Written by Dyllan Rodrigues-Miller // Uploaded and edited by Drew Beyer // Cover image courtesy of Playstation.com, doctored by Drew Beyer
(Editor’s note: the following contains major spoilers for The Witness along with strong language. You’ve been warned.)
Dear The Witness,
Oh, how I loved thee. I loved you so much, I played until my eyes couldn’t stay open anymore and then immediately started playing again when I woke up the next day. You’re a visual masterpiece, with absolutely stunning graphics, dazzlingly bold colors, fluid animation, and locations you want to stay at after solving all the puzzles just because they’re so lovely to behold. You’re a very hands-off game that does your best to gently nudge the player in the direction of solving each puzzle they come to, but in a way that doesn’t feel too simplistic or overbearing. You envelop the player in a state of tranquil curiosity, and dare I say you are an absolute master of the art of the tease. You offer only as much information as is necessary to gain a small understanding of the world the player finds themselves in and you leave the rest up to them to figure out. In many ways, you are a perfect game.
But, alas, you are not the perfect game. No no, you have one major flaw that prevents you from obtaining that title, one major flaw that quickly dropped you from the top of my favorite games list to the bottom of my least favorite games list…
Your ending fucking SUCKS.
Are you fucking kidding me?! I played you, spent hours with you, I loved and cherished you and what did I get in return? THROWN OUT ON MY ASS. You have the audacity to make me go through all of these puzzles, these magnificent, mind boggling puzzles, and let me fly like Icarus so close to the story-behind-the-island sun that I can feel the glory of its rays, and then you throw me back to the beginning to make me play the whole game over again?! There were so many things I didn’t explore! So many sights I didn’t see! So many puzzles I didn’t solve! And NOW, if I want to even gain access to those puzzles, I have to do it all over again?!?!
No. N. O. No no no. No no no no no no no. I absolutely refuse to do that. Why? Because there is n o t h i n g I hate more than games that make you do the same shit over and over and over again only to get a liiiiiittle bit farther than you did last time. I think it’s disrespectful, frankly. Do you honestly think I have the time or patience to go through all of that again? Listen, The Witness, I know your whole schtick is meditation and mindfulness and whatever, but your puzzles stressed me the fuuuck out buddy. About the only thing that was relaxing about the whole experience was the visuals, but those puzzles? Forget it. I’m someone who absolutely has to get everything right and turn over every rock and see every alternative ending in order to feel like I’ve actually completed something so the fact that I would have to go through all of it again is just too much to bear.
Also, how dare you have that be your ending? No questions answered, no history revealed, nothing. Listen, if you donn’t want a story to be what your players are looking for that’s fine, but don’t present them with one and then not even offer some sort of closure at the end. That’s just cruel, especially for players like me who need closure. What are these statues? Why are they here? Who made them? Why made them? Where made them? Where story? Where plot? Where why!?!? Nowhere.
I love-hate you so much, The Witness. Even now I’m remembering how overjoyed figuring out a difficult puzzle made me and I’m falling in love with you all over again. But I’m quickly reminded of how blindingly angered I was when I got to the end and so I fall back into my hatred. I think I’m most upset by the fact that I don’t even know whether or not I would call you a good game; you’re either the most perfect game ever made or your one of the worst. I’m convinced that you don’t live in between, but no one can seem to agree which you are so you just hang out in limbo. This isn’t to say you’re a middle of the road game, far from it. You have two incarnations, one for each side of the argument.
I wish so badly that things had gone differently. I wish so badly that I could have walked away from you having felt fulfilled… But I can’t. Because you didn’t allow me to be fulfilled and I will never forgive you for that.
Now, to those who may be reading who haven’t played The Witness and are considering it. Why are you reading this? Stop. These are spoilers, like big time spoilers, I implore you to stop reading. Okay, fine you didn’t stop reading, I cannot control you. I don’t know whether or not I recommend this game, and the only advice I have if you decide to play it is don’t finish it. Don’t get to the end, don’t get in the elevator, don’t complete the game until you’ve done everything. Top to bottom. Leave no stone unturned, no puzzle undone, no questions unanswered because once you’re done, you’re done. There is no save file to return to. If you’re someone who can handle that, then by all means please proceed. If you’re someone who can’t, run far, far away from this game. That being said, if at the end of the day you’re someone who just really loves puzzles no matter how many times you have to do them, then by all means dive into this game head first and have a blast. Just beware…
The Witness, this is goodbye. I must go. I have other games to play, other articles to write, other obligations to tend to. I hope you received this letter with all the love I put into it.
P.S…i’m for sure gonna play you again tho.