I have so many feelings about this game. I love it. And it’s maddening. It makes you question your intelligence as a human being while leaving you in awe of the stunning scenery all around you.
At its core, The Witness is a puzzle game. But man… Those puzzles. Never in my life did I imagine I’d have a whole notebook devoted to sketching out possible solutions to puzzles and notes on what seems like it might be relevant to solving them. There was one point where I even was taping cut out paper overlays onto my TV screen so I could follow the pattern. I filled my iPhone’s camera roll with pictures of my TV screen in hopes of finding the solutions and was still left cursing at my family members when they asked “How’s it coming?” Go to hell is how it’s coming. This game mocks me.
Through solving these puzzles, you unfold the story of the game. You find audio recordings in various places that all hold some kind of significance and while there’s no set order in which you have to do the puzzles, some can’t be done until you’ve successfully completed and learned a previous set of rules for a previous set of puzzles. I’ve not finished the game, nor do I imagine I will finish it anytime soon (I’m not a glutton for punishment and self-doubt) but that’s the thing about The Witness. You can walk away from it for a while, in fact, sometimes walking away for a couple of hours or days (or weeks, in my case) will help you arrive at a new way to solve the puzzle you’re stuck on. And you will get stuck on many, many puzzles.
The game is subtitled, although they can be hard to see/read at times, as they’re small and white, but there really isn’t much dialogue in the game that needs subtitling. I have to say though, I read a blog post from the game’s creator about his inclusion of subtitles and I’m a bit disappointed. He comments on how he worried subtitles might ruin the game, and it’s this kind of thinking that needs to stop in order for games to ever fully be accessible. I can’t help but wonder if people honestly live in a world where deaf people don’t exist and certainly don’t play video games. What might “ruin” a game for a hearing person is what makes it playable at all for a deaf person. Does the player need to be aware of the audio recordings, would missing out on them make The Witness unplayable? No. You could still wander the island and solve puzzle after puzzle and get a sense of accomplishment, but you’d never know why and who wants to play a game with no purpose?
My distaste for the creator’s comments on subtitles aside, The Witness is largely a visual game, which makes it well suited for deaf players. You need to see and understand patterns like symmetry and rules found in shadows in order to be successful at solving the puzzles and the incredible design of the game makes this a very pleasant thing to do. Each area of the island provides players with vastly different scenery and each area is just as beautiful as the last. So if you are a patient player and enjoy puzzles, The Witness should not be missed.
STUNNING game world
Fun unraveling the mystery
Captions are small and hard to read.