Baron Wittard: Nemesis of Ragnarok is a puzzle adventure created by the indie developers over at Wax Lyrical and published by Iceberg Interactive. This is the very first completed project by Wax Lyrical, which has one of the better names for any development company I have ever seen.
Baron Wittard is a hard game to review because it has a lot of bad or at least controversial features, but it also has a lot of great features with new and unique gameplay. I would liken it to some of the legendary text adventures, such as Zork, in many ways. If you do not use any online hints or walkthroughs, you could easily take months to finish the game and end up with notepads full of notes and diagrams. And similarly, at times the puzzles can be ridiculously complicated and ambiguous.
It simply does not have the same polish to the UI, in the form of help for the player, as one expects in this day and age. Who writes things down outside of games anymore, other then maybe something like a few character password you read on a wall somewhere in the game world? But in Baron Wittard, even single page documents cannot be picked up as inventory items, scanned, or otherwise remembered by the game. Additionally, some puzzles seem to have no hints at all to explain what you are supposed to do with them. Pixel hunting is quite prolific, but at least moderately unique. More often then not, puzzles are easy to identify and see and there are no (technically very little) inventory items to pick up. But there is a single puzzle in the game that requires dozens of "clues" to be found all over the game world and these are often in places you would not search and really do not even look all that unique and distinctive to begin with.
To save a significant amount of effort and time, I routinely consulted a walkthrough in a few circumstances. First off, I did not want to spend time copying down all the hints that are spread out around the game world, so when I spotted a puzzle that I remembered encountering a hint for (but not the specific details of the hint) I would just read the intro to the puzzle in a walkthrough which would contain all the necessary details to attempt the solution. Additionally, some puzzles simply require a almost savant level of mathematical intuition, or simply a mind boggling amount of math or trial and error, so I did not feel bad about reading the beginning of the solution for any puzzle where I was making absolutely no progress at.
But if you absolutely must not use a walkthrough or really want to reduce their use, then carefully inspect every single node and take note of all special symbols and obvious puzzle hints that you find. This should provide you all the hints you can get to help solve all the puzzles, but you will still be stuck with a few ambiguous ones. The overall goal for all of these puzzles seems to be as obvious as possible. For example, you may need to move the special piece to the direct opposite side or through all puzzle nodes once. But even assuming you can understand how every puzzle works, you still have to solve those puzzles and that can be a problem in its own right.
The puzzles that should cause you the most problems are the ones that simply have thousands and thousands of possible ways to go about trying to complete them. There are also most likely have many many ways to successfully complete them. For these, I suggest looking for a repeatable pattern that you can do over and over again. A random looking solution will almost certainty not work.
The puzzles of Baron Wittard are the focal point of the entire game, and it is clear that a lot of time and effort has been put into them. There are a lot of puzzles in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. One nice feature of the game's puzzles is the non-linearity of them, in-so-much as after you get past the beginning tutorial section, you are thrown into the entire rest of the game and you can go pretty much anywhere. Only a few small areas require a local "puzzle" to be solved to progress into them.
In Baron Wittard, you for the most part do not use any items, but there are a few exceptions to this. You do start the game with a camcorder which is used once in one of the most ambiguous puzzles in the entire game. You also eventually pick up a usable map (usable as in it will instantly transport you to the selected location). And, central to the games plot, you do collect a series of rune stones and a single amulet, but it is quite easy to figure out when and where these should be used. And then, you will also encounter a moderate amount of pixel hunting, most of it centered around a single logic puzzle.
But enough about these auxiliary puzzles, the logic puzzles are what should interest you. The real difference here from normal logic puzzles is that Baron Wittard contains puzzles that require huge amounts of steps to complete. I can think of one example that requires over 60, and a lot of them are complicated to such an extent that I do not see many people wanting to spend the time required to work them out by hand.
The story of Baron Wittard: Nemesis of Ragnarok is undoubtedly put forth as a horror tale and takes place completely in The Utopia, which while under-construction was envisioned as a city under a single roof; containing a thousand apartments, a shopping mall, and hundreds of offices. But now it is a run-down, abandoned building. The building is silent, people have gone missing, and electromagnetic disturbances are increasing. You must travel into the heart of Baron Wittard's Utopia to uncover its mysteries and explore its gloomy halls.
Overall, I really was not drawn into this plot or the location. Of course, you do not get to explore thousands of rooms, but something could have been done to hint at these locations and make the world seem bigger then the navigable sections. And while the game seemed to have all the required horror elements, but I cannot say that I ever felt anything other then boredom, even when it was obvious that the scene was supposed to be very suspenseful.
Also, the presentation could have been better. The graphic style seems realistic, but something is missing. It's good, but not great. The animation is very limited, and in fact only occurs in a small percentage of the cutscenes. And in an obvious attempt to replace the animation, (a failed attempt I might add) they replace scenes of opening doors and walking down corridors with just the sound of performing these actions. Unfortunately, the sound effects did not seem all that accurate to me. They were annoyingly long and repetitive. And really, just a bad idea no matter how well executed it was as far as I am concerned.
Viewed as a whole, I think the game is both great and horrible. If I could give it both a 4.5/5 and 1.5/5, I would. It is an acquired taste, some people will be used to the puzzle-heavy, extremely challenging, antics of Baron Wittard and enjoy the game a lot. Others will simply be unable to play and enjoy it. Personally, I found a lot of stuff wrong with it but still liked the game a lot overall.