The Witness (PS4): COMPLETED!

The Witness
That top-right puzzle was a pain to find the solution for.

So things carried on much as before. Puzzles that were impossible were suddenly solvable if I went away somewhere else for a bit and came back. I found more lasers – seven of them, in fact – and triggered the puzzle at the top of the mountain. A puzzle that took over an hour to solve by itself, I should point out. This (spoilers!) opened the inside of the mountain, and here there were even more puzzles. Because of course there were.

The Witness
My eyes literally bled here.

A lot of the puzzles here were corrupted in some way. The screens were broken, flashed, scrolled or had incorrect colours. One of them even span round, faster and faster as I got closer to completing it. Frankly, the whole area was a bit hard on the eyes as well as the brain, but I persevered and eventually made it to the base of the mountain and even here – right at the end of the game – they devs found yet another way to reuse the same grid puzzles in a different way by wrapping them around pillars.

With those completed, I was treated to the end of game island flyby, and then was plonked back at the very start of the game again – only I noticed a secret environmental “circle and tail” which involved the sun, and activating that allowed me to enter the most bizarre end of game credit sequence since… well, The Stanley Parable, I suppose. And after that, there was a FMV sequence which I won’t describe as it really is a spoiler. It was all very odd.

The Witness

Now, I’d finished seven lasers but I’d been told there were eleven. I knew where the missing four were, and most were very close to being activated so I reloaded a save from just before completing the game, and didn’t take long to get three of them. The area in the desert, however, I’d not even started so it took a little while to work through there. With all eleven lasers pointing at the mountain (one needed tweaking with a mirror in the town, I noticed), I found The Great Glass Elevator again and triggered it only to be given the same ending. I thought I’d missed something, but it appears not. Aside from Challenge Mode, which I found and opened up. Oh god.

Challenge Mode then, is a set of puzzles you trigger by playing In The Hall of the Mountain King on a record player. Each puzzle is random, and you have until the song finishes to do them all. None are especially taxing, but you’re under pressure. Many hours passed. So many attempts. Then, finally, everything clicks and I make no mistakes (that require you to redo puzzled) and I make it to the final secret – a box! And in it, the solution for a puzzle in the theatre! And that’s it. Apparently the video it unlocks is an hour long. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

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I went back and solved a few missed puzzles, found a handful more environmental puzzles, and wandered through the caves a bit solving all the puzzles there, but I think I’m now done with The Witness. It was beautiful, it made me feel very clever, and even though there were over 400 puzzles – all of which are essentially the same basic premise – somehow it never got too frustrating, too repetitive, or too boring. I don’t think I want to find every hidden puzzle in the game, but what I’ve done has been throughly enjoyable.

The Witness (PS4)

Never has a game made me feel so damn clever. But on the other hand, it frequently made me feel incredibly stupid. “But of course!” I’d facepalm myself “It’s so obvious now I’ve spent twenty minutes staring at it”.

The Witness
Red, red room.

The Witness is not the game I thought it was going to be. When I heard it was about walking round a beautiful island finding puzzles to solve, I expected a variety of puzzles. I didn’t read much about the game because I wanted to discover everything myself, which I frequently do (currently on media blackout: Firewatch and No Man’s Sky) but I wish I had done in this case. Why? Because all the puzzles are the same.

The Witness
Grid Puzzle #46725

Apparently there are 650-odd of them, and they’re all grid based puzzles like some sort of cerebral Painter game. As you work through them, different rules occur, like you have to collect all the dots on the lines, or make certain shapes in the grid. Later, more complex rules occur like you have to separate some grid boxes into pairs based on colour, or the route you take through the grid is based on something abstract in the world around the grid itself (like a pattern in the trees, or shadows falling on a surface). Ultimately though, every single puzzle is a grid where you have to get from the start to the finish in one single, non-overlapping line paying attention to the rules the various shapes and symbols on the grid dictate.

The Witness
This puzzle controls the moving platform.

Solve puzzles to open doors, activate switches, enable more puzzles (this is the most frequent outcome) or ultimately, I think, fire lasers at the peak of the island’s mountain. There are 7 or 8 lasers to be found, if the locked panels each opens are to be believed, with one laser in each area of the island. I currently have three activated. These areas are home to mainly a single set of rules for the puzzles found there, with different rules in each area, with some overlap.

How you find the rules is quite clever. You’re given some very simple puzzles to begin with that are almost impossible to do incorrectly. A succession of these, with slightly increasing difficulty, teaches you what the rule is actually enforcing, without ever explicitly telling you. Sort of like how The Rosetta Stone language course works.

The Witness
*Proud face*

Some of the more abstract puzzles are incredibly clever, using the landscape and structures to make up areas you have to “pretend” are a grid. There’s one puzzle I’m especially proud of myself for solving in a sort of Japanese temple where you have to open and close shutters. It was genius, and it made me feel like a genius for getting it.

Despite my disappointment it isn’t the game I was expecting (although I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting), I’m enjoying it a great deal. I’ve found some proper head-scratchers which have caused me to leave an area and tackle a different one, and I’ve spent a large amount of time looking for “circle and a line” shapes in the shadows, rocks and even sky of the island as these are particularly pleasing to spot and activate, so even the single premise hasn’t been too repetitive. I just hope I’m not going to get stuck on a puzzle forever preventing me from finishing the game. It’s a constant worry.