David and I have been slowly playing through The Witness in our copious spare time, and we finally finished! A basically spoiler-free review follows:
It’s a good game! It is kinda Myst-like, in that you wander around the world solving puzzles, but solves some of the things that annoyed me about Myst – it’s mostly clear what are puzzles and what are not, and it’s usually obvious what solving a puzzle does. Now that I write those words you might say “but that doesn’t sound like Myst at all!” and, well, fair point. But it has that same sense of mystery and lonesome wandering.
The puzzles themselves are pretty creative – there’s basically one type of puzzle which a bunch of variations. The best part of the game is the fact that there’s no real tutorial; you get thrown into the game and get to use inductive reasoning to figure out the rules and what the heck is going on. The feeling of staring at a puzzle trying to figure out what’s going on and getting that moment of inspiration is really powerful!
Stepping back for a minute, a common trope in video games is getting the ability to do more things as you progress. Metroid in particular is the canonical example to me – you start out and you run into a door that won’t open without the ice beam, so you go a different direction. Later on, you find a chest with the ice beam in it, say “yay!” and eventually go back to the door and open it.
The Witness manages to do this but with knowledge. Your character doesn’t get any more powerful, but you learn how to solve more and more types of puzzles. Often we could guess the idea behind a puzzle but not quite all the details, and then once we did learn the rule we felt more powerful!
We only cheated a few times – one time we had used some incorrect logic, and there was one zone in particular that just went on and on and on (highlight for spoiler: *cough*underground part of the desert*cough*) But overall I was proud of us!
I will say that the meta-story behind everything was kinda disappointing, and if you do play and beat the game I would recommend you look at a walkthrough to make sure you get the “real” ending. But if you like puzzle games it’s a good one!