REVIEW: The Witness

Feb
24

REVIEW: The Witness

A combination of walking simulator and puzzle genre that somehow doesn’t blend well. It still have interesting puzzle mechanics, although people with limitations might have trouble solving them.

Released: Steam
Type: Single-player
Genre: Puzzle, Walking Sim
Developer: Thekla, Inc.
Publisher: Thekla, Inc.
Release date: 26 Jan, 2016

Intro

The Witness is a combination of walking simulator and puzzle genre, where you have to explore an island and find puzzles to solve. 2D line puzzles with new mechanics will welcome you on each part of the island where you have to familiarize yourself with the mechanics to solve them.

Graphics

The Witness comes with astounding graphics with a lot of details. Instead of presenting the environment with the same-looking trees or rocks, the game takes it up a notch by putting more details into it. Have you ever see a cloud that looks like your favorite animal? Trees and clouds in The Witness often uses this idea where objects are shaped to look like other objects. However, despite the beautiful-looking and vibrant environment, some areas take place in very dark places, giving the spooky vibe while making it hard to see the surroundings.

Some areas require you to solve puzzles in a very dark place.

The Game

Gameplay

As a puzzle game, the mechanic is simple: you need to draw a line from the start to finish. More mechanics will be introduced as you explore more areas, sometimes requiring you to go to other places that have the tutorial for the mechanics in it. You’ll have to go back and forth between several places, finding the puzzles that you can solve while leaving the ones that you still don’t understand for later. However, this makes it hard to keep track of which puzzles that you have solved and which ones that you have not. Some tutorials are also located in an area that is very far from the starting area despite you encountering the mechanics several times. Moreover, there is one mechanic that has no tutorial or whatsoever, forcing you to learn it by yourself.

While some mechanics are easy to learn with the simple-to-understand tutorial levels, some mechanics, especially the special ones, are problematic to solve. These special mechanics tend to use the environment, whether it’s the sun, lighting, or others, to help you to solve them. However, as someone who is tone-deaf, I couldn’t seem to differentiate between high and low pitch notes to solve most puzzles that require these as a basis. The color-related puzzles also seem to be made to ruin my eyes with their flashing colors in one of the areas. To be honest, I’d rather solve the puzzles that don’t require these fancy mechanics instead since they are easier to learn and apply.

Some puzzles require you to interact with the environment to solve.

Walking Simulator

The idea where you need to walk around to enjoy the scenery and looking for new puzzles might be brilliant at first, but it doesn’t come with its disadvantages. I found myself keep on running in circles, trying to find a way to another area or location of new puzzles most of the time. It was exhausting, especially if you consider that you can solve more puzzles if the game just “spoonfeed” you with a puzzle right after you solve the previous one, without all the exploration aspect.

Secrets

The game has a lot of hidden puzzles and secrets hidden on the island. While it might seem like a good feature for completionists, finding one is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Besides, they are not rewarding enough to collect that I stopped at 560 puzzles (written as “518+52” in my save file) before I was done with the game. For your reference, there are ~90 more puzzles that I needed to finish.

Some puzzles are hidden within the environment.

Length and Difficulty

I finished the game in 12.2h. People who are up for a challenge can also try the game’s challenge room where you can finish a set of puzzles, which are randomized every run, within a time limit. I finished it in 0.3h although it might take longer if I didn’t prepare myself beforehand.

As for the game itself, the difficulty depends on the puzzle. Some puzzles are very easy while others, especially the ones in the last area, are challenging to solve. The one that gave me the most trouble is the special puzzles since I’m not good enough to solve a puzzle that requires you to think outside the box, where I couldn’t figure out the “box” myself. To be fair, I understand the basic rule. I just couldn’t seem to understand how to apply most of these rules myself to a different puzzle.

Problems

I got nausea when I played the game for the first time. I’m not sure whether it’s because of the default mouse speed, which is very fast, or whether I was feeling unwell at the time of playing, but I noticed that some people also experience similar things when they played the game. All animations in the game also run very slowly without any way to speed them up.

Specs

Intel Core i5-9300H 2.40GHz, 8GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650

Verdict

To be honest, I didn’t have a good initial impression of this game. I didn’t know how to solve most puzzles, especially with the tutorials being hidden very well. However, I found that some puzzles, especially the ones that don’t require you to interact with the environment to solve, are fun to solve. More and more puzzles of these kinds keep on appearing as I played the game and it changes my impression of the game. However, despite the beautiful-looking environments, the lack of music in the game doesn’t make me immersed in the game – I ended up frantically looking for puzzles to solve instead, which somehow beat the purpose of the game to relax and enjoy the scenery.

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