The Witness Is An Ingenious Game And I Will (Likely) Never Play It

worn rocks

From the moment I saw The Witness at the PS4 reveal, my interest was piqued. It appeared beautiful and intriguing. Jonathan Blow is the mastermind behind it, and, after Braid, I am on board for whatever he brings to the table.

I’ve never played the original Myst, but I’d heard the comparisons between that and The Witness, and I think those were a bit premature. The Witness could be termed “Variations on a Theme,” with the puzzles getting more and more complicated as you proceed through the mysterious world.

My partner is puzzle-minded. He adored Braid. He was always keen on playing The Witness upon its release, and once it came out and we downloaded it, that’s what he did.

Certain games I am more than content to watch him play. Most of those games I don’t end up playing myself, though some, I do (e.g.: Infamous). Even when he had started The Witness, I thought I would also be playing it myself.

The more I watched, the less likely I found that possibility.

Some of the puzzles look (and apparently are) somewhat simple. Some are deceptively simple looking, but are incredibly difficult. Some puzzles involve sound. Some puzzles involve the solutions to other puzzles.

And some puzzles are just straight up bullsh*t.

(Mild spoilers ahead)

I was watching a sequence where my partner was in a jungle setting. The puzzles seemed to be sound based. Then he came to a puzzle where not only was the main sound happening, but like three other sounds, one of which was a cell phone, started happening concurrently. It was audio chaos and a great big F YOU to the player. While I had been loving the inventive and creative aspects of the puzzles and the environment, I felt the “every sound at once puzzle” was a gleeful kick in the junk to the player.

My partner laughed and laughed at the situation and I just sat there thinking, “We paid for this experience. We paid for that kick in the junk.”

Perhaps it comes back to the Dark Souls style of gaming. The punishing games that (for some reason) people love to subject themselves to (I’m still bitter I was stonewalled during Bloodborne and am probably not good enough to complete the game). Do I think The Witness is like Dark Souls? By and large? No. Do I think there are some deceptively difficult puzzles in there? Absolutely.

My partner (he will love that I’m saying this…) is a brilliant dude. His mind is quick and vast. He loves this type of challenge. He likes to flip and flop his brain around trying to see things in alternate ways. This is one of the things I love about him, and because of those traits, he not only tolerates this experience, he thrives on it (when he finally solved a particularly difficult puzzle, he threw his arms in the air and shouted, and I quote “I AM THE SMARTEST MAN ALIVE!!!”). In short order, he got every trophy, save one, and he continues to work on it (it’s a timed and ridiculous challenge where the music may as well be shouting in your ear, “ISN’T THIS RELAXING?!”). Every time I watch him working on a crazy series of puzzles, my stomach starts to knot up. I don’t find that experience, even by proxy, enjoyable. It makes me feel tense and unintelligent. Two things I don’t need any help with.

As brilliant and brilliantly executed as the game is, I can say without hesitation that The Witness isn’t for me. I have no doubt that it may be one of the most clever and deeply thought out games I’ve seen, I’m just not sure that particular challenge is something I’d choose to participate in.

Which kind of makes me sad. But then I remember I can watch my partner solve puzzle after puzzle and experience the game through him.

It’s an odd, but intriguing experience.

Are there any games you’ve been certain you wanted to play then, once you saw them in action (or tried them out), you no longer wanted to play them for yourself? If so, which one/s?

Categories: games

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6 replies »

  1. I don’t think I’ll play the witness either I don’t know if it would interest me but that was a fun read.

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  2. Nice r ad, Rebekah. I’ve been sitting here thinking about such a game, but nothing comes to mind. Must be because I mostly play alone. But there are some Zelda’s we played together, and there I was quite content to watch. He is much better at all the jumping around and flying the Deku lead, while I frequently miss. Don’t want to impede our progress!

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    • Aw, thank you. I also watched Todd play various Zelda entries, and I know what you mean about the Deku flying stuff. I’d love to go and play Ocarina of Time some day, but I feel daunted for some reason.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am very anxious to play The Witness. I just don’t know when.

    I was very excited for Sacred 3. After all the great fun my wife and I had playing Sacred 2: Fallen Angel, we couldn’t wait. Then I saw GI’s review and my spirit fell. A different developer was taking the sequel to a game we LOVED, warts and all, and removing all the bits we enjoyed, leaving just the warts I guess…? That would be my sight-unseen review for Sacred 3, “Just the warts!”

    Fortunately Diablo 3: UEE was just around the corner to save us!

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    • Oh man, it is the most peacefully brutal game. Jonathan Blow is a brilliant and devious dude.

      That’s a weird feeling when a new dev picks up the reigns. It can be great or something far less than.

      Man, I loved Diablo III.

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