Game of the Week: The Witness

The weather turns colder as we approach the coldest of seasons and getting cozy is becoming a bigger priority to all of us. As such, we think it’s time to choose a cozy puzzle game as our game of the week: The Witness!

Grab your chai latte, get a blanket and prepare yourself for an entire gauntlet of puzzles that go from easy to extremely complicated; let’s see what The Witness has in store for us.

I Must Witness How Many Puzzles?!

Well, the consensus is often split, but the most common numbers we have are:

  • 523 regular puzzles
  • 135 environmental puzzles
  • 6 obelisks (find out what this means on your own!)

That puts us at a whopping 665 puzzles, some of which require some expert out-of-the-box thinking to even find. Let’s go through what your usual journey through the island is going to look like:

The island in The Witness is divided up into 18 ‘zones’, if you will, each of them boasting their own set of puzzles. Completing the main zones will have you turn on a laser projector that points to the peak of the mountain and you can probably guess something happens once you activate all the projectors.

What you’ll generally find is that each zone has its own unique type of puzzle – although some zones do become easier with prior knowledge of how other puzzles work. Each zone usually has you follow an increasingly complex set of puzzles that introduce more variables and tools into the mix the deeper you find yourself (and the closer you get to the projector).

The island is not huge – you can walk from one zone to another in a reasonable amount of time, or take the boat across the coast – nor is it linear. If you get stuck on a particular puzzle, you can go for a walk, bump into another series of puzzles, do those, then come back!

the witness island map
Much like the total number of puzzles, the division of zones is also a disputed topic in the fanbase.

Witnessing Environmental Puzzles

At the cost of slightly spoiling a less obvious mechanic of the game, there’s a plethora of environmental puzzles for you to complete. These puzzles aren’t constrained for a metal slab, like the majority of them. They are for the keen pattern-recognizers to discover. If you ever look at a structure or a tree and you think it may vaguely look like a traceable puzzle, find the right angle that lets you see most of the ‘path’ the puzzle would take, and try to activate and complete it!

One theme you’ll notice while playing is that the game doesn’t outright explain anything to you; the ‘trick’ to how each type of puzzle works has to be discovered by the player in the few initial introductory puzzles in each zone. While environmental puzzles are less complex than regular ones and don’t tend to require any special mechanics to be understood, their difficulty comes from how hard it can be to simply notice them.

If you’re going for 100% completion (which I believe only 1% of players have achieved), keep your eyes wide open; some of these puzzles require a lot of creative thinking to find, like the one below:

the witness environmental puzzle using the water's reflection
Nonsense? Awesome!

If you’ve ever looked for a game to brand as ‘over-designed’, The Witness is probably a prime example. This does not mean, however, that it is a bad game – quite the contrary, actually. The Witness leans into its over-designed puzzles to deliver a unique experience and challenges players to flex parts of their intellect seldom used in video games – critical thinking, cold hard logic, and pattern recognition taken to a new level.

P.S. If the article wasn’t clear enough, the chai latte and the blanket are usable during gameplay due to the non-linear, non-scripted nature of the game. Only a handful of puzzles are timed, so you can take however long you need (and however many chai lattes it takes) to get through the game!

Have you played The Witness already? How’d you find it? Let us know in the comments below!