At the risk of invoking the infamous wrath of game creator Jonathan Blow, we dare to call The Witness mediocre. Basking in the warm sunlight of scores like 10/10 from IGN and 9.25/10 from Game Informer, The Witness gave every indication that it was to be a game worth the money it cost and beyond- indeed, it was to be a collector’s item, and something to cherish. When it came to playing The Witness ourselves, however, we found that it quickly tumbled down from its too-tall pedestal. Beautiful, clever, and mysterious, The Witness is a thoroughly enjoyable first-person adventure puzzler. But a masterpiece worthy of a 10/10 score? We’re not sure.
The Witness is flush with vivid colors and smooth landscapes, combining man-made constructions with fluid representations of nature. It’s lovely, no doubt, but it pales in comparison to other games which have pushed the envelope when it comes to absorbing atmospheres and refined details. There’s nothing particularly special about the flowers, trees, and buildings you’ll come across, and while the colors contrast extremely well and the scenery is striking, they’re perhaps not enough to take The Witness to masterwork-heights.
Maybe we were just really bad at them. While the puzzles guide you well and are cleverly thought-out, they eventually become difficult to the point of despair. The puzzles focus on creating shapes in ever-more-complicated ways of which initially are a pleasure to discover. However, we found ourselves caught up in more than one final-screen puzzle that took hours to contemplate, and we finally ground to a halt on one that stumped us entirely. And the reward of moving forward incrementally in the game? Satisfying only to a point.
Oh, yes. There isn’t any. Perhaps the most frustrating deviation that The Witness takes as far as typical game-creation goes is its complete lack of a background soundtrack. When you’re working on that hours-long puzzle, you don’t have any music to keep you motivated or calm. Instead, you’re left with a mind-numbing quiet with barely-audible outdoor sounds in the background. The sound effects offered by selecting things on the puzzle itself are engaging, but that’s it. You’re left with all your puzzle-stumped thoughts and bubbling rage in almost complete silence.
There is plenty yet for us to explore on The Witness, and it by no means has turned us off completely from its entrancing island and its subtle suspense. There is nothing enough to say that the game is bad or even not worth the money. However, the hype behind the launch of The Witness surged to astronomic levels and stayed there even after it came out for the public to play. Thus we found ourselves mystified by a game that was lauded as a gaming champion but, in actuality, seemed to only be a finalist.