First impression of The Witness (or Why I can’t put my controller down)

The Witness is a beautiful and elegant game that will have you hooked the moment you solve your first three puzzles. In The Witness, you take control of a character in the first-person perspective as you are presented puzzle upon puzzle in a colorful and mysterious open world.

Before I continue with my first impressions, I want to say that there are no spoilers or hints of any puzzles in this post. The pictures posted below are pictures of the scenery accessible to you as early as 5 minutes into the game. I believe that the most enjoyable and rewarding part of the game is the discoveries that you make throughout the game, and I would not want to take that away from any of you.

I would also like to give a shout out to my friend who insisted that I get this game and play it as soon as possible. I told him I’d play it in the summer, he disagreed and gifted me the game. The Witness is available on the Playstation 4, PC, and iOS.

So on to the game!

I knew nothing of The Witness until my friend brought it up to me. He raved about it, saying it was like Myst. He would send me messages ranting about the puzzles he hasn’t solved and later on messages celebrating the ones he has. I made sure he didn’t spoil anything for me. But all of this chat hyped the game up so much for me.

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I have enjoyed Myst on PC and PS Vita. I have played The Room and The Room 2 on iOS, and Machinarium on Steam. On the Playstation consoles, I have played and completed the Uncharted Series. I have solved murder cases in L.A. Noire on Playstation and in Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective the board game. I think you get the point. I love puzzles, mystery, and deduction. Whether it is point-and-click, full exploration, interrogation, or a choose-your-own adventure board game, there is nothing like the mental exercise that comes from solving puzzles.

Having The Witness compared to Myst, I naturally had high expectations. Last night, I fired up the Playstation 4 and installed The Witness. I was excited, but also ready for disappointment.

Fortunately, the disappointment never came. The first few minutes are an awkward experience fumbling about with the controls. It turns out, the controls are pretty simple, and there isn’t much of a learning curve to speak of (for the controls, that is).

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It is no understatement that The Witness is filled with puzzles. In fact, the whole game feels like a puzzle in a sense that, after approximately three hours of gameplay, I still have no idea why I am doing what I am doing. And that is not a complaint by any means!

After the first five or so puzzles, I took a deep breath and exclaimed, “This is the game I’ve been waiting for!!!” Because it is! Blindly and curiously I found myself running from one area to another trying to solve puzzles. One solution opens up two puzzles, and two puzzles open up a door with even more puzzles. It is never-ending; it is challenging and thought-provoking. It leaves you frustrated enough to want to solve the mystery, but it never leaves you defeated in a way that you lose hope and quit.

It is these puzzles that will keep you coming back for more. Solving these puzzles is a mental drug more rewarding than the most frustrating puzzle you’ll encounter. And so you’ll keep going one puzzle after the other. We’ve all played those games where we say, “one more round” or “one more turn” or “after this mission.” The slogan for The Witness should be “one more puzzle.” Because when you think you’ve just figured it all out, the game throws another one at you and everything you’ve learned seems irrelevant. As the world opens up and more puzzles become available, I only found myself questioning what this will all amount to. But no time for that, there are more puzzles to solve! This follows Aristotle’s quote: “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

There is one thing I know for sure: it will be a bittersweet moment when I complete this game. There are a few gaming experiences I have enjoyed so much that I wish I could completely forget those memories so that I can discover them again a second time. I haven’t completed The Witness, but I already know this will be one of those experiences.

In the three hours that I have played this game, I have not run into any issues or glitches. Everything in the world seems so beautiful and natural, yet at the same time so deliberate. Gazing down a path creates a mixture of awe and wonder both in the beauty and the mystery that the surroundings have. You will never really know if something is part of the scenery or a subtle clue to a puzzle; at least not until you are face-to-face with a puzzle, and from the back of your mind there’s that slight poking, scratching, gnawing that maybe you’ve seen this before somewhere, but you just don’t know where.

But that is why The Witness is such beautiful game. The components and the parts move so fluidly and seamlessly that I have, more than once, wondered about the production process of this game. How did the developers create such intricate or simple puzzles?

Perhaps that is for you and me to discover. So for my closing, I will urge you to check out this game. And if you are one of the developers, I just want to say “Thank you!”

Share and Like this post so that other people can discover and enjoy The Witness.


Update: I have since spent over 50 hours exploring the rest of the world and the puzzles and I know I am not even close to completing all of the puzzles. The game continually finds ways to keep the puzzles fresh, different, and challenging. Even after over 50 hours of gameplay and puzzle-solving, I still highly recommend The Witness.


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