Having gained high acclaim from critics and gamers alike across PS4 and PC earlier this year, The Witness has now come to Xbox One. Inspired by Myst, an adventure puzzle based game released in the 90s, The Witness is a new first person puzzle themed exploration game. It comes from Thekla the creators of Braid, a well-received puzzle game on the Xbox 360, so there’s obviously a successful genre that’s been zoned in on here. How would The Witness transfer over to the Xbox One though, and would it be as successful as it had been on other platforms?
The Witness: PlayStation 4, Xbox One [Reviewed], PC
Release Date: 13 September 2016
Price: £31.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer/Publisher]
If you were looking for an easy puzzle game that talked you through everything, had a nice tutorial for you to get accustomed with everything and eased you into things nicely, then look elsewhere. The Witness is brutally hard, and not a puzzler for the faint hearted. Without a guide, you’ll struggle to get to the end of the game, and this is coming from someone who is always determined to get through puzzle games on her own with minimal outside help. If you can get through this game with no help, then I tip my hat to you.
You start off in a dimly lit corridor, drawing simple lines for one answer puzzles in order to open a couple of doors. Once through these doors, you venture out into the open and are met with one of the best things about The Witness; it’s scenery. You start this adventure off inside an enclosed courtyard but eventually are led out into open lands, filled with bright block colours painted across tress, fields, buildings and seas. To look at, the game is mesmerising, but in between all that beautiful landscape is a puzzle or two.
With no tutorial or any explanation, you are thrown straight into puzzle solving in the game. Whilst a daring tactic, it’s possible that some form of tutorial would have been beneficial here. There’s so many different puzzle types in this game, with many requiring you to think outside of the box in order to solve them. Without any kind of hint or guide within the game, you are left with the choice of trial and error, looking the answer up elsewhere or managing to figure it out on your own. Some of the puzzles here are so obscure that you might struggle to manage a lot simply on your own, but whilst that may put some players off, others (specifically puzzle fans) will thrive off the challenge.
The puzzles in this game are all based around lines, and drawing a path through the lines in order to create shapes, traverse a maze, split up dots, recreate other patterns, and avoid shadows, amongst others. They start off fairly simply in the first area with simple mazes, but the further you get through the game, the harder the puzzles you’ll be met with are. Some of the especially hard ones require you to listen to background noise and recreate the sound waves, where as others will have you moving about in order to get the sun to shine the right path onto the puzzle board. There are so many different puzzlers going on here, and at times it is hard to get your head around, especially for the everyday gamer and even for a fan of the puzzle genre.
The main aim of the game here, not that it particularly tells you this at any point, is to travel between the areas and activate lasers. This is done by completing the various puzzles, unlocking gates and paths along the way. Each unique area, including the swamp, the forest and the keep, have a collection of puzzles to complete which are usually all in a similar vein. The desert temple sees you playing with the light from the sun as well as water levels, where as the forest wants you to listen as well as look to find the answers. Again, the sheer amount of puzzles and unique styles which they are presented is fascinating, if not infuriating to try and complete.
You’re free to explore the island at your own pace, selecting which areas to access first at your own leisure, but completing one before another may be beneficial. You’ll see puzzle themes cropping up now and again that you’ve seen before, so in a way, you’ll have a head start in knowing how to solve it. There’s a variety in the size and look of each area as well, so you’ll no doubt be marvelling at your surroundings as you try and get your head around the next puzzle. In some cases this will work in your favour, as the environment will play a big part in some of the puzzle solving. The Witness is both beautiful and annoying all at the same time.
Playing the game all in first person, and never seeing the face of who you are, merely a shadow, adds to the overall eerie feeling of mystery that the game gives off. With no certain story and pen drives scattered about with inspirational quotes, matched with hidden blueprints that are keys to an even more well-hidden cinema room, The Witness will keep you guessing and scratching your head the whole way through. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for gamers who are used to having a story slowly told to them throughout the game, this may be a little unusual and unnerving.
For a game as contrasting as The Witness, it’s hard to write a review that isn’t conflicting. It’s both pretty and puzzling; it’s impossible to play and impossible to put down. The games achievements will see you activating all of the lasers and heading to the top of the mountain, where yet more puzzles wait before you get to the end. It’s such a simple concept and yet at the same time it is ridiculously complicated. For me, the balance is not quite right, with the difficulty of the game outweighing the simple playability of it. That said, it’s hard not to recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the puzzle genre, or wants a new real challenge. If you do decide to give it a go, you’ll be a witness to some real tough challenges here.
- Innovative puzzle concept that is simple and complex at the same time
- Beautiful game to look at with endless colours and scenery to admire
- Really provides a tough challenge
- The challenge of the game is often too hard, with no tutorial or intro to the puzzles, even for veteran puzzle gamers
- Lack of storytelling may put some players off