The Witness: 6 Spoiler-Free Tips

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The Witness: 6 Spoiler-Free Tips

The Witness is out now. I’ve played and finished Jonathan Blow’s eight-year opus (twice!), but I still haven’t discovered all of its deepest secrets. I’d advise anyone playing The Witness to go in as blind as possible, but having become relatively knowledgeable about the game I’ve come up with six pieces of advice I’d like to share with you.

These tips will not spoil anything about the game’s story, locations, mechanics or secrets. Rather, they’re simply things I wish I had known when I first started playing. Enjoy!

The Witness

1. Stock up on graph paper

You’re gonna need it. Sure, you might be able to solve most of The Witness’ puzzles in your head, or by workshopping ideas directly on the panel you’re working on, but there are a number of challenges that will be very, very difficult to solve without a pen and paper for anyone with an IQ under 150.

2. Use that Share button

Building off the last point, there are lots of things you’re going to see in The Witness whose function may not be immediately apparent. As luck would have it, PS4 has a built-in screenshot button! Take lots of notes, not only with that graph paper I mentioned above but in the form of visual reminders you can refer back to when you inevitably experience one of those “wait a minute…” moments.

The WitnessThe Witness

3. Play with headphones

(Or a very good sound system.) There may be no music in The Witness, but its sound design is some of the best in the business. Not only does the game’s already-impressive sense of isolation really kick in when you’re enveloped by its top-notch ambience, certain sounds are subtle enough that you won’t even notice them without a nice, loud setup.

4. Don’t overthink it

When I found myself struggling with a particular puzzle in The Witness, all too often it was a simple case of assuming the solution was going to be more complex than it ended up being. Think back to what you’ve discovered that area’s ruleset to be and try to attack it from different angles, rather than falling into the trap of continually elaborating on an assumed solution that just doesn’t seem to be cutting it. That said, some of these puzzles are merciless, which leads me to my next point…

The Witness

5. Don’t be afraid to walk away…

You’re going to get stuck. I promise. The difference here is that getting stuck in The Witness is okay, maybe even intended by its creators. Thankfully, since you have instant access to most of the island right from the get-go, you’re never trapped in any sort of linear progression system. Feel free to give up on a particularly challenging puzzle and explore elsewhere for a while — chances are something you do somewhere else will make that missing solution *click* into place. If all else fails, simply coming back to it with a set of fresh eyes will likely help. Finally, you don’t need to complete every puzzle in the game to reach its conclusion, so if one’s got you well and truly stumped, don’t feel like you’re reached a dead end.

6. … But don’t give up

This one’s going to be tough, but please do everything you can to avoid spoilers for The Witness, including solutions to puzzles or explanations of mechanics. So much of The Witness’ magic lies in the sense of discovery and accomplishment that you experience when finding a new area, solving a puzzle you thought for sure was impossible, or finally activating one of those weird laser beam things. Like I said before, you’re going to get stuck. You’re going to want to look up the answer, “maybe just for this one puzzle” to keep things moving along. Don’t do it. You’re only going to be able to experience The Witness for the first time once.

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5 Author Replies

  • Good advice, thanks.

  • This game reminds me heavily of the “Myst” series… cannot wait to explore the island.

    • Jon has said that Myst is an inspiration! That said, I’ve found myself far more engrossed in The Witness than I was ever able to become with Myst.

  • Want to try it so bad!!!!!

  • this game is too difficulty for me to solve and thinking about how to solve hard puzzles

    • The ramp-up in puzzle difficulty is very gradual, and equips you bit by bit with all the information you need to eventually solve the game’s toughest challenges. Give it a shot; it might surprise you!

  • What is the easiest way to look at screenshots taken on the PS4? The only way I know of feels pretty roundabout. Go to settings, capture gallery, filter by screenshot or video, filter by game, then find what I’m looking for. Is there a shortcut way to get back to it?

    • Really? You literally have to just push (or hold, depending on your settings) the Share button. Simple as that.

    • Is capture gallery not on your main row of games? If not it may be in your library it has a camera on the icon and once you have it on your main row you just hit the playstation button and click it. Also once you are there you can click on “all” and then press start on a screenshot and sort by date to see your most recent screenshots.

    • Double tapping the PS Button will quickly switch back and forth between the currently running app and any system functions. So you could load up the gallery and then just double tap in and out of it as you please. I do this all the time for the web browser.

  • Ohhhhh my bad. to LOOK at them…

    • Haha, sorry for the confusion. Yeah I like to take screenshots and upload them all the time, but that is usually during actual gameplay and on the spot. I don’t often go back in and look at them. Someone said that I can try to get the Capture Gallery on my library bar for easier access. I just have a bunch of games on there, so that might help.

  • Any chance they will release this on the Vita? I want to play it!!

  • Justin, I am buying the Wtiness solely because you sold me on the hype. The game sounds great and having such strong recommendation from you made me buy it day 1.

    • Wow, that’s kind of crazy! I’m glad you’re picking it up — report back here after you spend a few hours with it and let me know what you think. It’s my favorite thing in a really long time.

  • I definitely want this on my PS4. The developer decided to limit PC version to 2 achievements. Thankfully I am guessing Sony ensured that we got full trophy support. :)

  • Ugh I love overthinking stuff and I hate walking away… goddammit! >:(

    Already bought the game, can’t wait to start the gameache! :D

  • Great tips! Now that the game is out for everyone, this is one of the few things I’m willing to read about The Witness (including this comment section :-) until I play it for myself :-D

  • Love the game! It’s an amazing experience! Incredible work and art! Bought a PS4 with this game very much in mind and have not been disappointed. Stepping into the world they made in the game was the equivalent of seeing Disney World for the first time.

  • Definitely looking forward to playing this game. Your #6 rule should be followed for all games, in my opinion! I definitely stuck it out sans internet to pick up all the puzzle pieces in Braid, and it is by far my proudest video game achievement.

  • you can’t always walk away I am afraid :( I am at a point where this isn’t possible. I reached two puzzles (across from each other) and got stumped by them so I thought I’d leave the area and would come back later. Turns out I can’t. There was a moving bridge that brought me to this area and it seems to be one way. And the only way out of this area seems to be one of those two puzzles that I previously mentioned. So now instead of coming back to the puzzles after time not thinking about them, I have to think about them all the time as they are my only option.

  • Is this game appropriate for someone who has never played a puzzle game before? Or should I start with a different puzzler before jumping into the witness?

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