Wot I Think: The Witness

After a whopping seven years in development, Jonathan Blow’s follow-up to Braid is finally here. The Witness [official site] throws out much — though not all — of the pompousness of its predecessor to deliver a less obtuse, modernised riff on Myst. And it’s actually quite brilliant, if you can ignore its layer of self-satisfied philosophical grandiosity. Here’s wot I think.

The Witness is an uncompromising game, but also a refreshingly pure one. Where most games draw on many ideas to build a story, a world, and a set of systems by which to advance, The Witness commits to just one. It is a lightly-adventurous puzzle game designed around a singular idea – drawing an unbroken line from one point to another.

It is a game of mazes drawn upon panels and manifested in the world around you. Each maze, once completed, has some small or large effect on something else in the environment — maybe it connects the circuit to turn on another panel with another maze, maybe it opens a door, or perhaps something grander.

Some mazes, even, are made flesh. One of the highlights of the game for me is the section wherein you walk through actual hedge mazes and then draw your path on a panel at the end. It’s not quite as straightforward as it sounds. These mazes must be traversed according to certain rules (as must all mazes in The Witness) — a symbolic language, if you will, that you gradually learn as you go.

When it comes to the hedge mazes, you need to look at cues in the shadows or terrain as you move. The joy I found in the puzzles here was not the rather tedious memorisation component but the figuring out of the rules. This perhaps goes back to my childhood, when I would fashion rules for myself to follow as I looked out the car window on long trips — simple rules, like swap my gaze to the other side of the road if I see a powerline or look straight ahead if I see a red mailbox.

The Witness may be frustrating and bewildering at times, but there’s something intensely pleasurable about discovering its rules and mechanics. There are no tutorials as such. Just easy puzzles that show you how a symbol works and harder ones that test and refine your knowledge. To solve a puzzle is to engage in a kind of conversation with its maker, and here the conversations flow beautifully. Except, that is, when you come to an area that showcases the advanced form of a rule you haven’t learnt yet. The Witness does very well with signposting within each area — thanks to the cables that connect panel sections — but its open-ended world design can leave you wandering away from the areas that the mechanics you’ve learnt up to that point have equipped you to solve.

This is a double-edged sword, though. If Jonathan Blow and his team had elected to funnel progression more stringently around the game world then The Witness could very easily have lost one of its strongest elements. The game is set on a gorgeous island, which is populated only by animals you never see and a diverse cast of stone-sculpted people who appear to have been frozen in place unexpectedly some time before you arrived. Perhaps tellingly, most of them look as though they were engaged in some kind of great endeavour or conflict. But the game leaves it for you to decide the significance.

Blow employed an architect as well as a team of artists to craft this island, and it shows in the details, both tiny and grand. Each man-made creation looks a part of its surroundings, weathered and withered by the years and constructed with an apparent though not always comprehensible purpose. If The Witness had been released without the puzzles, just as a world to explore, it would have still been a fine experience. There’s just so much care in the environment — so much of a captivating sense of place and of history. It’s surreal, sure, but sometimes I found it so impressive I felt like I could almost touch it.

The obvious comparison point is Myst. As in Cyan’s old interactive-slideshow-cum-puzzle-adventure, you’re on an abandoned island that once housed a sophisticated civilisation and you wander about exploring the landscape and completing puzzles in a bid to uncover some of the mystery of the place. Like Myst, what you reveal is mostly vague and so much of the deeper meaning is left for you to decide. The Witness even has hidden videos that hint at the philosophies behind the world (though they aren’t badly acted, postage stamp-sized FMV but clips from actual real-life documentaries and interviews). And like Myst, it is, at times, utterly baffling and bewildering in design.

Take the map, for instance. The Witness has one map of the island in it. Just one. And where do you find it? In a small boat that you must call up from beneath the waves like a mighty god. It may seem a little thing for a game in which wandering is in itself pleasurable, but minor quibbles quickly turn big when you’re trying to find a particular puzzle that you think you’ve just cracked. The design attempts to mitigate this problem by making the areas distinct from each other — the orange forest stands out clearly from the green one, while the town centre is noticeably different from the keep, for instance. But the differences serve a perhaps unintended purpose: the island looks and feels like a theme park — the kind of overambitious man-made island that you might see in a movie or in an alternate reality where Walt Disney got to build everything he dreamed of.

You’ll also be hard pressed to make much sense out of the narrative. Thankfully The Witness avoids the affected storytelling of Blow’s previous Great Work — 2008 time-bending platformer Braid. Really there’s no traditional story to speak of at all. But it lays on a different sort of pretension. Wilfully-obscure snippets of other people’s philosophical musings. There are those statues and videos, which I already mentioned and which do seem to tie loosely into the world design. And then there are audio logs scattered all around the island, each of which features someone reading a long-winded quote by a famous philosopher, scientist, or religious thinker. For some, these riddling hints at a deeper meaning may be delightful; for the rest of us they vary between brief curiosities and needless fluff that distracts from the core game.

That core game, again, is excellent. While The Witness does suffer from occasional signposting problems and the odd overdesigned puzzle — where a rule gets flipped for no good reason but to baffle you — as well as frequent bouts of pretension, it’s feedback loop is something special. I found that the best moments were those in which realised that I knew how to solve the puzzle — the moment where the fact that I had to apply rules a and b in a particular way clicked in my brain. Solving the puzzle, then, was just the affirmation that I was right; I’d identified the trick.

Without spoiling any specific puzzles, I should note that the trick is almost always revealed by something near the panel. Adventure games in the Myst vein often delight in making puzzles as obscure as possible. You have to know that the designer is (or thinks they are) smarter than you before you can find a solution. But The Witness goes in the opposite direction. By putting the hints within arm’s length, it lets you feel like a genius. Its puzzles — its rules — are uncompromising, but you learn them by playing. What does that symbol mean? How do those rules interact? What happens if I do it this way instead of the other way? How do I apply the rule from the previous panels in this sequence to this one, which looks a little different and more complicated?

You converse with the game, and, if you’re patient enough to think through the logic, it teaches you its secrets.

Some puzzles took me hours of head scratching to figure out. Others took mere seconds. And many, I was happy to find, required some kind of note-taking — whether it be a sketch or a photo or some good ol’ incomprehensible pen scrawls as I tried to understand how the Tetris pieces could come together, or which dots were which colour (on a panel that sat in a room with changing lighting colours — you probably don’t want to play this game if you’re colourblind).

Only rarely does it stray into the realms of unfairness, with puzzles that break rules or puzzle sequences that punish errors (normally you can just try again if you’re wrong, but in some places you must repeat the prior puzzle first).

The Witness is one of the most fulfilling games I’ve played in yonks and it accomplishes a rare feat. It’s varied, playful, elegant, mysterious, challenging, and intensely focused all at the same time. It’s also pretentious, yes, and the ending just leaves more questions than answers — paradoxically, perhaps, given that puzzle games are all about finding answers. And it gets incredibly frustrating. But such is the price of admission to a game that speaks so vividly, so passionately, and so beautifully through its uncompromisingly, obstinately logical puzzles.

The Witness is out now for Windows and Mac.


  1. Meat Circus says:

    This game is wonderful.
    It’s one of those games that manages to push buttons in your brain you never knew you had, and make you feel like a genius when something finally clicks.
    And it does all this without ever needing to explain anything.
    Jonathan Blow’s enigma variations. A meandering meditation on the means by which humans gain knowledge and understanding of the world, by standing on the shoulders of a hacking minigame.
    Also it’s gorgeous.
    Did I mention it’s BRILLIANT?

    • elden says:

      I realize that there’s an aura of “high-mindedness” surrounding everything Blow does – but some of the rhetoric gets a little out of hand. I mean, couldn’t you say that every decent puzzle game deals with “the means by which humans gain knowledge and understanding of the world”? There’s a spectrum, sure, and The Witness is sure to be near the top of the proverbial chart, but the way people phrase their criticism and praise of this game makes it seem like it’s some kind of society-altering oracle or something.

      • Chev says:

        It seems preposterous at first, but “gaining an understanding of the world” is an actual, formally implemented gameplay mechanic in that game, and a pretty clever one too, though saying more would be a spoiler.

      • Merus says:

        Sure, but that’s actually the ‘plot’, such as it is. So it’s relevant to The Witness specifically.

        I suspect the vast majority of reviewers didn’t find the area where the people reading out these quotes converse with each other and make it clearer what these characters are trying to achieve with their audio diaries.

  2. Catchcart says:

    “The Witness is out now” … for Windows/Mac OS X.

  3. Meat Circus says:

    What if, though, *what if* Jon Blow isn’t being pretentious? What if he’s actually clever?

    I know that such a crime is hard to accept in these anti-intellectual times, but the charge of “pretension” comes easily to gamers’ lips, and mostly it just seems to mark a deep distrust of clever people.

    • RuySan says:

      I completely agree. At least judging from some of the brilliant puzzles on Braid, he certainly seems like a smart fellow.

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      Harlander says:

      He could be both.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      It’s definitely possible to be both. I think JB (Jabes) is a clever man and he doesn’t mind if we know it, like Salman Rushdie or Stephen Fry. There’s no harm in it.

      • JuergenDurden says:

        i’ll give you fry but rushdie is just a pretentious horny old blowhard.

    • Ross Angus says:

      I agree. Most of the time people use that word to disguise an unwillingness to step outside their comfort zone. It’s not always the case, but any use of it makes me suspicious of the author.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        True. I also think that people use the word “pretentious” to make everyone think they’re clever when the truth is they just don’t like or get whatever it is. I’m sure there’s a word for that…

        • MisterFurious says:

          I find that people that don’t like the word ‘pretentious’ are usually pretentious.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            People that don’t like people that don’t like people that don’t like people that don’t like people… Always should be someone you truly loathe.

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      basilisk says:

      I haven’t played The Witness, but Braid’s long rambling (and completely unnecessary) walls of text are the very definition of pretentiousness – and bear in mind that I do loathe the word. If you have something clever to say, you can say it instead of wrapping it in an obscure tangle of words and insisting that there’s a meaning inside it all and no it’s not what you thought it was, it’s actually far smarter but you haven’t grasped it because apparently the only one who can correctly interpret Mr Blow’s prose is Mr Blow so what’s the damn point?

      He undeniably is a clever person, but his thinking doesn’t seem to be half as deep as he thinks it is. Hence, pretentious.

      • Meat Circus says:

        Point is, The Witness doesn’t have any of that, yet is *still* pretentious apparently. Not sure what the pretension is in having an audio log that’s quoting Rutherford, or Einstein, or John Glenn but there you go.

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          basilisk says:

          Well, for one thing, even the selection of quotes (and even more importantly, the people you choose to quote) is a meaningful act; secondly and more importantly,
          “If you want to look smart, quote smart people.” – Kim Kardashian

      • Urthman says:

        I don’t know what Blow’s intent was with the books in Braid, but for me they mostly just served to tip me off to the idea of thinking about the game’s mechanics as metaphors. I didn’t feel like they were trying to tell me “the story” of the game, so much as provide a prompt or example of the kind of thinking I might do about some of the game mechanics.

        I don’t know that my own reflections were any more profound or interesting than Blow’s (I doubt they would interest you at all), but they were mine, and made the game mean something more to me than just a fun set of puzzles. I’m glad Blow was willing to wear his heart on his sleeve a bit and be mocked for it in order to provide me with a little inspiration for thinking about his game.

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      Adam Smith says:

      It’s a word I’m very wary of and I made sure that where it was used here (I edited the review), it’s directed at the game rather than at any of the people who worked on the game. I haven’t played enough to say for sure but my impression is that the cleverness that is so evident in the puzzles (which the review recognises and applauds) doesn’t find a suitable means of communicating itself in the video and audio clips. And so they seem to lack the meaning or merit they’re reaching toward.

      Again, that’s how I understand it not necessarily as it is. A criticism of the way ideas are communicated within the medium rather than a criticism of the creator and the attempt to communicate those ideas.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        That all seems very reasonable.

      • GardenOfSun says:

        All is fair, my friend, but to justify your employment of the word you seem fo fall on an assumption that is completely unproven: that is that despite how clever something is, it can always be expressed in a simple and straightforward way. Which, sadly, I find to be a completely baseless and false claim, *especially* when it comes to art, where the question is not of clarifying facts of thought (as is the case, respectively, with science and philosophy), but of expressing reality as it is experienced – that is, most often, in the most confused, contradictory and nonsensical way imaginable. Obviously it’s not easy to do so in an un intellegible way, and that’s much of the pain and onus of the artist, but only one that thoroughly understands what the artist is trying to communicate can then allow himself to critique the form in which it is expressed. And when he’ll do that, he won’t employ concepts as vague and value-laden as “pretentious”, but more precise descriptions of what he intendes.

        I refer to my reply below (written before you guys had all stormed the place) for the rest of my opinion. Again, I’ve no quibbles with your review, but I believe you guys with a stake in the industry should reflect more on the cultural (or, in this case, anticultural) stances that you might be unconsciously absorbing from the masses you speak to.

        • GardenOfSun says:

          (I have to say that I’m sorry for the plague of typos that hit this last reply of mine, and which only now I notice.

          Just to clarify, with “employment” I meant “employ”, with facts of thought” I meant “facts OR thoughts” and with “Obviously it’s not easy to do so in an un intellegible way” I didn’t meant to put that UN in.

          It was probably obvious, but I wanted to correct it, just in case. :) )

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          lasikbear says:

          idk, ur v long rambling post kinda shows the opposite of ur point. super long and flowery isnt exactly an improvement on short and clever

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        Thulsa Hex says:

        I totally appreciate what you’re saying, but still think the word might not fit. Pretense implies facetiousness and knowingly applying greater import, whereas I think there is real conviction here. Whether or not it’s successful, however, is totally up for debate.

        • Sin Vega says:

          This is generally how I use the word too, but it’s a tricky one, because while it’s not how I’d first interpret it, Adam’s use is valid (arguments about its applicability aside – I’m not qualified to contribute there as I’ve not played the Witness). And of course, it’s become such an abused word that even using it sensibly and fairly becomes an awkward proposition.

          Bleh. Words: special codes for noises made with your face.

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            Thulsa Hex says:

            “…it’s become such an abused word that even using it sensibly and fairly becomes an awkward proposition.”

            Yeah, that’s a good point.

      • wwarnick says:

        I felt the same way about most of the quotes. They were interesting to listen to, but they felt out of place in this game. However, there were a few quotes that were related to the nearby puzzles (or maybe all of them were and I wasn’t smart enough to catch it?), though it was indirect. One set of puzzles in particular had me completely stumped and I could find no hints anywhere until I listened to the quote and it clicked. That was one of the few quotes that I actually appreciated.

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      Thulsa Hex says:

      Yeah, I’m not a fan of how often this word is used when talking about games – especially when it creeps into professional criticism. Fairly often it’s used incorrectly anyway, and simply as a means to take creator intent down a peg or two. Whether or not you’ve cringed at some of the things Blow has said, or whether or not the “metaphysics” angle of the game is your cup of tea, I highly doubt there’s any pretense involved. For my part, I like the themes, and the choice of quotations and video, but find some of the sculptures to be a bit heavy-handed (exhausted programmer/sculptor, anyone?).

    • GardenOfSun says:

      My hat off to you you sir! I was about to reply to say exactly the same thing.

      Since the word “pretentious” obviously marks a negative connotation, I believe we could define it as “something that behaves like it’s clever when it really is not”. So when I hear that Dear Esther, Bioshock Infinite or Braid is pretentious, I hear the person calling them, basically, stupid. Is proof ever offered of this conclusion? No. And isn’t it quite suspicious that the person who calls something stupid seems usually uncapable of explaining why is it so? Who’s being stupid here, then?

      On the other hand, if the definition intended wasn’t that one, but it referred only to the obscurity of presentation, one is equally hard pressed to ask: why something way more clever than average should conform to the way of exposing or going about things employed by the rest of the dumb riff-raff? And why shouldn’t we *praise* it for marrying a language that for once doesn’t try to understand things *for you*, instead of actually, you know, engaging your faculties with the true depth of its meaning(s)? Nowadays, when you hear “pretentious”, you should probably read it as “artistic”; and I’m thoroughly disturbed that what’s really artistic should be dismissed in principle, only to maybe proudly declare that “proper games” are an art form and all such non sequiturs.

      In this case it’s just a quibble in an otherwise fine review. But professional figures in the industry should stop conforming to this anti-cultural trend many of the kids fueling it adopt, because this a disservice both to the form and to themselves.

      • Mokinokaro says:

        The “endings” of The Witness (which I won’t spoil) are kind of pretentious and self aggrandizing but the rest of the game is extremely clever and it’s one of the best designed puzzle games I’ve played.

      • SteelPriest says:

        But Braid WAS cringey in its genero-emo theme and the writing was bloody awful. Trying to look clever and not pulling it off (I stayed for the mechanics, not the narrative)is deserving of criticism, and i believe pretty accurately described by ‘pretentious’.

        The tricky thing about what we might describe as ‘pretension’ is that if you do it well, you’re not pretentious. Remember, you can never be cool by trying to be cool, kids.

        • pepperfez says:

          I don’t think “genero-emo” is fair. At the very least, using the rewind mechanic to talk about loss and regret was quite clever.

      • Shazbut says:

        Broadly speaking, I agree, but you seem to suggest that the word “pretension” has no place at all, when there must be a reason it exists.

        Some mediums (such as games) have an inherent amount of intellectualisation in their construction, whilst simultaneously being a vessel for the creative spirit. So ideas and pure expression end up rubbing up against each other and it’s easy for them to feel like they don’t match. It’s hard enough with one person let alone a team. Maybe it’s about hiding the ideas as much as possible. Maybe it’s about honouring the spirit of it as much as possible at the expense of the form, to the point where the resulting game can be boring or barely playable.

        Regardless, it’s not easy with video games. Purer art forms don’t suffer this problem. People don’t tend to call Beethoven pretentious for example.

        • GardenOfSun says:

          I mostly agree with what you say, expect for two points.

          First, I don’t think that there’s no place for “pretense”. Aside from the fact that its place could just be to allow people of lower intelligence to vent their frustration against that which they don’t understand (something that, sadly, seems to happen most of the time with the word), I do believe that the first definition I suggest kind of encapsulates a good use of the term. But then again, as I elaborated further on my other reply above to Mr Smith, that would require that every time you call something “pretentious” you are also able to explain what was to be expressed and how could it be expressed better.

          Second, I also don’t agree that “proper” arts don’t have this problem. Quite the contrary, I believe that it’s way more visible for example in literature than here. Think about some of the best literary works of all time, like Joyce’s Ulysses and Kafka’s novels. I think the problem here is rather sociological: since videogames weren’t born as art, and the attempt to express art through them is relatively new; and since most of the audience for them has been immediately, from the inception of the medium, sequestered and shaped by mass market logic; it follows that there’s an inherent difficulty in using the media for art expression, and when someone does so, the result seems “weird” to the mainstream. As a result, the disproportionate amount of gamers who are not equipped to understand or appreciate art start to employ empty words like “pretense” to avoid admitting to themselves that their intellect is not adequate to the task presented. These same people would say that Kafka or Joyce are pretentious as well, only they don’t, because they simply don’t consider literature their turf the way games are.

          • GardenOfSun says:

            *”using the medium”, not the media. Sorry again for the typos. :)

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            basilisk says:

            I’m afraid your argument there sounds dangerously like “everyone is stupid but I am clever”.

            I’ve always believed in one simple rule: first it needs to be good. If it’s good, it may well have a deeper meaning.

            I have not played The Witness, so I should probably shut up, but the writing in Braid was most emphatically not good. It tried very hard to appear deep, but there was no reason to take that at face value if it didn’t even manage to get the “be good” part right. And it’s nonsense to pretend that some ideas are too complex to be written about directly. The only thing that does is insult every writer ever.

            (Bear in mind that this concerns the writing, not the mechanics. The exploration of mechanics in Braid was the best thing about the game, and by all accounts is the best thing about The Witness.)

          • GardenOfSun says:

            That’s some strawman from you sir, and you know it. Did I imply that *my* intellect is always adequate to the task? No. At most, I implied that I enjoy the good practice of admitting it when it’s not.

            As for the rest of what you say, it only underlines what I wrote: that is, you consider one thing videogames, quite another art. If it’s a good videogame, then it might as well be art; otherwise I don’t care. That’s a reasonable perspective, but, again, it shows that videogamers as a demographic mostly come from a place different from people who appreciate art for art’s sake.

            As for “And it’s nonsense to pretend that some ideas are too complex to be written about directly. The only thing that does is insult every writer ever.” is not only a unproven blanket statement, but patently false. Again, I refer you to Joyce’s Ulysses, and challenge you to find written in plain text, in any part of the book, the “ideas” which it’s trying to express. Is Ulysses pretentious? The very definition of an insult against every writer ever? I thought so.

            In fact, one good way of explaining why what you say doesn’t work at all is to point out that a work of art doesn’t express “ideas”. How do you express that which is not an idea, but reality itself, or at least how it is perceived as a blunt, precategorial experience? Or, in conceptual terms, how do you express the actual intuition of the infinite that is involved in seeing things in a way and in some other way at the same time? What if – something that you anglosaxon people historically seem remarkedly resistant to admit – the experience of life, unlike ordinary, plain language, entails unsolvable contradictions?

            Finally, you seem to think that I’m merely talking about the writing, but I’m not. I’m talking about the whole of the work. Writing can be an important part, and, case in point, it may very well be that in Braid is a bit weak (I won’t go there, for I played it a lot of years ago, and I don’t clearly remember). But it’s the whole of the work that expresses what is to be expressed – so much so that I’m again tempted to say that what is expressed is only indirectly “ideas”. Further, it’s the whole of the work that here is being called “pretentious”. My own literary example was to be taken as an example of art, not of writing; I could as well have talked of music or painting.

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            basilisk says:

            Perhaps you shouldn’t assume too much. I’m not Anglosaxon, for one thing, and I studied literary theory, so I’m hardly the average “videogamer as a demographic”.

            Ulysses, if anything, is about how the minutiae of everyday life are, from a different enough perspective, acts of heroism. That’s the deep theme. On the surface, it’s a pretty funny and really well written book about a guy wandering around Dublin and having a wank on the beach. So in that sense, it conforms to the rule perfectly. But that’s really an aside.

            And I am explicitly discussing only the writing, because Braid’s writing and Braid’s gameplay don’t intersect at all. You could easily rip them apart and no one would really notice.

          • GardenOfSun says:

            I apologize for incorrectly branding you as an anglosaxon, though that wasn’t intended as an insult, obviously.

            As for the rest, we can at least agree that the “effect” that Ulysses has on the reader is, in fact, what the book’s about – not its plot? And, thus, that in that sense what is expressed is not sayable in plain form – that is, if it was said in plain form it would lose itself, restricted, as it were, in too small of a container? What you yourself say to try and encapsulate “what is it about” proves, in my opinion, the point. For you aren’t incorrect about it, but what you say is only a tiny part of what’s expressed. What’s expressed there is also the *reason* why all acts are ethical, and that’s because life is infinite, infinitely sayable, and no matter how you try to put it into rules, the truth that makes the rule true will always escape the formulation of the rule. Something that sounds familiar to our own discussion, no? And, again, the reason why Joyce didn’t just write a two paragraph internet comment about what you said there, but tried to express *that persective itself” – as an experience, rather than as an idea.

            Further, I disagree that the writing and the gameplay in Braid are completely unconnected, just as I would disagree in principle with any statement like this regarding any work. They might, at most, be *not connected well enough*, but that would have to also be explained.

          • Buggery says:

            Yo GardenOfSun, I hate to tell you this, but your writing is pretty much the embodiment of pretension. I mean this as constructive criticism, not an insult.

            Long, complex, seemingly intelligent from tone and vocabulary–but needlessly so. You write many words to obfuscate simpler ideas that may or may not hold up to scrutiny due to the use of language. It’s hard to argue exactly what you’re saying because it requires multiple reads to even understand what you’re saying. I say this as someone who studie[d/s] literature and now writes and performs editing for other people.

            I think the point of claiming pretension in this game is that, while there are some genuinely intelligent ideas involved, dropping in semi-related quotes and philosophical treatises does not really add to that in any way. It’s almost like saying “games are art, because I put art in games.” Which is a bit odd because by all means it sounds as if they’ve done a pretty good job of trying to embody the themes of the game through the organic framework of gameplay–which is indeed, not pretentious, and in fact, pretty damn clever.

      • Urthman says:

        Bioshock Infinite is an example of a game that’s pretentious. It thinks it is smart, acts like it is smart, but is actually quite dumb, and there are dozens of articles and podcasts and videos that will explain in great detail how and why it is dumb.

        Until someone can explain what exactly it is that the Witness thinks is smart and why it is actually dumb, I don’t think you get to call it “pretentious.”

    • Synesthesia says:

      Yes. Thank you.

    • ivanmussa says:

      That’s exactly my feeling about this word. I sould add that almost always that someone calls Braid or JOnathan Blow “pretentious”, they don’t explain exactly WHY is it pretentious. This is exactly the case with this review. Unfortunately, it sounds like poor criticism – an adjective that doensn’t know why its there.

    • Psychomorph says:

      This is a huge wall of quotes in quotes. Is this a puzzle? How pretentious.

    • Geebs says:

      I find the whole “pretentious” thing rather tooth-grinding, actually. Particularly infuriating is that every pundit who has accused the game of being pretentious has made no effort to justify that criticism. I imagine that if The Witness had been procedurally generated, contained no gameplay, or had been the exact same game made by someone else, we’d be hearing about how deep it all is.

      Jon Blow’s crime is apparently to be too obviously clever.

    • Rumpelstiltskin says:

      The Witness is definitely not pretentious. If anything, it maybe looks a bit too much like a diligent and earnest student’s diploma thesis. It would be pretentious if instead of logs and videos it had, for instance, short vague messages like “love??”, “beauty must know”, etc.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      I think it’s like that the game is clever, but the price point knocks it into pretentious territory ;)

  4. caff says:

    I really like it. It is uncompromisingly challenging. The hedge puzzle blew my mind a little bit when I sussed out what was going on.

    • amateurviking says:

      The hedge puzzle was strange for me. The first two I got quickly, the third stumped me completely but as I was playing around with the puzzle I solved it by accident (it’s the only one where I just took a guess). Still don’t know what the solution is (don’t tell me, I’m going to go back and play again at some point). The fourth part of that puzzle was a proper “gosh I am rather clever aren’t I?” moment when I solved it.

      Top puzzling, graph paper recommended.

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        Thulsa Hex says:

        The third one kicked my butt for ages. Had to go away and come back. I tried a bunch of guesses, but thankfully they failed, ’cause it felt good when it eventually clicked. It’s very sneaky but rest assured — any clues you need are right there.

      • Matt_W says:

        That 3rd puzzle was one of my least favorite puzzles in the game — as close to unfair as it’s possible to get.

  5. Synesthesia says:

    We’ve been spending hours upon hours with the gf playing The Witness.

    The day of release, we sat in front of the pc, just to check it out, and six hours later we had to force each other into bed. We fucking love this.

    It’s scratching the very itch that Braid reached out to quell a few years ago, and i’m grateful for it. And I think it would be less of a game without it’s pompousness, without the “pretension”.

  6. 9of9 says:

    Jonathan Blow has talked before about crafting an experience around letting the player experience epiphanies in the making of the Witness and I have to admit it’s difficult to put into words how strong some of these experiences are.

    I don’t think speaking of it will spoil much, but I would be curious if anyone who figures out how to unlock the black monoliths ten hours into the game is not deeply affected by the realisation.

    • Premium User Badge

      Thulsa Hex says:

      I don’t think much should be said of the monoliths (or much else in the game) but, yes! Discovering how they work was a real cool moment for me. At first I was like, “What the hell was that!” I’ve completed all but one, now, and am way too excited about that fact.

      • 9of9 says:

        Yes, sorry, I meant I don’t think it’s spoiling too much to say that there’s an element of the game that involves the black monolith, but I do agree that generally the less said the better! =D

      • horsemedic says:

        Well, you started the topic, and I want to say something about them so SPOILERS!


        SPOILERSSPOILERSSPOILERSthey’re kind of my least favorite part of the game, i think. yeah, the first time i accidentally activated one was neat, and i’ve yet to complete any so maybe i’m missing something. but as best i can tell, they’re basically just 3d Where’s Waldo? puzzles, with none of the obscured logic and secret language that make the rest of the game so enjoyable. honestly, i look at them as work, and am procrastinating trying to finish one. maybe when i do i’ll be more excited?




        • Rumpelstiltskin says:

          Do they count against the total puzzles solved count btw? They don’t seem to, as I’ve been solving some, and the count in the load game menu stays at 426. I have no idea where the rest of the supposed 700 are. Do fully opened monoliths open some areas with more puzzles maybe?

          • ChrisGWaine says:

            They have their own count and as far as I could tell only affected indications that they were solved. Anyone who doesn’t enjoy doing them won’t miss out by not doing them.

          • Premium User Badge

            Thulsa Hex says:

            Yeah, my file says something like, “498 +178 +5.” I think that’s 498 regular puzzles, 5 monoliths. Not sure what the 178 is… maybe monolith segments and extra stuff? I’m not finished, yet. I got right outside the final room (I think), but doing some house-cleaning first.

          • Rumpelstiltskin says:

            Looks like the second number is the amount of monolith pieces, since it’s what’s increased since I started doing them. The third one I don’t even get yet, is it the number of fully solved ones perhaps?
            As for the total puzzle count, since the monoliths aren’t that, and don’t open any new areas apparently, I’m still not sure what I missed. Are there any puzzle areas that you thought were potentially missable?

          • Rumpelstiltskin says:

            Ok I read elsewhere that there’s a fairly well-hidden underground area with a massive amount of puzzles.

          • Premium User Badge

            Thulsa Hex says:

            Yup, the “5” is for how many monoliths I’ve fully done.

  7. Banks says:

    It’s a wonderfully unique experience that gets the best of yourself. It has it’s ups and downs but overall it’s extremely clever and inspiring.

    We need more videogames like this.

  8. HappyCerberus says:

    The important question is: How does it compare to TALOS?

    • anHorse says:


    • Mokinokaro says:

      They’re extremely different styles of puzzle game.

      Talos has a stronger focus on narrative and segregates each puzzle into a distinct cordon (outside of the bonus star puzzles.)

      The Witness on the other hand makes you think its puzzles are obvious and easily found, but the distinct puzzles are more like tutorials for the REAL ones.

    • horsemedic says:

      It’s like comparing Stephen King to Faulkner.

      Every puzzle in the The Witness revolves around a system of interconnected rules that you come to understand gradually, as you use them to solve increasingly clever puzzles. Understanding the total rule set is a kind of uber puzzle you work towards for the entire game. None of the rules—or even the fact that there are rules—is stated explicitly. You figure it out as you go, by exploring a beautifully and purposefully designed island that is (spoiler) a physical manifestation of the same abstract rules upon which the puzzles are based.

      In Talos you wander through what looks like an NVidia tech demo from the mid-2000s, arranging boxes and fans and things inside disconnected arenas according to half a dozen simple, arbitrary rules that are made explicit as soon as they’re introduced, typical examples of which are “you can stand on a box” and “fans blow boxes.” You use these same rules over and over again as the arenas become larger and more tedious, but never very clever.

      Both games end in a big tower and have stories that draw parallels between their designers and God.

      • zacharai says:

        I see what you did there.

      • taalas says:

        This is by far the best summary of Talos Principle I have read anywhere…and the one that most closely resembles my feelings about it. I am not saying that it was a bad game, just that – for me – it was utterly liveless and sterile, although a good puzzle game. The Witness is a great puzzle game AND is very charming. just my 2c

        • PancakeWizard says:

          This thinking about the Talos Principle is possibly the reason Valve think it’s better to have a big slice of comedy along with your puzzles.

      • Rumpelstiltskin says:

        I don’t think I can agree that TW’s puzzles are unconditionally more clever than the ones in Talos. The actual puzzles, once you know the rules, are solid, but too ‘combinatoric’, due to the very constrained nature of the grid, i.e. you just recombine pieces in you mind until they fit. So ultimately, none of the solutions is particularly surprising. So far, I was most impressed by one of the video vault doors puzzle, only to find out that the trick I though was pretty clever was explained on a tutorial panel elsewhere which I had missed.

      • Deadly Sinner says:

        “In Talos you wander through what looks like an NVidia tech demo from the mid-2000s”

        I like Talos, but this is hilariously accurate.

    • Jac says:

      Better. Talos good. Me enjoy. Witness good. Me enjoy.

      • wwarnick says:

        I agree. I really liked Talos Principle and thought it was a smart game, but I don’t know that I’ve played a game as clever as the Witness. But just a forewarning, you can’t jump, there aren’t any explosions, there’s hardly any music, and it revolves around drawing a line from point a to point b. For some people, it’s boring. But I personally liked The Witness better. I’d say give it a shot and see what you think.

        • Jac says:

          Absolutely. I can totally see how the witness won’t be everyones cup of tea but if you like tea then it is bordering on a masterpiece.

          If you like puzzle games then this will give you so many many moments of “oh wow”. I am nearing the end and have easily ignored anything “narrative” like. It’s there if you want, but for me it’s about enjoying the puzzles. I haven’t found a single one unfair either. At times there were ones that appeared unfair but after finally solving them i realised i had not 100% understood some of the puzzle mechanics.

  9. fco says:

    Like Myst? Insta-buy!

  10. quidnunc says:

    I was intrigued enough at seeing James Burke in that screenshot to look up what he said, which is apparently an obnoxious “two cultures” science triumphalism ripped from its 1978 historical context. I suppose it could make sense in a message the game is trying to convey which I will discover if I ever play it.

    • Shake Appeal says:

      This was actually the one point at which I snorted and said, “Okay, Johnny Blow, that’s a little simplistic.” Which is to say, it was kinda obnoxious in context as well as out of it. The other videos felt more open-ended and interpretive to me.

      • Jac says:

        How did you take something away from watching the candle guy that was anything but sheer unadulterated hatred?!

      • Chev says:

        There’s definitely multiple angles to the James Burke video, more than it seems at first glance.

    • ChrisGWaine says:

      The material used is a mixture of a perspectives.

      • Mokinokaro says:

        And a lot of the puzzles involve looking at things from non-obvious angles.

        Which is why I think Blow isn’t really telling any sort of story with the game, but more displaying variations on a theme.

    • internisus says:

      It seems to me that no one viewpoint presented by the game is being endorsed as the right one.

  11. Shake Appeal says:

    I found this to be far less “pretentious” than Braid, almost entirely because I feel Blow is a bad writer (and worse, a bad writer who clearly reads good writers such as Calvino), and his writing is nowhere in this that I’ve seen. The audio and video clips he chose were pleasingly diverse, and all of them made me reflect on the context in which they were placed. Some of them I found genuinely moving, even if I don’t always agree with what I suspect is Blow’s intense scientism. I think there’s something so earnest in what I take to be his aim in this game — to teach the player to treat the environment with a blank curiosity, to teach us how to experiment, to fail, to learn — that I can’t help but find the “narrative” content charming.

    Also, just to respond to one thing in the review: the only cases in which the game switches off a failed panel and requires you to repeat the previous one are when it would be too easy to brute-force that panel otherwise (because there are relatively few solutions to it). It’s Blow’s way of saying “you can’t just keep guessing at this one; demonstrate that you’ve intuited the rule.”

    • Sian says:

      From what I’ve seen (about one hour of Jesse Cox playing it), repeating those panels is a breeze. The solution is displayed until you activate the panel, so it’s easy to just redraw it. It makes brute-forcing a bit more time-consuming, but I don’t think it makes it that much harder.

      But as I said, I haven’t seen much of the game, so it may well get harder later on.

      • Premium User Badge

        Thulsa Hex says:

        There’s five or so distinct rules/puzzle types, which vary in difficulty but are basic enough to grasp after some light probing. It’s when these rules are layered upon each-other that the puzzles become much more difficult.

        • Premium User Badge

          Thulsa Hex says:

          Whoops, I misread some of your comment. Yeah, mercifully the previous panel always continues to display your solution, even if you have to re-draw the line. It really does deter winging it, because it’s more of a pain in practice than it seems!

    • elden says:

      I’m not sure where you’re getting “intense scientism” – most smart people realize that the application of reason to human problems is the best way to form new answers and explanations. This is exemplified in the game. Nothing in The Witness or Blow’s Twitter feed or other writings (which I’ve been exposed to) indicates to me that he thinks, for example, knowledge is reducible to only that which is measurable, or that morality comes solely from the application of the scientific method, or any of the other signposts of “scientism”. You’re hurling accusations of “scientism” at a strawman, like most who have attempted such things.

      • cafeoh says:

        I wholeheartedly agree, and will add that he actually warns against this very thing (at least once in the video talking about layers of understanding/abstraction).

        I believe you could replace the word “scientific” with “rational” and have the same effect (as far as I know there is no science without rationality, and I don’t know of something that I could consider rational and unscientific). But surely some would consider the use of that word pretentious and the overall message bland of meaning.

    • ChrisGWaine says:

      Judging from The Witness, “intense scientism” seems pretty far off the mark.

    • Geebs says:

      I don’t think the word “scientism” is useful except as a way to identify a philosopher with a giant, clanking, inferiority complex over losing the ‘natural’ part. I’d also point out that Braid was about a guy who messed everything up by following his obsessions.

      I’m totally with you on the quality of Braid’s writing, though, and agree it’s a good thing that Blow decided not to include any of his own this time round.

    • grrrz says:

      Yeah, there’s basically a guy saying “philosphy, art, is just the reflect of a being, just emotions now Science, this is reality”. I could not disagree more with this. Basically science and the way we obverve reality is based on a philosophical background, not the other way around. There’s no such thing as total objectivity. And art should be another way as well as science, to express the essence of reality, it’s certainly not only about expressing feelings, or about aesthetic, it’s about a lot more than that. It’s about disconvering the world in wonder and amazement.
      Ultimately the scientific method, philosphy, and artistic “research”, follow the same goal, through different means.
      does somebody know the name of this guy? (first video in the mill)

  12. Fungaroo says:

    Fwiw, there does seem to be a decent sized group of people who enjoy the game’s obscure narrative, going by the fan theory threads over on /r/TheWitness. And, at the very least, Blow is still trying to infuse his games with some sort of meaning, which is a good thing.

  13. Rumpelstiltskin says:

    Meh, I think it was ok, but way too easy and too short.

    • horsemedic says:

      Well that’s not really a useful criticism because, reading between the lines of your comment, you’re much smarter than everyone else here.

      • Rumpelstiltskin says:

        Don’t know how you can read between the lines there as it has only one:)
        Also, the comment wasn’t entirely earnest, of course, but I’m still not sure whether it was a sarcasm or a trolling attempt.

  14. internisus says:

    I hated the actual writing in Braid, but I do not find The Witness to be pretentious at all. A lot of people denounce the “audio logs” as unrelated wank, but I think that the game’s holistic approach to its themes is wonderful. Ruminations on how environment determines an individual’s actions play on a voice recorder while nearby panel solutions are directly dictated by the properties of the physical paths taken to approach them. You find this quote by Yung-chia Ta-shih while solving puzzles in which the path on one panel must be mirrored on its opposite: “The one moon reflects itself wherever there is a sheet of water, and all the moons in the waters are embraced within the one moon.”

    Far from unrelated, then; rather, the audio/video records, environmental layout and details, and puzzles’ rules themselves all synergize. It’s a game about the search for meaning, science, religion, art, shadows, reflections, duality, perspective, memory, absence, remnants, and time. I love its intellectual and spiritual ambition. The Witness is literature.

  15. Premium User Badge

    TightByte says:

    I’ve really, really enjoyed The Witness. I was keenly awaiting to see what would be RPS’ take on it, as well as the response in the comments section.

    There are many things to appreciate about RPS (just as there are a great many things to appreciate about The Witness), and one of them is that participating in the conversation is usually, and yet quite unusually for taking place in this day and age of the very loud Intertubes, nearly always civil, interesting, and appreciative of a variety of opinions and perspectives.

    I am a little bit surprised to find even the slighest bit of acrimony among those to whom the game did not appeal. Clearly, every one is entitled to one’s very own opinion, but I’d much rather find out what worked and didn’t work among those who have sampled this offering than get the feeling there’s a hint of a putdown being voiced because someone has dared even to attempt to create something different.

    Personally, I heartily recommend The Witness, I greatly enjoyed it, recommend it to all who are curious, and am currently trying to decide how long to wait before I am ready for a second playthrough. In closing, I’ll repeat my assertmen that we cannot and need not all agree about what makes a truly inspiring video game, and for those who did not find this game to their liking, there are happily others. Why, in fact just yesterday, Mr Walker was good enough to review one called Bombshell.

  16. mechabuddha says:

    I do have to counter your claim that the game unfairly flips rules or breaks its own rules just to baffle the player.

    The Witness never breaks its own rules. Never ever. Every single puzzle follows uses the same “language” and “words” without exception. If a puzzle seems to be unfair or have broken the rules, it is either because you’ve made a faulty assumption about the rules of the language, or because you haven’t learned a word in the language yet.

    This is why The Witness is already one of my favorite puzzle games ever. When you play this game, you are learning a puzzle language with very specific words — and you don’t ever have to worry about the game cheating you out of a solution.

    • wwarnick says:

      Agreed. And I’d say it knows you’ll make faulty assumptions and purposefully goes against them, which is awesome. A good example is the camouflaged panels in the jungle, for those who know what I’m talking about. There were many times when I thought there must be a bug in the game until I realized that I had false expectations. It sometimes feels like the game is playing with you rather than the other way around, but I love that.

    • theslap says:

      I was very bothered by the fact that the author said this about the game. The fact that it doesn’t break any rules and never makes any puzzle unfair is what made this so great!

      In Anti-Chamber, for example, I found the “puzzles” to be annoying because the game was created around the promise of the breaking on the rules which, for me, doesn’t make a very good puzzle game.

      The Talos Principle did better in this regard in that the game never breaks its own rules and is probably why I enjoyed it as well. However, solving puzzles in The Witness felt more organic. As if the you could almost feel yourself understanding more and more until it suddenly “clicks”. Whereas in Talos, I often felt I knew the solution from the beginning but just takes some trial and error before I solved it.

  17. ChrisGWaine says:

    “Just one.”

    I wouldn’t say that.

  18. trashbat says:

    It’s hard to not like a game in which – SPOILER ALERT – a key objective is roaming the landscape looking for ways to draw a big penis.

    I mean, you can get dozens of hours into this game before it even dawns on you that that’s what you’re even doing, searching for enormous sparkling penises of the mind that no one else can see.

  19. Rogerio Martins says:

    The game isn’t that great at all, uninteresting, boring, pretentious. Those are fitting qualities on this game. It’s just a collection of maze puzzles, some very good, but just maze puzzles after all, the videos that you unlock are incredibly pretentious and preachy, the game isn’t mysterious, just devoid of anything interesting.

    The game looks great, but I think it really is the only thing going on, if you want a really good puzzle game with variety I would suggest Antichamber or Talos Principle, both are great games and much superior than the Witness in anyway.

    • wwarnick says:

      The Witness certainly isn’t for everyone. The “variety” you mentioned has certainly become expected in games these days. If you don’t hold a gun of some kind, if you can’t jump, if you can’t blow up somehow, then the game is boring. Given, Talos Principle and Antichamber were both great games, but they were only more accessible because they were made with mainstream gamers in mind who expected mainstream mechanics. Braid was easier for some people to accept because you could jump around and kill the baddies. The Witness certainly isn’t for everyone, but I wouldn’t throw out blanket statements about how bad the game is when many people really like it.

  20. wwarnick says:

    Jonathan Blow has been criticized for his strong opinions about game design and his harsh criticism of games that are widely acclaimed. However, The Witness shows that he practices what he preaches, and it proves his point pretty well. I’ve usually been the skeptic when certain games are labeled as art, but I’d personally put The Witness in that category. It’s clever use of the world is my favorite part of the game. I won’t go so far as to say some mystical-sounding mumbo jumbo about how The Witness has changed my life or anything, but I will say that it’s beautiful and Jonathan Blow has me sold on his standard of quality. It’s not for everyone, but I’d certainly recommend it.

  21. Gordon Shock says:

    I love the idea of puzzle games but whenever I fall for it I found myself inevitably scrambling for the nearest FAQ/Walkthrough usually about halfway through the game (what can I say, my strengths lie elsewhere)

    For those of you who played it, will my history repeat itself with this one or are it’s puzzles “manageable” for someone like me?


    • wwarnick says:

      Well, it’s a difficult one, but I personally found it to be “mostly” doable with a walkthrough. I admit, there was one time when I was baffled and pulled out a walkthrough, but I instantly regretted it and wished I’d looked just a little bit harder. The game teaches you as you go. If something stumps you, this game rewards those that walk away and look at a different puzzle, or even step away from the game for an hour and come back. It’s a game that makes you feel like a genius if you give yourself the chance. In short, I’d so go for it and resist the temptation to look at a walkthrough as best you can.

    • Person of Interest says:

      I would say no, this game is your one-way ticket to Walkthroughistan. I’m 525 puzzles in, but some puzzles took me half an hour, and one in particular stumped me for two days: I finally looked that one up, and I still don’t understand the solution.

  22. waltC says:

    “… but you learn them by playing. What does that symbol mean? How do those rules interact? What happens if I do it this way instead of the other way? How do I apply the rule from the previous panels in this sequence to this one, which looks a little different and more complicated?

    You converse with the game, and, if you’re patient enough to think through the logic, it teaches you its secrets.”

    Bravo…very well said…;) This is the way a real “gamer” (I don’t like the term as it is far too trite) plays *all* computer games that are worth playing! Games that don’t force you to adopt the above modes of play aren’t actually “games” worthy of being hosted on a computer, imo.

  23. elderman says:

    Sounds like a good game! I would have loved to have played it. Unfortunately, it’s not coming to my platform of choice. I vaguely understand the reason there’s no Linux version on its way — something to do with the sound and 3d libraries, according to J. Blow on twitter — I’m just disappointed.

    I’m grateful for the wide range of gaming options on Linux these days. I won’t lack for good gaming options, that’s for sure.

  24. Person of Interest says:

    For anyone with patience, and a tolerance of walking simulators, I recommend that you skip all the puzzles (save the forced introductory puzzles) for the first few hours of play, and just explore the island without being distracted. It’s your one chance to really take it in before the puzzling begins in earnest, and gosh, it’s the most beautiful game world I’ve seen. Each bend in the path revealed a new breathtaking scene for me. You can appreciate the deliberateness with which everything’s been arranged, which I think gives the puzzles and narrative deeper meaning once you dive in.

  25. Bobtree says:

    I enjoyed The Witness, some of the puzzles are superb. The philosophical commentary is an extremely mixed bag however. It’s just stupid to put greats like James Burke (big spoiler there RPS) next to guru drivel and religious quotes in a game about rigorous logic. That the island itself is logically incoherent in the end was also disappointing (the credit sequence twist justifies it, but that doesn’t make it better).

    > The Witness has one map of the island in it. Just one.

    This is incorrect.

    • bedsidetrash says:

      I was too stupid to figure out how to turn on the audio tapes during my entire playthrough, which seems like a good thing.

      If a game has a meaningful message, that message should emerge organically through the story or through the puzzles. When The game, or a character in the game, start philosophizing, and repeating aphorisms, the game seems pretentious and like it has an agenda. I don’t want to be told the meaning of life by a book, movie, or a video game.

      The Witness is beautiful if its just consumed abstractly without text or words.

    • fricatives says:

      I got about 30 hours in until I noticed the real map, not the one on the boat. This is a game that rewards careful observation.

  26. Hyena Grin says:

    Can we just address the accusation of ‘pretentiousness?’

    What does that even mean in this context?

    There are several instances where we are just supposed to take for granted that the game is pretentious.

    “It is pretentious, but….”

    This comes up a lot in reviews about games that deal with or acknowledge ideas and concepts that haven’t been boiled down into some sort of populist milkshake. Are we supposed to not like the videos and audio logs in The Witness, because that is the sense I am getting, and yet I thought they were pretty great.

  27. onodera says:

    I fell in love with the Witness just as much as I hated Braid. I had to resort to online hints to solve the third hedge maze, the jungle (both because I was playing with no sound) and the first hexagon puzzle in the sunny ruin. All other puzzles have tickled my brain in unexpected places, especially when you solve one after almost convincing yourself it is impossible.
    I don’t find the game pretentious, but maybe that’s because I somehow haven’t found even a single audio log.

  28. BluePencil says:

    “I would fashion rules for myself to follow as I looked out the car window on long trips — simple rules, like swap my gaze to the other side of the road if I see a powerline or look straight ahead if I see a red mailbox.” ~ Richard Moss

    That sounds a bit restrictive. I used to go “everything of [x colour] explodes”. Or sometimes imagine a dinosaur running by the car crushing the buildings across the road.

  29. shadow9d9 says:

    Again, I ask why this game gets special treatment and a review when tons of other great adventure games have been coming out for 2 decades that have been completely ignored? Yeah, they know the developer from one game years ago. Does that mean that this genre is cared about all of a sudden?

  30. kyrieee says:

    Just a heads up that the “wot i think” tag for this article is wrong.

  31. Jackablade says:

    I suspect I might not be smart enough to get much enjoyment out of The Witness.

  32. GepardenK says:

    Great review, but I found the stab at Myst uncalled for. I don’t think there is a single obscure puzzle in any of the Cyan made Myst games (Myst, Riven, Myst V).

    Riven is a special case though. It has only two proper puzzles in the entire game (with some minor ones scattered here and there). They make perfect logical sense but require a deep understanding of how that world works (and hinted at story events) before you can even begin to comprehend them. So the main gameplay loop of Riven is more about archaeology than actual puzzle-solving

  33. haldolium says:

    It’s noteworthy that The Witness is also a game that offers tremendeously awesome visual and world design and therefore alone is a “must play” in my opinion.

    It’s furthermore very noteworthy that this game doesn’t utilize Unity and you feel it and see it every step of the way. Not only did the team cared about outstanding content, but for once an indie team choses their own engine and delivers with much care in image qualiy.

    Engine diversity is much needed, since 99% of developers fail to take out the default look and problems of Unity. Even “veterans” can’t handle all the horrors that Unity brings, like Homeworld DoK had shown the other week…

  34. JuergenDurden says:

    pretentious toss. seeing super bunnyhop COMPLETELY wreck this game in their latest video just reaffirmed me in my opinion.

    • trashbat says:

      I don’t want to try and claim that The Witness is for everyone, but that’s simply eleven minutes of someone who self professes their hate for puzzles games whilst reviewing a puzzle game and then being wilfully stupid at playing it. I mean, look at 4:15 for goodness sake. It didn’t really do anything to reaffirm your opinion, did it?

    • GepardenK says:

      Other than him not liking the game he was more or less completely off the mark on all his criticism, so I wouldn’t call it wrecking it… It was like listening to someone trying to make a complex argument for why Eminems songs are bland when in reality the person just don’t like rap, kinda embarrassing really

  35. AceTheSpaceCase says:

    Really? It’s a game of mazes, honestly it is a mobile game set in a 3D world, any half decent App dev could make the actual “puzzle” elements of this game in to a game in a fraction of the time.