22 votes

I finished playing through The Witness.

MAJOR SPOILER WARNING


What I Did

The game took me around twenty hours to beat, and I stretched that out over the course of about two months. Sometimes I would dive in deep and play non-stop for an hour or two, but most of the time it was me playing it almost piecemeal, for ten or fifteen minutes at a time. Enough to get through one or two panels that I had been stuck on and then stop again.

I would have liked to do longer gaming sessions with it, but I found that I sort of had finite mental resources to apply to the game. I would hit a panel, be thoroughly perplexed, stare at it for 10 minutes while trying different solutions in my head, on paper, and in the game. Nothing would work, so I'd stop the game. The next day I would boot it up and, more often than not, have the solution in a minute or two--sometimes even the first try! I think my brain was working on these in the background.

Something that helped me massively was not letting myself get intimidated by the game. As I would work myself farther and farther down a strand of puzzles, I would instinctively start to feel the pressure that they were getting harder and harder each time. Rather than feed into that feeling, I simply reassured myself that each puzzle was its own thing, and each one had a solution right there, staring me in the face. I just had to find it.

What I Loved

I think the game is gorgeous. Stunning. Beautiful. An absolute joy to look at. It made me realize that we don't often get vibrant color in games that aren't pixel art. I also think the world is beautifully designed. The island is a memorable place with lots to explore.

I also loved the game's ability to teach you its rules wordlessly. The line puzzles aren't just puzzles--they're a language. The whole game felt like some geometric force was trying to communicate with me, but first it had to teach me its alphabet, grammar, and syntax.

Furthermore, I can't tell you how many times I would fight for a solution to a difficult puzzle, feeling it was nearly impossible all the way, only to find the seemingly one right answer. The only way it could possibly work. The next panel? The same damn layout but with an added rule that ruined my prior solution! I loved that the game made me rethink my own thoughts and forced me to see, quite literally, that there is often more than one way to solve a problem.

What I Felt

I was probably 12 to 14 hours into the game when I accidentally stumbled onto the knowledge that there were lines that could be activated outside the panels. I can't remember where I was but holy hell can I remember the feeling. I've got goosebumps right now as I type this from revisiting it in my memory. It was the sublime feeling you get from a great plot twist. There was a sense of revelation, the feeling of frission, and a newfound respect and appreciation for the design that went into the game.

What's sad is that it shouldn't have taken me that long. I saw the circles and lines throughout the environment as I made my way around the island and just assumed that it was a sort of visual motif, or maybe a stylistic flair, much like the game's sort of cartoony, polygonal look. Finding out that I could, in fact, trace them just like every other line I'd been making for the past ten hours was absolutely flooring to me. Experiencing that moment is one of the high points in all of my gaming history. It was the moment the game went from "this is definitely a clever game!" to "FUCK...this game is SO. DAMN. SMART." After that moment I think I spent two hours frantically running around the island hunting environmental lines. Now that I knew what to look for, they were EVERYWHERE. Hiding in plain sight! I was stunned. In absolute awe.

At probably about the 15 hour mark, I found the movie room and had the input for one movie. It was a scene in which a man lights a candle and attempts to walk across a courtyard, and each time the candle goes out, he returns to the beginning. I took this to be a metaphor for the game--specifically that it is about the journey rather than the destination. As such, this was the point that I realized I wasn't going to get some revelatory story at the end of the game, and that making it to the end of the game, while definitely a goal, was not what gave the game meaning.

The sub-takeaway from the film was the idea that the effort is worth it. The man in the film could have just crossed the courtyard and lit the candle at the end. The fact that he didn't showed self-restraint and a committment to the rule. I took this to be a comment on how the game is played. I could have looked up solutions to the puzzles online and just inputted them easily as a way of breezing through the game. While it would get me to where I was going (the end), what was the point? My playthrough was the lit candle route--harder because I was forcing myself to put in the work rather than taking the easy way out.

Oh, and did I mention that the film also had an environmental line at the end you could activate if you went behind the screen while it was running? Genius. This game is SO. DAMN. SMART.

What I Didn't Love

Because I didn't pay attention to detail and made assumptions when I shouldn't have, I didn't realize that I could enter the mountain without all the beacons activated. My gamer mind simply saw OBVIOUS GATED DESTINATION and OBVIOUS DESTINATION GATE KEYS and went "yup, gotta get all of these to unlock the end!" As such, I overplayed my game a bit by doing all of that first. I was all set for entering the mountain to be the ending, especially because the village beacon felt like a "final exam" to the game, incorporating all of the other puzzle types. I kept coming back to it after learning a new symbol/rule and would chip away here and there until I finally got through all of it.

As such, when I got into the mountain and there were even more puzzles I was miffed. My steam had run out. Add to that I'm pretty susceptible to motion sickness in games, so the flashing, scrolling, and color-cycling puzzles were deeply unpleasant for me. I literally had to look away from the screen for the scrolling ones. I solved them on paper and inputted them with the panels in my peripheral vision.

The double-sided room below those was equal parts brilliant and frustrating, though I was impressed as hell with the room with the four sub-puzzles that fed into the larger one on the floor. Unfortunately, I ended the game on quite a low note, as the pillar puzzles at the very end turned my stomach on account of the rotating camera. I was able to power through those only because I knew I was so close to the end.

What I'm Left With

While I didn't love the ending, I, as previously mentioned, don't think it's about that. The game gave me 20 hours of puzzle-solving bliss in a beautiful, rich environment. It gave me legitimate chills when I figured out its secret. It made me think, it made me work, and it made me feel legitimately fulfilled. Good puzzle games make you feel baffled and then they turn around and make you feel brilliant. This one made me feel all sorts of brilliant.

The game has so many legitimately clever moments. I loved the pagoda area where you have to look through branches at the right angle to see the solution. The last puzzle has two pieces of the answer, but a section is missing. After traipsing around, trying every possible visual angle, I look down and find a branch broken off at my feet. The missing piece. Brilliant.

It was filled with little things like these. Little thoughtful twists or nudges. Each puzzle strand was an iterative sequence, and each time you thought you knew where it was headed, they'd push it further. Then further. More and more. Often in ways you wouldn't expect. It's not just that the idea of the game is good but that its execution is so rich and thoughtful that it makes me reverent.

As for post-game stuff (because I know there's a ton I haven't gotten to), I'm taking a break from the game right now, but I might return to it a little later. I kept screenshots of puzzles I didn't solve or environmental elements that I was pretty sure were really activatable but that I couldn't quite figure out (the brown railroad tracks in the white limestoney area, for example).

I have the inputs for a couple more movies that I haven't watched, so I'll probably go back for those. I know there's a challenge area as well, and I'm presumably equipped for it given that I did all of the beacons, but I don't know if I'm up for that. Not just yet, at least.

What You Can Help Me With

For those of you that have gone through the post-game content, do you recommend it? Are there certain things I should focus on? I'm not terribly concerned about spoilers, but if there's something "big" like the environmental line revelation, maybe just give me a hint or point me in the right direction.

I also have a couple of lingering questions. Feel free to answer them unless you feel that it's better if I try to figure it out by myself.

  • What do the individual, standalone panels lying around the island do (the gray ones with the triangles)? I've figured out the rule, I just don't know their purpose.

  • Does finding all the environmental lines serve any larger purpose?

  • Is there story or lore in the game? Does the island or its frozen inhabitants get explained? I activated a few audiologs, but those were mostly philosophical ponderings rather than narrative.

  • How on earth do I get that environmental line with the railroad tracks? Of all the ones that I haven't been able to figure out how to get, that one's bothering me the most.

Finally, to anyone who's played the game (which is hopefully anyone who read this), I'd love to hear your experience and thoughts. What was The Witness like for you?


EDIT: Writing the post inspired me to go back into the game instead of sleeping. I watched two other videos I had found inputs for. One was a woman talking about freeing yourself from want, and the other was a man talking about science and knowledge. Interesting stuff.

Then I started exploring and I found an environmental line made by the negative space in the sky when properly bounded by a cloud and wall from the exact right angle. This game is SO. DAMN. SMART.


EDIT 2: Disregard where I said I was going to take a break from the game. I'm diving back in. I want to explore and find these environmental lines. It's so satisfying when you find one.

There was one on a bridge leading from the village towards the foresty area with the orange trees. I could see it from the ground and knew it definitely was one, but I could never quite position myself right to actually trace it. I tried climbing in the castle area since it seemed like I needed to be elevated, but that didn't work. I tried it from the rooftops in the village, and that didn't work. Then I looked: the tower in the middle of the village! I'd forgotten to try from there because once I got to the top of that I headed straight for the mountain. Sure enough, that was the spot.

Also, can we talk about how the sound is so satisfying when you get one? So good.


EDIT 3: The game might be trying to teach me a lesson in freeing myself from want. Now that I'm fired up to dive back into it, it's hard crashing after I start it up. It loads fine and I can walk a few steps, then it locks up my whole system.

I'm running it on Linux through Proton and tried all the different Proton versions assuming that was the culprit (it has crashed before) but the outcome is the same. I might be technologically barred from going further, which I guess is in the spirit of the game's ending and philosophy, right?


EDIT 4: My OS had some graphics library updates for me today, and after installing them I'm back in business--no more crashing! (Sub edit: I spoke too soon. It crashed after about half an hour, but that's way better than what I was getting before). I spent a while traipsing around the island, looking for environmental lines. It's amazing how, in hindsight, so many areas or destinations that I thought were just kind of dead space are actually strategic locations for environmental lines.

A good example is the very beginning of the game. You can get onto the roof of the overhang you first walk out from. At the beginning of the game I got up there, saw some pillows, and just thought it was set dressing in an ultimately useless space. Nope! Not only is there an environmental line you can get from there, but there's an audiolog as well if you're paying attention to detail (which, of course, I wasn't in my first go-around).

22 comments

  1. 0lpbm
    Link
    I think Jonathan Blow mentioned multiple times that this was the idea that germinated the game itself: a way to draw lines on the screen as a trigger for some other events (initially the concept...

    Finding out that I could, in fact, trace them just like every other line I'd been making for the past ten hours was absolutely flooring to me.

    I think Jonathan Blow mentioned multiple times that this was the idea that germinated the game itself: a way to draw lines on the screen as a trigger for some other events (initially the concept for an RPG game, where this was the mechanic for casting spells).

    Also, as a member of a very disfavoured group of gamers, for which The Witness arrived very late I feel cheated that I didn't get to experience this feeling first hand, being spoiled by the internet countless times before I could actually play the game. :(

    6 votes
  2. [6]
    KilledByAPixel
    Link
    Great write up! I loved the game and beat the final challenge. It was one of the toughest game's I've played but also most worthwhile. There are not many games that celebrate Zen Buddhism so that...

    Great write up! I loved the game and beat the final challenge. It was one of the toughest game's I've played but also most worthwhile. There are not many games that celebrate Zen Buddhism so that was a great bonus. I didn't do many of the environmental puzzles because I figured out that they were optional, but if I'd like to do another play through in VR someday.

    If you want to try something a little similar but great in it's own way, check out a game called AntiChamber.

    Also, it sounds like you have some motion sickness, so I'd recommend a 2d puzzle game like Babba is You It's a top down game and the puzzles are awesome.

    4 votes
    1. [5]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Oh man, I never considered the idea of The Witness in VR. I probably wouldn't be able to stomach it, but I'm sure it would be transcendent for those that can. As for your recommendations, I've...

      Oh man, I never considered the idea of The Witness in VR. I probably wouldn't be able to stomach it, but I'm sure it would be transcendent for those that can.

      As for your recommendations, I've played through Antichamber, which I enjoyed but didn't love nearly as much as everybody else seemed to. It's been a while since I played it so I can't remember my exact pain points, but I did appreciate how mind-bendy it was and how it used your own expectations against you.

      As for Baba Is You, I love it, but I think it's outright too smart for me. I got full stuck, and pretty early on. I think it's absolutely brilliant though, and I'll probably return to it for a fresh start somewhere down the line.

      2 votes
      1. [4]
        KilledByAPixel
        Link Parent
        Oh wow, ok. Did you manage to beat antichamber? I didn't the first time but I started it again recently and played through. It is hard to find games that scratch the same itch as the witness.

        Oh wow, ok. Did you manage to beat antichamber? I didn't the first time but I started it again recently and played through.

        It is hard to find games that scratch the same itch as the witness.

        3 votes
        1. rkcr
          Link Parent
          I agree! There are so many puzzle games out there, yet most of them don't really feel like they rise to this level. The only one I'd add to this suggestion list is The Return of the Obra Dinn. Its...

          It is hard to find games that scratch the same itch as the witness.

          I agree! There are so many puzzle games out there, yet most of them don't really feel like they rise to this level.

          The only one I'd add to this suggestion list is The Return of the Obra Dinn. Its puzzle mechanic is unique and interesting.

          4 votes
        2. [2]
          kfwyre
          Link Parent
          I did beat Antichamber, though I will admit to using a guide to get unstuck at parts. I used to be a die-hard purist about making my way through games entirely on my own, but too many times I...

          I did beat Antichamber, though I will admit to using a guide to get unstuck at parts. I used to be a die-hard purist about making my way through games entirely on my own, but too many times I would end up abandoning a game I enjoyed because I got stuck on a single puzzle or a frustrating part. I started to resent that one pain point would derail an entire experience for me. Now, if after giving things a good-faith effort on my part I'm still stuck, I consult a guide/walkthrough to get me going again so I can continue enjoying the experience. No sense in letting my pride ruin a good playthrough, IMO, and Antichamber was definitely something I needed a guide for at points.

          I even did this with The Witness a few times, though instead of looking up full solutions I would usually just peek at the beginning of the correct line path for a given panel so I at least had a starting point, and then solve it from there.

          That said, I don't always follow my own advice, because I abandoned Baba Is You without consulting a guide, on account of my pride.

          As for other games that scratch the same itch, I agree that there's not a lot out there because, honestly, The Witness is one of a kind.

          The two ones that come closest for me are The Talos Principle and Quern: Undying Thoughts. The Talos Principle has a similar cohesiveness to The Witness, as all of its puzzles use similar pieces and it teaches you different strategies to solve them along the way. It also has a similar "aha!" moment, although not nearly as profound since it's telegraphed more explicitly to the player. It does have a genuinely compelling narrative, and I found it very satisfying to play through. I'd bought the game pretty close to release and then let it sit, untouched, in my Steam library for years. My first thought, after I'd started playing it, was "I should have been playing this a long time ago!"

          As for Quern: Undying Thoughts, it's much less cohesive than The Witness in that it has puzzles of a lot of different types, but I put it here because I thought it had a lot of very clever ideas and satisfying solutions. I remember reading that the developers didn't want things in the game to only ever serve one purpose, so you'll solve an explicit puzzle in a certain area, only to have to return to it later because there's more to it than you originally thought. It has more pain points than the other two, but that's because each puzzle tends to be a concept on its own, rather than wrapped into a larger puzzle language (although there's some of that in the game too). As such you'll occasionally run into either a frustrating puzzle design or something you just personally dislike (e.g. "lights out" puzzles for me).

          Nevertheless, I loved both games and would wholeheartedly recommend them to any puzzle fan. Each of them impressed me in ways similar to The Witness, though probably not to the same magnitude.

          4 votes
          1. rkcr
            Link Parent
            Thanks for the recommendation of Quern - I'd never heard of it, will have to check it out. I also liked the Talos Principle, especially when you start realizing the world can be manipulated in...

            Thanks for the recommendation of Quern - I'd never heard of it, will have to check it out.

            I also liked the Talos Principle, especially when you start realizing the world can be manipulated in more than the intended manner (in a similar way to The Witness).

            3 votes
  3. [2]
    Adys
    Link
    Ah man, The Witness. When I finished my playthrough I had a stack of papers and my desk looked like this: https://photos.app.goo.gl/7k4emqj1izk5w56F9 It really is one of the best games I've...

    Ah man, The Witness. When I finished my playthrough I had a stack of papers and my desk looked like this: https://photos.app.goo.gl/7k4emqj1izk5w56F9

    It really is one of the best games I've played, quite possibly the best game I've played. I loved your description of the puzzles: "The line puzzles aren't just puzzles--they're a language"

    The feeling of finding and tracing the first environmental puzzle, then finding them everywhere, is bonkers. It's a feeling almost every The Witness player has experienced, and it simply can't be found in any other game to my knowledge/experience.

    What do the individual, standalone panels lying around the island do (the gray ones with the triangles)? I've figured out the rule, I just don't know their purpose.

    They're a tutorial for something bigger by the mountain. Have you found it?

    Is there story or lore in the game?

    There is not. No "overall" lore that is, but there are mini-stories the statues sometimes tell, if you look close enough.

    How on earth do I get that environmental line with the railroad tracks?

    Which one, the one by the elevator? :)

    4 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      My desk looked exactly the same! I pretty much love any game that can force me to bust out the pen and paper. It adds a whole new layer to the experience, you know? As for the "something bigger,"...

      My desk looked exactly the same! I pretty much love any game that can force me to bust out the pen and paper. It adds a whole new layer to the experience, you know?

      As for the "something bigger," I don't believe I found it. I also tried the elevator for the railroad tracks line, but I couldn't get it to work. That said, I didn't play around with it too much, so I'm sure there's more that I could do--especially because you're hinting me towards it!

      Unfortunately I don't know how much opportunity I'll have to proceed. My game is hard crashing at the moment (see EDIT 3) and I'm not sure how to resolve that. Nevertheless, even if I can't continue, I'm satisfied with the experience I had.

      2 votes
  4. [5]
    vili
    (edited )
    Link
    The Witness is one of my favourite games for pretty much the same reasons that you mentioned. It, together with some life-changing events at the time of its release, actually pushed me to finally...

    The Witness is one of my favourite games for pretty much the same reasons that you mentioned. It, together with some life-changing events at the time of its release, actually pushed me to finally start working on my own puzzle game, and I am very grateful for it for that. The Witness also helped me to process those events at the time.

    Since I played through the game the same week it came out, and have since only gone back to it for short periods of time, my memory may be a bit hazy. But I would definitely recommend exploring the area that you refer to as the "challenge area". A lot of it contains what I think were puzzles that they rejected from the main game and I seem to remember the audio logs there also being within that theme. It's a bit like getting a behind the scenes glimpse into the making of the game, but as with the rest of the game, this is communicated largely through the puzzles and their symbols. It's perhaps my favourite area in the whole game.

    The "final challenge" itself is pretty tough, though. Like you, I suffer from motion sickness, and this has prevented me from completing the challenge. It's the only part of the game that is timed and requires rushing around, so you can't just stop and take a breather when you feel you might be throwing up.

    If I recall correctly, the scattered triangle panels that you asked about are there to teach you their mechanics. This knowledge is needed to both enter and to complete the "challenge".

    Because of my motion sickness, I never finished the environmental puzzles, although I did do a fair number of them. I keep wanting to go back but haven't had the time and I'm not sure if the nausea would be worth it.

    I don't think there is a traditional, linear story as such, as the game is more circular and meditative in its communication and contemplation of the human condition. But the game does still have an ending of sorts if you find and enter the so-called "hotel" area.

    Edit: I forgot to comment on the island's statues and frozen individuals who you asked about. My take was that they are there to give you concrete visual examples where, depending on your point of view, your interpretation of the subject will be very different. For instance, the man in the village who looks like he is cursing the skies can also be a happy juggler, if you align yourself correctly. This extends to a lot of other things in the game, like if you look at one part of the coastline, I forget where, you notice that the rocks form the shape of a giant person in prayer. Or how in the quarry (or the tower?), if you stand just right, your shadow can be that of either a king or an angel, and so on.

    3 votes
    1. [4]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Your comment made me dive back into the game to go explore the statues more. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get very far (see EDIT 3), but I was able to check out the man in the village before my...

      Your comment made me dive back into the game to go explore the statues more. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get very far (see EDIT 3), but I was able to check out the man in the village before my game started crashing. I completely missed the shadow on the floor! During my playthrough I never really explored the statues like they were their own perspective puzzles. The only one I really "got" was that I could position myself to make the woman in the side of the mountain and the statue of the woman reaching down connect hands. At the time I thought of it more as an easter egg than I did another layer of the game.

      Can you share any more information about your puzzle game? I'd love to hear about it if you're willing to share.

      2 votes
      1. [3]
        vili
        Link Parent
        I'm sorry to hear about your technical troubles diving back in. I hope you'll find a solution. Your post actually pushed me to go and visit the island again, and I spent about half an hour trying...

        I'm sorry to hear about your technical troubles diving back in. I hope you'll find a solution.

        Your post actually pushed me to go and visit the island again, and I spent about half an hour trying to find some remaining audio logs. Alas, the motion sickness got the better of me pretty quick and I had to stop. It really sucks to suffer from it. I remember at one point wondering why everyone was so hyped about the feeling of their first discovery of an environmental puzzle, when for me it was a pretty unremarkable event. Only later did I realise that when I first stumbled on an environmental puzzle, I was most likely feeling quite nauseous, as paying particular attention to the scenery while moving around makes me want to throw up. So, whatever satisfaction I may have had from the first environmental puzzle was most likely dampened by an urgent need to vomit at that point.

        Even then, it's a lovely place. And as you have noticed, there is so much detail in the game that it is easy to miss something. I for instance never realised that the pond in the village is actually a pretty detailed map until I read about it online.

        The game I'm working on is a turn based 2d puzzler with an interactive science fiction story. You can find my pitch here. I have no idea when it will be ready. The current status is that the 200 or so basic levels are in theory ready to go and I am now in the process of implementing the game's story element and the puzzles that relate to it, as well as polishing audio and some UI stuff. This was originally supposed to be a quick three-month project (I envisioned a total of 36 levels) but as I began working on it, it seemed to demand more, and rather than setting myself any boundaries or deadlines, I decided to follow where the game wanted go creatively, letting it become something much bigger, and I think more interesting. It finally found what looks like its final form about a year ago, so now it's just a matter of me finishing it. It's been a fun ride, but I would be lying if I didn't say that after three and a half years of working on it (on and off, this is a hobby) I wouldn't be mentally screaming at this point to get it done so I could move onto some other creative projects that have been piling up. :)

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          kfwyre
          Link Parent
          Yeah, motion sickness is no fun. I'm usually able to get around it by changing graphics settings (FOV, motion blur, head bob, etc.), but some games it's just there no matter what I do. Most of The...

          Yeah, motion sickness is no fun. I'm usually able to get around it by changing graphics settings (FOV, motion blur, head bob, etc.), but some games it's just there no matter what I do. Most of The Witness I was fine with, but there were the occasional moments of discomfort, especially when something screwy was happening onscreen. Sorry to hear it's such an issue for you.

          Also, your game looks great! I will absolutely play it once it's released. I also happen to love Rendezvous With Rama, so seeing that as an inspiration is an added bonus. Best of luck with completing it, as well as your other creative projects.

          2 votes
          1. vili
            Link Parent
            Thanks for the interest, it means a lot! And yeah, motion sickness definitely depends on the game and the settings. And the individual. For me, anything made with Valve's Source engine is near...

            Thanks for the interest, it means a lot!

            And yeah, motion sickness definitely depends on the game and the settings. And the individual. For me, anything made with Valve's Source engine is near impossible to play. At the other end of the spectrum, the Halo games have practically never given me issues. Unfortunately, the latter are exceptions to the norm, rather than the other way around. The worst era was the late 90s when everything suddenly had to be in rudimentary 3D, with each early rendering engine more sickness inducing than the other. I practically stopped playing newer games for about a decade.

            3 votes
  5. nothis
    Link
    The Witness is maybe my favorite game, right along with Braid. I'm a huge Jonathan Blow fan. If you enjoy the philosophical deconstruction of what a game can be, you might enjoy watching some of...

    The Witness is maybe my favorite game, right along with Braid. I'm a huge Jonathan Blow fan. If you enjoy the philosophical deconstruction of what a game can be, you might enjoy watching some of his talks on game design. Here's one I like he did with Marc Ten Bosch, but there's dozens on youtube and they're all amazing and eye-opening. No other designer (at least none that I saw talking publicly) has this grasp on a generalized ideal of "game design".

    I see you've been sucked back in, anyway, but yea, I absolutely recommend sticking with "the challenge" and seeing it through. Trying some not-too-spoiler-y answers:

    What do the individual, standalone panels lying around the island do (the gray ones with the triangles)? I've figured out the rule, I just don't know their purpose.

    Stick with the game, and you'll encounter them again!

    Does finding all the environmental lines serve any larger purpose?

    I'm tempted to say "yes", but remember that the game doesn't do "rewards". Even the videos shown are essentially just open ended "puzzles", more thinking work – only on a real-life level rather than a game level. The environmental puzzles are pretty much the manifestation of the "the journey is the reward" theme of the game, don't expect anything in the end.

    Is there story or lore in the game? Does the island or its frozen inhabitants get explained? I activated a few audiologs, but those were mostly philosophical ponderings rather than narrative.

    I think it's safer to think of the game as not really having a story, but inside the mountain (and after the challenge area), you will find some audio logs (and more) that heavily hint at what the place is supposed to be and who created it and why. Of course in a very vague, The Witness way, don't expect some Bioshock style "reveal".

    How on earth do I get that environmental line with the railroad tracks? Of all the ones that I haven't been able to figure out how to get, that one's bothering me the most.

    Who says you have to stand still?

    3 votes
  6. [3]
    rkcr
    Link
    I played The Witness when it first came out. I remember reading reviews and realizing that, like, half of the reviewers never figured this out. As a result, those reviews typically said "pretty...

    I was probably 12 to 14 hours into the game when I accidentally stumbled onto the knowledge that there were lines that could be activated outside the panels.

    I played The Witness when it first came out. I remember reading reviews and realizing that, like, half of the reviewers never figured this out. As a result, those reviews typically said "pretty game, but there is absolutely no point to having it be a 3D environment." :P

    My recommendation would be to keep working on those environmental puzzles. Some of them are so damn clever that seeing them is a revelation.

    Also, it sounds like there are at least three big secrets you haven't found (or completed at least). Without spoiling things too much:

    • Did you actually find everything in the mountain?
    • There's an alternate ending you can find.
    • Have you gotten the challenge achievement?
    3 votes
    1. [2]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Yeah, I can understand how someone could completely miss the environmental lines (as I did for over half my time in the game). If I had I still would have enjoyed the game, but I think discovering...

      Yeah, I can understand how someone could completely miss the environmental lines (as I did for over half my time in the game). If I had I still would have enjoyed the game, but I think discovering those lines are where my appreciation for the game took on a whole new dimension. It went from "this is a good game" to "this is something so much more than just a good game."

      Also, thanks for the hints. I haven't gotten the challenge achievement (I only finished the standard ending), and I definitely haven't explored the mountain to its fullest. I don't know if I'll be able to continue (see EDIT 3), but I'm hoping that I can.

      1 vote
      1. Atvelonis
        Link Parent
        I played the game a little while ago, so I've forgotten some of the details, but I do remember that the "normal" ending with the mountain was deceptively simple. There's a good amount more, and I...

        I played the game a little while ago, so I've forgotten some of the details, but I do remember that the "normal" ending with the mountain was deceptively simple. There's a good amount more, and I would absolutely recommend diving back in. The "Challenge" achievement is aptly named. I think it's worth it. That's separate from the alternate/secret ending mentioned above, though, just to be clear.

        I got the impression while playing The Witness that Jonathon Blow was not very interested in adhering to the typical or banal expectations you have for a video game. There's a general sort of structure with finishing each section and then going to the mountain for that final sequence, but the game doesn't give you stupid rewards to encourage you to finish puzzles or anything. i.e. there's no artificial progression system, which is nice. It means that you can play simply because you enjoy the puzzles, not because you feel pressured to be a completionist for no reason. I rather wish more games were like this.

        On that note, if you want to finish all of the environmental puzzles because you like them, go for it! I agree that they're satisfying to complete. But you shouldn't feel like you have to do them, if they start to feel like a chore. Personally, I love all of the puzzles in The Witness, but puzzle fatigue is a real thing. I think it's a gorgeous game, visually, aesthetically, philosophically, the whole kit and caboodle. It might be the best game I've ever played? If not, it's definitely up there. Have fun with it. :)

        4 votes
  7. culturedleftfoot
    Link
    Bravo! Thanks for the shout. I find it so interesting to hear about people's experiences with this game, their process of discovery, and what resonates with them (or doesn't). There is a lot that...

    Bravo! Thanks for the shout. I find it so interesting to hear about people's experiences with this game, their process of discovery, and what resonates with them (or doesn't). There is a lot that can be discussed about this game but it's probably best left for when you're more sure you feel done with it, so I fully encourage you to dive back in. It seems like you have a good amount left to see and do. My eventual play time for an absolutely complete playthrough was around 90 hours, which was probably about 20 more than I actually needed. Hopefully those technical issues are only temporary.

    3 votes
  8. [2]
    VoidOutput
    Link
    So to be clear, did you do the normal ending or the final challenge ? I only did the normal one and don't know anything about the final challenge other than it exists, I haven't spoiled myself.

    So to be clear, did you do the normal ending or the final challenge ? I only did the normal one and don't know anything about the final challenge other than it exists, I haven't spoiled myself.

    1 vote
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      I only did the normal ending. I haven't touched the final challenge yet and, like you, don't know anything other than that it exists.

      I only did the normal ending. I haven't touched the final challenge yet and, like you, don't know anything other than that it exists.

      1 vote
  9. kfwyre
    (edited )
    Link
    Apparently topic-level pings don't work, so I'll put them here. Mark this as noise please! @culturedleftfoot, look what you made me do! @cptcobalt, we were chatting in the other thread so I...

    Apparently topic-level pings don't work, so I'll put them here. Mark this as noise please!

    @culturedleftfoot, look what you made me do!
    @cptcobalt, we were chatting in the other thread so I figured I'd ping you here.
    @anowlcalledjosh, your post inspired me to play the game! Eight months ago! I am not a punctual person, but I finally got around to it!

    4 votes