What Is The Witness and Why Is Everyone Talking About It?

If you've been online in the last couple of days, you may have stumbled on rave reviews for a game called The Witness. This indie puzzle sensation seems to have come out of nowhere. So what are all the superlatives about? And what's the back story? Here's our quick FAQ about The Witness.

What is it?

At its core, The Witness is just a puzzle game, pure and simple. The entire game takes place on an island, and after a brief introduction, the only thing that bars your access to other locations is how well you can solve the myriad of puzzles scattered across the land.

Why is it so significant?

Much of the hype comes from the fact that The Witness is the brainchild of Jonathan Blow, who created the acclaimed indie puzzle-platformer Braid back in 2008. Blow has said every dollar he made from Braid was funneled into developing The Witness.

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The other bit of mystery is due to what The Witness isn't. The game has almost no dialogue, no story and (spoiler warning) no big reveal. It's a refreshingly simple puzzler that delivers as many thought-provoking brain teasers as possible, aimed at players who wonder how far down the rabbit hole a puzzle game can take them.  

The Witness also has a gorgeous visual design. It's colorful and atmospheric, and immersive in a way that feels over-the-top compared to the game's simplistic nature.

So what's the draw?

The game consists of puzzles, puzzles and more puzzles. Early reviews say that to reach a credit screen, you'll need to put in between 20 and 30 hours of game time, and a full-completion run could take well over 50. Some reviewers said they were stuck on single puzzles for days.

It's also not just the amount of puzzles, but the difficulty as well. There are complex logic-based tasks, and challenges so deep that you might feel you're learning a new language.

What are some other games like The Witness?

For people born before 1990, the best comparison is probably to Myst. Even though exploring the island is done in first-person, The Witness is not a platformer like Portal. Another, more recent, comparison might be to The Talos Principle, another atmospheric first-person puzzle game, even though The Talos Principle relies a bit more on platforming and manipulating objects than The Witness does.

How much does it cost, and where can I play it?

The Witness costs $40 and is currently available on PC (via Steam) and PS4. It is scheduled to come to iOS in a few months, and other platforms, such as the Xbox One, after that.

Sam is a Senior Writer at Engadget and previously worked at Gizmodo as a Senior Reporter. Before that, he worked at Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag as a Staff Writer and Senior Product Review Analyst, overseeing benchmarks and testing for countless product reviews. He was also an archery instructor and a penguin trainer too (really).