjoy playing The Witness, it was like playing an expensive puzzle book. There just wasn’t any sense of achievement or desire to progress for me. I wouldn’t recommend it.