It’s hard to talk about The Witness without either ruining it or doing it a disservice. One of the greatest feats about it is the fact that so much of it remains a mystery and a surprise. Or rather, it manages to be a seemingly endless stream of surprises amidst a shimmering, near-boiling sea of mystery.
And at its core, all it really does is have you stare at panels comprised of varying shapes and draw lines between and around them. It’s an elaborate framework that surrounds an ostensibly simple puzzle proposition. Get from Point A to Point B and abide a set of rules. It might as well be something printed in the middle of a college newspaper that students idly doodle on while waiting for class.
But it builds and presents itself masterfully. At a certain point, it feels like an Arrival-style education where you peel apart the raw deluge of information given to you until you can reach into their very souls and piece it all back together. You teach yourself as much as it teaches you until it feels like you and game are communicating on a level that you haven’t—or simply can’t—communicated with any other living soul.
The critical point, however, is when you realize that there’s more. Like, More with a capital M. It’s a slow, creeping realization that suddenly and unstoppably explodes in urgency. For as plodding and meditative as the game can be, steeping itself in the mystery of these inexplicable statues and symbols, it turns into a fast-paced and ravenous manifestation of desire.
Once you figure it out, it’s an incredible want that feels so compelling that it becomes a need. You’re reaching, grasping, sweeping out into the beautiful and bucolic ether of colors until you’re satisfied, and you never are. That’s a sensation that you won’t get in any other game this year—maybe ever. And that makes it the number seven game of the year.