The Witness Hands-On Preview (PS4)

Jonathan Blow, the mind behind the critically successful Braid is back with the first person puzzle adventure, The Witness. Launching in 2014 on the PS4 and PC, it is looking to bring back the almost forgotten genre that games like Myst had made successful many years ago, while adding a great deal of unique styling and themes to bring it to a modern market.

Getting a chance to get some hands-on time with The Witness, it was surprising to see just how well it ran given that the build was still so far from being complete. This could be due to the simplistic nature that makes up the game, as it is little more than a first person puzzle title, or that the project is simply coming along very well, either way it is a good sign for what we will see next year when it all comes together.

Playing through the lengthy build, the basic concept for The Witness at this point was little more than a person wondering a deserted world that is sectioned off by various puzzles. All of the puzzles did fall on a similar concept of an interactable maze styled object, that required the player to learn and follow a set of rules to get from beginning to end. Completing one opened up another object that built off of the same concept or allowed you to progress through the area. This simple construct led to some interesting ideas, in that if someone had enough mental prowess, they could by bypass parts of the map, making it always feel as if it was the player evolving, not just the character.

The Witness Puzzle

Looking back at the puzzle design, everything felt quite elegant, fundamental concepts were taught without the need for a standard tutorial and even though the idea of continuously completing complex mazes might seem redundant, they weren’t. Thankfully, the ability to quickly get past the easier challenges allows the player to find a level that suits them without getting bogged down by having to get past things that would bore them.

Besides the gameplay, one of the biggest attractions for The Witness had to have been the lush visuals that really gave the game a great deal of life. Using what could be best described as a stylistic cell-shaded technique, every color in the environment stood out, making wandering around for the next puzzle more of a treat than a chore.

Overall, The Witness looks like it is shaping up quite nicely and will definitely be one to watch next year, so make sure to stay tuned to PSLS for more updates as we get closer to launch.