Review of The Witness - Dark Souls Puzzle Games

Author: Czarny Wilk
Date: 2016-02-03 07:49:00
The review was based on the PC version. Also applies to PS4, XONE versions

400 puzzles solved, 30 cards with strange drawings, one "tetris" laid on the floor using the pieces of paper mentioned above and one night full of dreams about panels with labyrinths - three days spent on intense playing in The Witness , the latest production by Braid , Jonathan Blow, they were definitely not normal. To the extent that when I finally, after many moments of frustration and just as much satisfaction, saw a very ambiguous ending, and then an even more ambiguous hidden ending, I wasn't even sure whether I love the game or hate it. After analyzing calmly my own thoughts, in the end I conclude that this is a great title - but ... only for a very small audience. For most, however, it will be "only" or "until" a very good puzzle game.

The Witness makes an exceptionally positive first impression, after a few moments spent by us in a dark tunnel attacking with a cornucopia of pastel colors - watching the terrain full of vivid, bright colors is a real pleasure for the eyes. The game does not use any fancy graphic effects or an advanced physical engine, but it more than makes up for the number of details filling the virtual world and the taste with which numerous models have been designed and integrated into the environment .

When, after a few minutes from the start of the game, we leave the initial area of the game and the entire island of action is open before us, it is not known where to go first - every building or forest looming in the distance tempts and encourages you to visit this region next . Look into a pink forest or an abandoned quarry? Or maybe explore partially buried ruins protruding from the sands of the desert? Or try to get to the half-sunken tanker wreck? For the first moments spent with The Witness, you ignore the many riddles here and enjoy the peaceful exploration. Which, moreover, attentive players additionally rewards scraps of the plot depicted by means of statues or dictaphones found here and there with registered quotes from known thinkers. I would not mind if after the passing of fashion for retro style and pixel art just in the direction of such relatively simple, but pretty and numerous three-dimensional models turned into independent productions.

When the admiration for the craftsmanship with which the environment was created finally passes, we remember that The Witness is a puzzle game, not a walking simulator. At first glance, it is the production of one trick, in addition, much less effective than time manipulation in Braid or the title portals created by Valve. Oh, the whole island is full of electronic panels, on the screens of which we can see simple mazes, and our goal is to find the way from point A to B. It turns out quite quickly, however, that the team led by Jonathan discovered a huge potential in this - seemingly - banal concept and used it to create a variety of challenges.

The first, simple panels are gradually expanded with new elements - for example, the boards gain different-colored squares, which we have to separate from the line marked with the cursor. Or we perform the task of recreating figures taken alive from Tetris . These obvious examples may not sound too impressive, but I would not like to reveal too much, because The Witness 's big advantage is the way the game teaches us to approach new challenges - there are no tutorials or a voice from heaven telling you what to do . Instead, each type of puzzle has its own series of panels, on which we solve rebuses of a given type with an increasing level of difficulty - starting from a child's play to a really complicated one. In this very clever way, we learn individual rules and prepare for truly difficult puzzles. This mechanism, moreover, brilliantly uses a hidden ending (or in the opinion of some - it's appropriate), which theoretically can be learned even at the very beginning of the game - but to figure out how to activate it, you must first understand the rules that govern the game.

There are a total of 650 puzzles to solve in The Witness . Fortunately, to finish the game you do not have to deal with everyone - my counter at the finish indicated 400 successes, and I squeezed from this production much more than the minimum required to see the end. And this "fortunately" is used here deliberately, because at the end I felt real tiredness. Although The Witness turns out to be a very good teacher of panel mechanics, geniuses alone won't do us - and the level of difficulty of many puzzles just overwhelmed me and I felt like I was playing Dark Souls , in which instead of outstanding manual skills I need a volatile mind.

Sometimes it helped to take a longer break, other times to draw everything on a piece of paper, once it even worked laying paper blocks on the floor - but there were also challenges that I did not complete despite sitting over them for over an hour. I like to strain my mind, however, the level of difficulty in producing Thekla studio sometimes turned out to be too high and frustrating . Another thing was that once I was able to solve something that seemed unsolvable, the satisfaction was enormous. This is one of those titles that taste much better when dosed in small portions, instead of taking hours of mental marathons with them for many hours - but even so, I am inclined to say that for a large number of players this position will be too tiring and difficult.

My private nightmare was that despite the extreme level of difficulty, The Witness pulls you in and really wants to take on the challenges of Blow's production. I haven't solved a few puzzles yet, but I will probably do it yet - puffing over them for hours, getting annoyed and drawing the right line, feeling like a fool. Only in order to finally - because every puzzle in this game can be worked out - to feel enormous, though lasting only a few minutes, satisfaction with success. After which there will be a clash with another of hundreds of panels. Geniuses and masochists will definitely have fun.

The Witness can be passed by completely putting aside the story told by the game. You can also not ignore it, but still end the fun, having no idea what it is about - the plot is presented only with the help of sculptures and dictaphones found in locations, and the image emerging from them seems quite vague and interpretable on really many ways . I do not doubt that some players will find genius in all this - but it will be the same percentage of users who saw in Braid the tale of regret caused by the construction of the atomic bomb. For people who dislike the excessive interpretation of shreds of information and creating sophisticated theories from them, the plot, if they manage to put it together at all, will prove to be of little interest and rather disappointing.

Some consider the latest production of Jonathan Blow to be an absolutely outstanding work, another proof that computer games are an art, and the assessment visible in this review will probably treat as unfair. However, to get to this group, it is required to have at least two out of three rather rare character traits - above-average intellect, angelic patience and a passion for in-depth analysis of (pop) culture works. Without such a set, The Witness will seem "only" quite a nice, long and very nice puzzle game. And extremely difficult to do if you want to get to know her fully.