The Orchard: Three Ideologies

The Orchard
Architecture: Civ 1 (Adobe, Tombs), Civ 2 (Stone Buildings), Civ 3 (Lumber, Steel), Civ 4 (Panels)
Puzzle Elements Introduced: Polar Separation, Hexagon Dots, Translation (“Apples”)
Themes: Subsistence, History, Protection, Identification

The Orchard is the first place the player encounters after leaving the Starting Castle. God there’s so many angles to talk about it but I have no idea where to start


The Bunker closest to the Castle exposes the new player to complex puzzles, and then the rest of the Orchard deals with learning the elements that will allow them to solve the puzzle. The Bunker most resembles a chambered cairn, particularly Maeshowe. Consider this picture of Maeshowe’s entrance interior:


And now consider the interior of the Bunker entrance:


Steel supports and electric light have been installed on the door by Civ 3, but I suspect the original construction of this Bunker was done as early as Civ 1. Civ 1’s building materials would have been limited to natural things such as mud brick and adobe plastering, which tend to erode in weather even as simple as rain, so a construct this elaborate would require either a place where it doesn’t rain (like, say, a desert), or a natural shield from the elements:


Like a mound of earth on top, a common practice in ancient construction. (Again, here we can also see the steel additions of Civ 3, including the orange walls keeping the earth from blocking the entrance.)

I suspect, further, that if Civ 1 was restricted to materials that ordinarily erode quickly, we would only see substantial relics of theirs if they are hidden away from the weather. So. Caves, tombs, deserts. If there is a stone construction above-ground and in the open, especially if it’s surrounded by vegetation (which requires weathering elements like rain), it will without a doubt be the result of a later civilization.


In The Witness, the Orchard contains three sets of puzzles. There’s a set introducing the player to Polar Separation symbols (black and white squares!), Hexagon Dot symbols, and “Apple” mechanics.

If the puzzles of the Starting Castle can be interpreted as a newborn’s developing recognition and understanding of the world around them (forming a “grid”-like worldview thanks to the imposing gate’s design, and ultimately overthrowing the grid with the help of a radical new worldview and gaining independence from home), then the Orchard could be three groups’ interpretations of how humans should act.

In the Polar Separation puzzles, the player is shown a “grid” they can move through as before, but this time there’s black and white symbols on the grid, in the Gaps between Spaces– the player can’t even directly interact with the symbols! But the player gradually learns that indirect interaction is possible: By drawing the Path that allows each colour its separate space, the symbols can be satisfied, and one’s Path can move on to the next activity. In other words, these puzzles propose an indirect world, an abstract world, that our thoughts and actions should work around. A simple example is of morals: The black and white squares represent Right and Wrong, and a valid Path is one that delineates where Right ends and Wrong begins. As such, I will refer to these puzzles as subscribing to Moral Thinking.
(Note: As this string of puzzles continues, its Solutions begin to form angular shapes. Almost like these are the origins of Tetris Space?)

In the Hexagon puzzles, the player is shown a “grid” (often arbitrarily misshapen to restrict movement options but still fundamentally a grid), but this time there’s black hexagons on the grid, in the Spaces– the player can directly interact with these symbols. In fact, the player gradually learns that they have to: Passing one’s Path over every Hexagon on the grid is required before one can move on to the next activity. It doesn’t matter what in order the Hexagons are satisfied, and thus it doesn’t matter what “grand shape” one’s Path may make, so long as all of the Hexagons are satisfied in a Path that does not contradict itself. In other words, these puzzles deal with the direct world, emphasize a worldview of ensuring practical requirements are met above all. A simple example is, actually, the wooden (Civ 3?) construction housing these puzzles: There is no symbolic order to how the wood is placed or to how the nails are driven; this construction was driven purely by practical needs. As such, I will refer to these puzzles as subscribing to Practical Thinking.

Finally, quite a bit out of the way of the first two sets of puzzles, there is a third that similarly only exists to teach the player a “puzzle rule.” These puzzles feature diagonal grids that have been edited to resemble symbolic trees. Diagonal grids, just like the diagonal grid of the New Thought that the Starting Castle’s Grid Gate covered up. Whoever designed these puzzles sought to explore the idea of different kinds of puzzles. As such, these puzzles do not have symbols. The player’s Path, instead, must End at the Space that corresponds with the real-world branch of the tree carrying an apple. The player must identify which tree each puzzle is talking about, find the apple, identify which branch that is, and then translate that information onto the puzzle. They emphasize translation and symbolism in a “language” more based on the New Thought than on the familiar grid puzzles. As such, I will refer to these puzzles as subscribing to New Thinking.

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