Of my time with The Witness so far, I’ve felt frustration, excitement, wonder, confusion … normally when all these combine it becomes a bit of a clusterfrack, a train wreck that leads me to throwing my controller away in disgust at my stupidity.
It’s not that I hate it to the point of not wanting to play it anymore. A lot of games reach a point where the level of difficulty, whether that’s intentional or not, leads to an end game well before the actual end game. I’m sure many who have tried to finish any of the Dark Souls games knows exactly what I’m talking about. I had that same problem recently with Badland, a game I really enjoy until the controls cause me to flip out in a fit of ‘what the hell’ rage.
I also don’t hate it out of boredom, which happened very quickly with Just Cause 3 and Star Wars: Battlefront, the later of which also had issues with my internet speeds which led to my X-Wing suddenly pointing in the opposite direction over and over again. Puzzle games do tend to fall into the boredom category if said puzzles don’t hold your attention long enough, and I’ve played my fair share of them to attest to that.
The Witness has uniquely cast a spell that has sent my frustration to a whole new dimension, one where it’s more appropriate to try and conquer it than simply push it aside. It’s puzzles are varied and fall just nicely on the right side of the difficulty scale. Yes it gets annoying, especially when the answer is staring you right in the face but it takes you a good hour to figure it out, but I have to admit that there’s a satisfying level of ‘ah-ha’ moments that makes it all worthwhile.
So far I’ve been able to turn on two of the lazer guided missile launchers … that’s what they are, right? … and the puzzles that await me will no doubt increase in difficulty compared to what I’ve already accomplished. I admit, I’ve had to look up one or two answers just to get me by, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s easier to admit defeat than to continually sit there claiming ‘no, I’ve got this’ when clearly you don’t have it at all. I’m the first to step forward and say I’m not the smartest guy in the room … even when there’s no-one else in the room. I swear my TV has a higher IQ.
What I’ve completed so far has been colourful and creative, and for that I have to applaud the team that put it together. You can tell that a lot of time and effort has gone into every tiny spec of detail, every link in the chain. From the colours used across the island, to the use of sunlight and the environment, every last remnant of the land around you has some form of meaning and an impact on the senses.
If I had one gripe so far, it’s the fact that the minimalist design sometimes goes too far. There are times where I wanted to interact with this world more, opening other doors or touching the environment around me. There’s a point early on where there’s a number of what looks like sand pits, with one sand castle standing tall whilst the others are flat. I realise now that the environment tells a story, of a land that’s since been deserted (for reasons I’m sure will be explained later on, no spoilers now) but I really wanted to interact with them. It felt like a puzzle in itself, and there’s other moments I feel the same way about it.
It’s almost as if it’s a game within a game, like this entire world existed as a completely different puzzle until it became what it is now. Maybe that’s the point, or maybe my mind is wondering, but I would have loved the chance to interact and play around in this space well beyond the puzzle logic that’s in front of me. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing, when you think about it.
Anyway, whether the pay off will be as rewarding as the handful of moments I’ve had exhaling relief at another piece of the puzzle out of the way … well, that might not matter now. The journey itself is the true prize, and I’m rather pleased to be taking it, until I reach a puzzle that will seemingly tear my hair out for me. I’ll be sure to fill you guys in if and when I reach the end.