The Witness came out back in September to much fanfare. The game definitely shines with an open world puzzle adventure depicted within a beautiful 3D landscape. It’s a port from other platforms, and comes in the full form to iOS. The Witness is definitely intriguing from the outset, but stumbles under the weight of its open world. The game lacks a true progression so that you always feel that you either missed something or played the puzzles out of order to face an odd difficulty curve. To make matters worse, the puzzles within a given region really blend together with a lot of shared mechanics that have a very deliberate progression.
The Witness could use a clearer structure or some type of balancing to make the puzzle progression clearer. If not that, then at least make each region feel fresh, so that you’re not facing the same type of puzzles in different locales. That doesn’t make The Witness a bad game, but you can get lost in its unfriendly world. The game pushes you away more than calls you back because it takes awhile to get going, and then you only get going through more of the same. There’s also a lot of wasted time moving through the world in between puzzles, and even when you find a puzzle, the camera controls aren’t perfect. The overarching storyline is intriguing, but it’s a bit tedious to build your way up to that point. The Witness launched with such hype, and first glance appeal that it reached the top of the paid charts in its first week.
The Witness is definitely intriguing from the outset, but stumbles under the weight of its open world.
What does that have to do with Faraway 2? Well, The Witness and Faraway 2 share the 3D puzzle adventure set up, but diverge on how the player moves through the respective games. Faraway 2 feels like it was designed from the ground for iOS with a focus on the go touch gaming. The main differentiator between the two is that Faraway 2 chops up the game into distinct levels. Within each level, you also have an on-rails type experience as you tap to move between the puzzles in the environment, and then back out to where you were. The Witness should theoretically be a more free flowing game experience, but there’s an odd dichotomy in which Faraway 2 allows for a better flow to move from puzzle to puzzle and level to level.
Faraway 2 keeps you coming back thanks to the puzzle variety from level to level. Each area offers a new challenge type to unfold, and that reason offers plenty of intrigue to what the next level holds. In Faraway 2, you never feel lost, or that you’ve skipped a whole sequence, or that you can’t get the camera right to focus on a given puzzle. The levels are designed to be played in your spare moments, and there are big touch points to interact with the world and the individual puzzles.
Faraway 2 isn’t as beautiful nor as expansive as The Witness, and yet it delivers a more enjoyable iOS gaming experience by designing the game around the player. Faraway 2 is a stand alone puzzle experience, but the original has the same qualities as the sequel, and is equally worth checking out.