Sophia and I have been playing the The Witness. And, the more we get into it, the more I appreciate how sublime the level design is. It’s an open world puzzle game. Steam recommended it since we’ve played Myst and The Talos Principle. You walk around, finding puzzles, and solving them or deciding to come back when you have a clue.
The Witness has a much lighter touch even than The Talos Principle for story, and makes Myst feel railroady. The nature of the place is for exploration not exposition. It took us 15-20 hours to realise there are voice messages!
The gameplay is simple at its core; you wander around finding maze puzzles to unlock areas. Which leaves a lot of space for creative design. No, really. There are about a dozen different variations and restrictions for completing sets of puzzles. And figuring them out is quite a challenge. You will find linear sets of puzzles, but the sequence of discovery and completion is up to you. And, there are other puzzles you will find before you know how to solve them.
So, you explore and solve some puzzle, then explore some more. Then, you come back to places you’ve seen before and may not know how to approach this puzzle, and begin your search anew. Even later, you’ll realize that there’s an entire facet of the game that you’ve missed!
Unlike so many games, there are only two achievements. One is for completing the game. The other must be for some extra hidden things. The title and the tone of the game becomes more apparent as time goes on. It’s been a joy playing this game with Sophia, and us puzzling over the challenges together. Some are difficult and need a level of detail to solve. We’ve been taking turns leading, and having the insight from one another has stopped the game being frustrating.
And, it’s been nice to share the revelation of how to progress. We have sunk a good number of hours over the past couple of weekends, in a way that we don’t usually do. It’s that good. And slowly, you realize that the entire map is some sort of puzzle in its own right.
In The Stanley Parable, there this scenario called The Adventure Line. It’s my favorite path. Dramatic music plays, and you follow this linear line that has a life of its own. And then there’s this corridor, where the music stops and the narrator says to look at this fern, it “will be important later in the story”. Of course, he’s being facetious. However, that statement feels far more true for The Witness. Things which appear to be scenery are actually be part of the game design. There are so many flourishes!
The completion rates on this game is quite a bit lower than The Journey Down, which we played and enjoyed recently. But that’s not important. It’s the journey that it’s important. There is a Zen flow state to be found playing this game other games in the genre don’t come close to.
Highly recommended for the right player.
Point on the Timeline
We have a house! The move to Bristol is going ahead. We’re near our ideal part of town, and a pottery studio for Sophia. And, house hunting is over! It’ll be nice to regain that focus.
Maybe the house-hunting is why I was drawn to the game, but the weekend was mostly that and reading. I’m half way through Breath, ad I’m really enjoying it. BREATH THROUGH YOUR NOSE, but I know that already. I’m looking forward for the perspective on Tantric and other non-ordinary breathing practices.
Next weekend was meant to be Roadburn. No trip to the Netherlands unfortunately, but they’re doing something online! So, that’s our weekend booked. A playlist of doom, metal, hardcore and experimental music. Could be worse.