Why I won’t be finishing… The Witness

The Witness is a smart and interesting kind of game that also demands your problem solving and puzzle skills to levels that I wasn’t initially expecting. It also makes me feel like an absolute stupid idiot from the number times I run into brick walls, have to use brute force to find solutions and generally leaves me stumped and meandering from puzzle to puzzle with little to no progress. I wouldn’t say that the game is too smart for me, but… I guess what I’m saying is that the game is far too smart for me.

I really have only myself to blame for once again stumbling my way around a game world that is designed to challenge parts of my gamer brain that seldom, if ever, get any exercise or work. This is why I would never call The Witness an unfair puzzle game that’s too hard for the wrong reasons; really, all the tools and needed clues are available right away or can be stumbled upon soon enough — It’s up to the player to make sense of it and find the solutions in the end. If a puzzle gimmick can’t be deciphered, chances are the ‘introductory’ version of it can be found elsewhere which will teach you what has to be done. If a puzzle seems like it requires random toying in order to solve, chances are there’s something in the environment nearby that’s a part of the solution. Some would say that the line puzzles become redundant and boring, but I’d argue to the contrary in that this makes the accessible and easy to understand despite the challenge, not to mention how new gimmicks and themes reveal themselves constantly, i.e: You now control two lines, you now must avoid touching this shape, you have to navigate points through a maze, you have to draw around specific shapes and so on. Lines are easy to understand, so when you first walk up to a panel you can generally get a good idea of what has to be done. Then it’s a matter of actually getting said thing done so you can move on.

I feel downright guilty in how poorly I perform in The Witness, and I’d feel even worse if I just cheated and looked up guides to get through the game. Those with lazy arguments would simply claim I’m a schmuck with a low IQ, but intelligence has little to do with it — Some puzzles types I breeze through quickly while others shut me down immediately. Puzzle games were never really my thing, as most of my gamer years were spent on action and adventure games that required constant reactionary input, not sitting there and trying to solve some devious puzzle that blocked my progress. I get rather impatient and frustrated if my multiple attempts at a puzzle fail, which is a rather comically moot waste of energy since apparently a lot of the puzzles in The Witness don’t do anything; no door to unlock or trigger to activate elsewhere — They’re just there to be solved for the sake of achievement.

I think The Witness is good and downright zen-like in its calming pace, especially with how you can just wander around at your leisure if one set of puzzles has you firmly stumped. The sheer rush of excited genius I get when I find a hidden puzzle within the literal environment/world is certainly something I’d like to feel more of, but that’d require me to bypass barriers that I cannot solve and can’t bring myself to cheat my way through. If puzzles are your jam, then The Witness is a fine purchase. For anyone else, be prepared to aimlessly wander around panel purgatory and see glowing lines in your nightmares.

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