The Architectural Puzzles in “The Witness”

Now that many of us have had time to play our brand, new, shiny PlayStation 4’s (don’t worry fanboys; I DIDN’T forget that the Xbox One comes out in two days), it seems like a good time to talk about a popular timed exclusive for the system, which is The Witness, from the mind of Johnathan Blow, the creator of Braid. The Witness hopes to blend a new brand of storytelling with immersive gameplay, founded largely on the environments that Blow and two teams of architects designed. The game’s trailer certainly evokes memories of the architecture, environment and puzzle-type of gameplay from Myst.  In an entry in Blow’s blog post, he describes the intense detail hidden within each building and feature in the game:

“The game is constructed so that the more you pay attention to tiny details during your travels, the more insight you will have to the central story, even though it may not be obvious at any given time what a particular detail has to do with that story.”

While playing The Witness, the player will notice that the puzzles within each section on the island are based on a similar theme. Early in the game, the initial puzzles will help the player identify the theme and understand how to solve the upcoming puzzles.  Every puzzle is based on a mechanic of tracing a path through a maze-like route, and the goal isn’t to only complete the maze, but find and navigate the right path of several mazes that completes the puzzle correctly.  Many of the puzzles will be obvious — displayed on panels throughout the island — while other puzzles might be visually incorporated into the architecture of the game, for example: a nearby tree may have branches that mimic the paths, or symbols that are shown as decorative elements on walls and floors of the buildings may correspond with a clue to complete the puzzle.

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