4 May 2016

As I was writing last week's post, I realized that I actually never wrote about my experiences with The Witness. Unlike last week, this post has spoilers, so if you haven't played the game yet and have any plans to do so, it would be best to avoid reading on until then.

The Witness is not my favorite puzzle game. In fact, I think it's close to the middle of the road in terms of my personal enjoyment. But thinking past that, The Witness is clearly one of the top puzzle games in terms of overall quality, and it has the popularity to show for it.

This discrepancy is because while there's a huge amount of content in the game, maybe only about 70% of that content aligned with what I was looking for. This experience isn't uncommon, either. If you read comments on The Witness subreddit you'll find many people saying that they loved most of the game, but this one part was horrible.

What's really interesting, though, is that nearly every single part of the game is that "horrible" part for someone. For me personally, I really enjoyed the panels that were logic puzzles using the stars, squares, and tetris blocks. The desert area had some amount of logic with figuring out light reflections, but overall it felt a lot like I was twitching around looking for the perfect spot to stand. The environmental puzzles felt similar. I did enjoy noticing an environmental puzzle as I was passing by, but lining everything up often felt tedious to the point that I would spend only a bit of time before moving on.

There are many people who feel completely the opposite. They loved the desert because it was about looking at your surroundings and noticing something in the environment, and disliked the swamp, which had the tetris block mechanic. Some others disliked the jungle puzzles, because they felt the audio components became too ambiguous. I also saw a complaint that the town was unfair because it was too easy to stumble upon before you had the knowledge needed to solve the puzzles there.

In order to really appreciate the work put into The Witness, it's important to understand that every part of the island is in the game for a reason, but sometimes that reason is found inside a different person. Furthermore, The Witness doesn't force any puzzles on you other than at the very beginning and very end of the game. You're always free to walk to a different part of the island.

When I compare The Witness to other puzzle games like Snakebird and Stephen's Sausage Roll, it's clear that I enjoyed Snakebird and Stephen's Sausage Roll more. They are packed with puzzles and focus on the type of solving that I enjoy the most. But at the same time, I'd be hesitant to call them better games.

On the other hand, The Witness has so much content that is excellently thought out and presented, but isn't for me. It is a game with a lot of variety, and as a result a very large audience can find things to enjoy. On the other hand, that variety also means that each individual experience will have some downsides to go along with the upsides.