The Witness: There is no truth, there is only perception - Games Weekly

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Monday, April 20, 2015

The Witness: There is no truth, there is only perception

You’re stranded on an island water-locked on every side. In the middle of this landmass you find yourself on, there’s a mountain. It sticks out of the ground, monolithic, forming a geological epicentre the whole game revolves around. There are ten areas on the island, each of them containing a gold turret, hidden behind a selection of puzzles.

To get to the centre of the island to find out what you’re doing there, and more importantly to find out how to leave you need to activate at least seven of the ten turrets and make them face that looming mountain at the centre of the map.

The game comes from megastar Jonathan Blow (most well-known for his breakout hit, Braid) so expect to see some unique ideas and mechanics fleshing out the uninhabited island, and likely some kind of subtly horrific premise the island is probably a metaphor for earth, and the fact no-one’s on it means there’s been some terrible nuclear apocalypse or something. Here are five things we know about The Witness for certain, though…

Before The Witness came into being asa game in its own right, Blow had been experimenting with a variety of other game concepts, one of which involved leading players up to a ‘magic moment’ something that would fundamentally alter the player’s experience of the game. That element was taken from the proto-game Blow was working on and reworked to fit into The Witness, though information on specifically what the moment is remains elusive, likely due to Blow’s insistence on keeping the gameplay experience as spoiler-free as possible.

From The second you leave the intro of The Witness, the game promises to leave you to your own devices. The only vague path you’ll find through the game takes the form of a series of totally optional audio logs, left by previous inhabitants of the island. Blow stated he wanted this feeling of isolation to be kept intact to give the player a sense of ‘loneliness in a beautiful place’. Once again, it appears that Blow is looking to integrate a broader theme much more closely to gameplay mechanics than we might typically see from the genre. It’s got modern-gothic written all over it and builds nicely on Braid.

During Development, Blow toyed with the idea of removing trophies and achievements completely, so as not to give away any elements that would seem to reward the player for any progress they might (or might not) be making. The game’s nebulous story has also been constructed to intentionally give you no clue if you’re heading in the right direction at any given time. Blow wants you to saunter through the world he’s created and absorb it all, with the traditional idea of progression in games the last thing on your mind as you explore.

When you come upon a puzzle-heavy zone, don’t expect on-screen prompts and dialogue boxes telling you what to do. Head up to a wall and see a panel? Maybe you can interact with it, maybe you can’t. There’s no ‘X’ popping up to let you know, it’s trial and error. Thing is, once you think you’ve mastered the game’s visual language, Blow will change things up that same textured panel can no longer be interacted with, or it can only be tilted, rather than moved wholly. Think Myst, but more abstract, and you’re some way to being on the right lines.

Blow Initially started development for the game on Xbox 360 and PS3, but releases for these games were scrapped when Blow decided the system specifications were ‘too low’. Whether this is because the whole open world operates in one concurrent zone is uncertain a condensed open world like that requires more RAM than a game that breaks its world off into different areas. Regardless, this means The Witness will be the first ‘Portal-esque’ puzzle game released on current-gen, and that’s worth getting excited about.

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