Just as photographs generally look good with a black and white filter, no matter the subject matter, it’s become increasingly apparent to me that stripping a game of its textures almost always produces a cool effect.
One of the artists working on The Witness seems to agree—she was able to produce these moody screenshots by tinkering around with the game’s depth editor, turning the usually bright and colorful island into a stark and foggy shadowland.
The obvious comparison here is to Limbo, Playdead’s gloomy grayscale platformer that borrowed its look heavily from the sharp monochrome of German expressionist film. It’s striking how different these shots feel, not just from removing the game’s color, but also removing its textures. They’re dreamlike and almost eerie in their minimalism, like something the experimental game designer Nuphrator might put together.
I guess that goes to show you how significant each component of a work is—throw some color and assets back in and you’re back to the eternal blue skies we’ve come to expect from The Witness.
Recently, modders also found a way to get Dark Souls in this same style, generating an utterly bleak hellscape that’s as gorgeous as it looks difficult to play.