The Witness PS4 review: Unforgiving, Rewarding, Humbling and Empowering

 Most AAA games these days tend not to be the most challenging things, and a lot of the time, gamers crave experiences that will push their gaming skills. Jonathan Blow and his team at Thekla revealed an open-world puzzle game called The Witness at a time when the PS4 was revealed and at last their creation is finally here.

The Witness is by far one of the most unforgiving, beautiful, rewarding, frustrating, engaging, challenging, humbling, empowering and excellent games I've played in quite some time. It is unrelenting in you discovering its secrets, paths and solutions, and its striking world presents a color palate and landscape that keeps you coming back time and time again.

In The Witness, you are someone who inhabits this world where clearly something has happened and as you progress through the story, you uncover the secrets and context to explain things. If you get through The Witness and find yourself wondering what in the world is going on, don't worry because that is natural.

In the interest of not spoiling the narrative for you, I'll refrain from discussing it but I do feel it was implemented in an interesting fashion, albeit one you don't expect. There are audio excerpts you can find throughout the world of The Witness and in each of these is a message for you to play.

The post-Thekla published a few weeks back revealed the voice actors in the game and these recordings are where you will find them. The first recording I stumbled upon was voiced by Ashley Johnson and it's up to you to find it and interpret the context and meaning of it for yourself.

The Witness has a control scheme that is very simple, as solving a puzzle will require your joysticks, while interacting and leaving a puzzle will belong to the X and O buttons (on PS4), respectively. There is a sprint button, but outside of those things, The Witness is simple for anyone to play.

I should add onto my previous statement, The Witness is simple for anyone to play, however, it is difficult to master and beat. If you are familiar with Jonathan Blow's games or work then you might have an easier time learning the rules of the world and its puzzles. However, if you are new to this sort of game, you will find yourself learning a new language, as I did.

That is the best way I can describe what it was like to solve puzzle after puzzle in the world of The Witness. It is an open-world game so after you get past the opening puzzle room, you are free to roam the small, yet large world and engage with puzzles as you wish.

Sure, some puzzles follow a similar theme, and once you have figured out the key to them, you can then apply that logic to the rest of the puzzles in that given section. But just because you figure out the key, doesn't mean the rest of the puzzles in that section are simple to solve. They only get harder and harder, holy crap do they get harder. The one hint I will give people is that separation and isolation can sometimes serve as your best friend when trying to figure solutions out in The Witness.

While playing The Witness, my feelings ranged from believing I could bring about world peace all the way to believing I forgot the answer to 1+1. This game will make you feel like a genius in one instance, and then in the next, it will make you feel like a total moron. Did I really pass Kindergarten? However, that is the beauty of this game to be, yanking out your ability to problem solve or look beyond your own tendencies. This game forces you to think outside of your own box for the solutions that oftentimes are right in front of you.

I'm sure there will be plenty of walkthrough videos and cheat sheets for how to solve the puzzles of The Witness, I implore anyone who is truly interested in experiencing this game as intended to stay away from those sorts of spoilers. Put in the time, grab a friend and think your way through this game. If you can play this game without hints or cheats, you'll be glad you did.

One of the only gripes I have with The Witness is the fact that the game keeps you on rails when moving around elevated areas. For example, if I was on top of a structure I couldn't simply jump down to the ground, so I ask, why not? This person has no health to be mindful of, and it would've made traversal a bit less cumbersome.

Having to walk up and down the same stairs over and over just to get a good vantage point of what I was trying to do, became obnoxious when I could have just jumped down and kept going all along. It's a small knit pick, but one worth mentioning as it becomes an issue over the course of dozens and dozens of hours with the game.

As you probably can tell from the various screenshots and trailers that have been released, The Witness is an absolutely stunning game that is embraced by a rainbow of colors. Each environment in this world presents a different set of rules and challenges, in addition to unique objects and landscapes.

The world is stunning to behold and at some points, it was just fun to walk around and take in all of its beauty. The Witness is an open-world game, but there is no world map or indicators for you to follow. This game is 100 percent, you on your own, by yourself with no UI and it's pure visual magnificence.

This game has a world that is small, yet enormous. It's puzzles are engaging, yet infuriating. I've never played a game and felt so lost at one time, while in the next instance solving a puzzle and feeling like I could find the cure for cancer. The Witness is super hard, but it is also super rewarding.

When I step back and think about The Witness, it is a game that challenged me more than any has before. No matter what though, the challenges were always worth pushing through to find a solution because of the rewards that were hidden behind them. There will be a group of people who love this game for how rewarding it is, and at the same time, there will be a group that loathes it for how frustrating it is. All I know is I fell in the group of the former.


- Gorgeous world

- Challenging, diverse puzzles

- Rewarding outcomes


- Traversal

Thekla provided a PS4 review code to for the purposes of this review.

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